WASHINGTON – The April 15 federal deadline for filing taxes is right around the corner, and the District’s libraries, in conjunction with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation, is providing free services to taxpayers with low to moderate income, especially seniors.
Patricia Banks-Helman, a retired medical illustrator, sat reading a book, waiting patiently at Southwest Library last week to see a tax assistant. She had her tax documents tucked away in a folder with a rubber band securing them.
“I heard it from my daughter who was working at the time in Virginia and the AARP would go to her center and do the taxes,” Helman, 80, said. “That’s when I thought, ‘Well why don’t I? Why do I pay someone $300-plus to do very simple tax forms? So I’ve been very satisfied.”
This has been Helman’s third year coming to Southwest library to have her taxes filed.
AARP Tax-Aide has about 11 tax assistance programs in the District similar to the one at Southwest library. The average site is open from four to five hours a day, one to two days a week.
John Willging, volunteers as the local AARP coordinator at Southwest Library , He has been volunteering with the program for 15 years and has been at the Southwest library for the past two years.
“Anyone can volunteer for the tax assistance program, but you are required to pass an IRS test,” Willging, 78, said. “You are put through a training program that usually runs for five days. Then you take the test. If you pass the test, then you are qualified to prepare tax returns.”
Prior to filing her taxes at the Southeast Library, Helman would pay an accountant to file her taxes.
“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “The tax aides are very knowledgeable and thorough. Otherwise I wouldn’t be coming back if I had any kind of trepidation, I wouldn’t be here.”
Kenneth Reavis, a transportation screener, was another taxpayer waiting for his name to be called to have his taxes filed. Reavis, 24, had heard about the program from his mother, and this was his second year coming to the library.
“It’s been great,” Reavis said. “They’re nice and helpful. It’s pretty simple and easy, right to the point. Get in and get out and I like it.” Willging said the process is simple and modern.
“It’s all electronic filing on all the tax returns that we do, except where there is a rare case where there may be a rejection on a return for some reason and we can’t get it through the system,” said Willging. “Then, we tell the tax preparer you have to mail in a copy.”
For more information about tax assistance, visit the AARP Tax-Aide program online to find a nearby location.