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Volunteers help hundreds with tax filing

Erlinda Say of Oak Harbor fills out an intake form as Al Braley of Oak Harbor looks on. Say has filed her taxes through the AARP program for the last four years. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Erlinda Say of Oak Harbor fills out an intake form as Al Braley of Oak Harbor looks on. Say has filed her taxes through the AARP program for the last four years.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

April 15 is fast approaching, and AARP is here to help seniors and low-income individuals prepare and file their 2008 taxes.

Ann Woodward of Oak Harbor filed her taxes Tuesday with the help of AARP volunteers at Skagit Valley College.

“It’s a wonderful service and the people are so nice,” she said, adding that the guidance gives her peace of mind.

Woodward has good reason to feel at ease. According to the IRS 2007 tax return report, AARP volunteers on Whidbey Island achieved a perfect score, meaning there were no errors in the filings.

“We’re really proud of that,” Karen Bishop, the local coordinator for the AARP Tax Aide Foundation, said.

Bishop attributed the spotless record to the e-file tax system, which gives an immediate response, or notification, if incorrect information is entered.

Word of the annual tax aide program is spreading. Two years ago, 699 islanders filed their tax returns through the free program. Last year, volunteers fielded 1,019 returns.

Customers and volunteers return year after year.

Wearing a blue denim shirt with an embroidered AARP Tax Aide Foundation logo, volunteer Rich Collins explained that he started with the tax aide program in California nine years ago when he spotted an ad in the local paper.

“It was all paper and pencil then,” he said.

Collins continued to volunteer as an AARP tax aide following his move to Idaho. Last September, Collins moved to Oak Harbor to be closer to family, and he’s still volunteering with the program.

AARP pays for the supplies and the IRS provides the laptop computers, Bishop said. But the program couldn’t succeed without the volunteers, who logged a total of 1,441 hours last year; support from the Sno-Isle Oak Harbor Library, which stores all the materials; and Skagit Valley College, which donates the use of two rooms.

Each year, from Feb. 1 through April 15, the AARP Tax-Aide program offers free one-on-one counseling, as well as telephone and Internet assistance to help seniors and low-income individuals prepare basic tax forms, including the 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ and other standard schedules.

Volunteers are available at the Oak Harbor Library, 1000 SE Regatta Dr., Tuesdays through April 14 from 1 to 6 p.m., call 675-5115; and at St. Mary’s Church, 207 N. Main St., Coupeville, on Wednesdays through April 15, call 360-678-6536.

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