Some months ago a friend told me I might want to look into our local AARP Tax Aide Program. When I followed up and visited the organization’s office in the Gateway Mall I was amazed to hear about the many advantages of having them prepare and e-file personal federal and state tax returns. This is exactly the kind of thing 5enses loves to share with the community.
I met with District Coordinator Janelle Riedl, who has been volunteering for the AARP Tax Aide Foundation for 40 years, heading up a team of over 60 volunteers. The nonprofit provides services at no cost to its clients. Unlike other Tax-Aide offices, the Prescott site is open year-round thanks to the mall management, which generously provides the office space at no cost.
Being open all year makes it possible for clients to come in and consult with these tax experts about things like the tax implications of accessing funds from a 401K or IRA, filing back taxes, and planning based on current tax law. During the filing season (January-April) the site is fully staffed with IRS-certified volunteers to manage the larger client load.
Many people don’t understand all the advantages of having Tax-Aide do their taxes. A major advantage is that it is 100% free. Another is that Tax-Aide will prepare personal returns for anyone, regardless of age. Clients with more complex financial situations can start the process during the summer or fall, as these returns often require more time. Tax-Aide will also work to help clients access refunds, deductions and earned-income credits.
A special provision put in place after the pandemic allows many with higher earned income in 2019 than in 2020 or 2021 to use that income to claim the earned-income credit. Further, in 2021 the eligibility age of 25 for this credit was decreased to 18 and the upper limit of 65 removed. The earned-income credit must be claimed within three years of the due date of the return, so those eligible can still amend their 2020 and 2021 returns to claim this credit. Even if you didn’t do your 2019, 2020 and 2021 taxes through the Tax-Aide Program, you can bring your returns to the site for review, and if you qualify for an additional credit, they will amend the returns for you.
“We love what we do here,” says Janelle, “It feels pretty good to sit with a single mother of three and tell her she’ll be getting a larger refund than what she was expecting, but definitely needs.”
Some people think there is an age when they no longer need to file or don’t bother because they know they don’t owe any taxes. But if your sole income is a Social Security benefit or even if you have a small pension or part-time job, and you rent or own your home, you may be eligible for a property-tax credit. This credit varies based on income and can be as large as $502. Tax-Aide will help identify the taxbenefits for which you may be eligible. All the volunteer preparers are trained and IRS-certified annually on current law. At the Prescott office the volunteers have assisted in returning between six and eight million dollars to the community annually.
When a client comes in to have taxes prepared they have their own monitor so they can follow the process from beginning to end.
Tax-Aide has provided this service to our community free of charge for decades with the generous support of local businesses. The mall management continues to cover rent and utilities, Arizona Tile and The Home Depot have supplied flooring and building supplies, and Sparklight provides internet and phone services.
Nearly all the work in building out the office space at the mall has been done by volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering their time and considerable skills for years. New volunteers are always needed and welcome. The Prescott Tax-Aide office currently prepares about 6,000 returns each year.
The Prescott AARP Tax Aide office is located in the Gateway Mall next to Espire Sports in the old Sears building, and is open Monday through Saturday during tax season. Call for additional information at 928-277-1560, web: AARP Tax Aide Prescott or email email@example.com. This season Tax-Aide will also be offering tax services at the Chino Valley Library on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9am-3pm.
Updated February 20: corrected phone number and added web address info. We apologize for the error.