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Time to pay the man, but help’s available

AARP Tax-Aide volunteer John Howard discusses taxes with Edna Edafe as local coordinator Karen Bishop looks on. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
AARP Tax-Aide volunteer John Howard discusses taxes with Edna Edafe as local coordinator Karen Bishop looks on.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Tax year 2009 looks like a gentle one for Whidbey Island residents, said Karen Bishop, the local coordinator for the AARP Tax Aide Foundation.

In the last five weeks, more than 180 people filed their 2009 taxes with the help of AARP volunteers at Skagit Valley College’s Whidbey Campus and over 60 did the same in Coupeville at Saint Mary’s Church.

So far, participation is down slightly from last year, but Bishop expects more people will show as April 15 nears.

The AARP Tax-Aide is a free tax preparation assistance service offered in association with the IRS to help seniors and lower-income individuals prepare and file their 2009 taxes.

“We’re getting a lot of first-time home buyers and a lot of people who bought new cars,” she said, attributing the home purchases to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which expanded the first-time homebuyer credit to $8,000 for purchases made in 2009 before Dec. 1, according to IRS.gov. The deadline was later extended to May 1, 2010.

Each of the 30 AARP tax volunteers, even those who meet and greet clients at the door, went through four full days of training and passed a comprehensive exam.

Everybody must be ready and able to answer questions, Bishop said.

Volunteer Margaret Vasquez said there are always plenty of interesting questions. Last week a woman needed help with an amended return because she’d already filed her taxes but left out a W-2 form, and young man filed both his 2008 and 2009 returns.

This year the tax team is able to process more people’s requests at a time because they have three additional computers to work with.

To participate, stop by the Skagit Valley College in Oak Harbor on Tuesdays through April 8 from 1 to 6 p.m., or Saint Mary’s Church in Coupeville on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Bring a copy of last year’s return, all W-2 and 1099 forms including SSA-1099 for Social Security benefits paid, property tax records, all receipts and canceled checks if itemizing, Social Security cards, and, if applicable, dependent care provider information including name, employer and Social Security number.

For more information, dial 211, 1-888-227-7669, or visit www.aarp.org/taxaide.

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