AARP Foundation seeks tax aidesVolunteers are needed to help low- and moderate-income people prepare their taxes through the nonprofit AARP Foundation.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
Volunteers are needed to help low- and moderate-income people prepare their taxes through the nonprofit AARP Foundation.
Jamestown’s previous tax aide site has been defunct for a few years, and the Foundation is hoping to start it up again, with Deb Lee of RSVP+ serving as a coordinator.
“It doesn’t have to be a specialized tax person, because they are trained,” Lee said.
The AARP Foundation’s tax aide program is the largest in the world. Last year, 35,000 volunteers helped 2.6 million people prepare their taxes.
Last year 122 people volunteered in North Dakota alone, preparing simple tax forms at no cost to the tax payers.
Because volunteer labor is used, each return only costs about $3.62, which is paid for by the AARP and the IRS. That cost covers volunteer mileage and the paper and ink used in print-outs.
“We are limited by scope,” said Muriel Peterson, state coordinator North Dakota of the AARP Foundation, pointing out that people whose tax forms are more complex should utilize professional tax preparers.
For simpler returns, forms and schedules, though, a volunteer tax aide can help.
Peterson hopes to get enough volunteers in Jamestown to restart the tax aide services — at minimum, two tax counselors are needed, as well as one client facilitator, who serves as a receptionist, greeter and organizer.
People generally work in four-hour chunks twice a week, from Feb. 1 to April 15. Beyond that, volunteers can choose their own hours.
The program isn’t limited by age or by income level, and the volunteers aren’t either.
People who wish to be tax counselors don’t have to be members of AARP, but should have general knowledge of computers, and they should like to work with numbers, too, Peterson said. They don’t have to be professional tax preparers, but should have a general familiarity with taxes, accounting or bookkeeping.
“Occupation doesn’t have anything to do with it,” Peterson said, remembering a railroad conductor who volunteered based on his experience buying stocks.
Volunteers are certified by the IRS at the “advanced” level, meaning that they have to pass three open-book tests, after receiving four days of training. Some training will be in Jamestown, with perhaps one session in Bismarck or Fargo. Volunteers’ mileage is reimbursed.
“The training they go to is provided by the IRS and they do this all over the United States,” Lee said. “It’s geared toward people who are not CPAs who do taxes.”
For more information or to volunteer, call Lee at 252-2882 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at