It sounds kind of odd, but one of the first tasks on my New Year’s “to do” list is to complete my taxes.  I have a number of friends who have had unexpected tax problems over the past few years, requiring them to cough up significant amounts of money for Uncle Sam with very little notice.  These second-hand experiences have had the result of making me fairly paranoid about my taxes, and so January has become my official month for figuring out where I stand with the taxman and making myself aware of any potential problems before the IRS comes a-knocking.

Many of older adults also have trouble completing their taxes, as the literacy requirements and technical knowledge needed to fill-out income tax forms are fairly high.  On top of that, the cost of using a tax preparation services can seem exorbitant to older people on fixed incomes.  That’s why AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide provides free tax preparation services through thirty-five thousand volunteers. These services ensure older adults have access to the tax-preparation skills they need to decrease their tax payments and increase refunds.  In fact, AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide has been so popular among older taxpayers that it is now the fourth-largest tax preparation service in the country, and the nation’s largest no-cost program.

One of the reason for Tax-Aide’s success is that it allows lower-income clients to maximize their access to one of the most effective programs for lifting people out of poverty:  the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).  EITC enjoys broad bipartisan support for its impact on low-income workers.  Unfortunately, many vulnerable older adults are unaware that the EITC is applicable to them.  Twenty percent of EITC-eligible adults overlook this tax credit when completing their income tax returns.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers offer their free tax assistance to ensure that vulnerable older adults receive the EITC and and all other benefits and tax credits available to them.  Tax-preparation volunteers are required to meet stringent requirements and pass very difficult assessments conducted by the IRS to guarantee the quality of the services they provide.  And because many Tax-Aide volunteers are themselves retired, they truly understand the needs and concerns of the older adults who they are trying to help.

Tax-Aide services are available at no cost, regardless of age, nationwide.  You can find services in your area here, and you can also learn more about becoming a Tax-Aide volunteer with AARP Foundation here.