Betsy Moore is one of the volunteers who work with AARP to held people file their tax forms.
Volunteer: AARP Tax-Aide District 13 coordinator
Q: Is AARP doing taxes for people in Houston and Peach counties again this year?
A: Yes! In fact, this is AARP’s 50th year providing free tax preparation nationally through its Tax-Aide program and in Houston and Peach we’ve been doing them for more than 30 years. AARP Tax-Aide is now the fourth largest of all tax preparers in the nation and largest volunteer tax preparation program.
Q: AARP itself is geared toward people 50 and older, so who is the tax program for?
A: Our target population is seniors and low income persons but we do not discriminate. We are all IRS prepared tax preparers and under the IRS VITA/TCE umbrella so we can’t discriminate at all based on age, income, location or those sorts of things.
Q: What does VITA/TCE stand for?
A: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.
Q: You’re currently doing taxes, when do you stop?
A: We’ll be at it until April 17, the final filing date. Now’s a good time to get on in and let us do them. Let me say this to some people who came last year: Last year we transferred over to a new computer tax preparation program and experienced some problems with it being really slow. We haven’t seen that this year; things are moving right along. Also, I think our clients need to know even after tax season if they get a letter from the IRS we’ll work with them to let the IRS know how their taxes were done. We don’t give legal advice but we stand by our clients and our work. Again, that’s free just like the preparation.
Q: Obviously your volunteers are well trained, right?
A: Yes. Every year we’re trained and certified. We have to be re-certified every year.
Q: How many volunteers do you have?
A: Almost 30 at the three sites.
Q: Where are your sites? And hours?
A: Warner Robins, Perry and Fort Valley. The one here in Warner Robins is at the Senior Activity Center at 152 Maple Street. It’s open five days a week, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The other Houston County location is Perry at the Perry Volunteer Outreach building at 733 Carroll Street. It’s open Wednesdays noon to 3 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon. In Fort Valley, we do taxes only on Mondays at the Thomas Public Library at 315 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Hours there are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Q: Are you limited in what taxes you will do?
A: We’ll do most personal taxes but don’t do business taxes. We’re geared to low and moderate-income situations and restricted in scope with limits. For instance, we can’t do taxes that include rental properties and can’t do self-employment expenses exceeding $25,000. On the rental property, we can’t do that unless the person is in the military which could be true here. We can to military personnel’s rental property items. Within bounds, we can do the taxes of someone with a small side business.
Q: That’s important that you’re geared for military personnel.
A: We can do their taxes and we even give priority service to military members who come in in uniform. They do have to be in uniform but when they come in they go to the head of the line so they can get done and get out faster.
Q: How many people are served by your program?
A: So far this year, by Feb. 16, we’d done about 592 in Warner Robins and a little over 700 at all three locations. That reflects that Perry has only been open four days so far and Fort Valley only two days.
Q: Are there any huge, unusual changes this tax year?
A: Not really. There are some changes like they did away with the home energy credit and premium mortgage insurance is no longer deductible. Those don’t impact a lot of people but they’re representative of some of the changes.
Q: How long have you been a volunteer?
A: I retired from Robins Air Force Base in 2012 as a deputy flight chief. I started volunteering in 2013. I thought it was a good way to give back and serve our community and now I’m district coordinator. We have a really great group of volunteers who want to help people — I mean, they wouldn’t be here giving up their time if they didn’t care about helping people. Thank the Lord our volunteers haven’t had a lot of sickness this year.
Q: Now, and in the future if someone gets one of those letters from the IRS after tax season, how do people contact you?
A: No matter what center you’re using, you can contact us here in Warner Robins at 478-322-0269. You may need to leave a message but we’ll get it. You can also contact through the AARP webpage at www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide. We’re engaged all year.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.