Web posted Thursday, April 4, 2002

photo: news

AARP volunteer Karen Howorth files a return on a computer at Homer Senior Citizens Center.
Photo by R.J. Kelly, Homer News

AARP offers tax filing help at Homer senior center

by R.J. Kelly
Managing Editor

With the April 15 tax filing deadline looming, volunteer advisers with AARP are busy nearly every day helping local elders and lower-income people file their returns electronically.

Since Feb. 1, four trained advisers have been sharing the duties at the Homer Senior Citizens Center every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 1-4 p.m., according to Tom Schoder, AARP's local coordinator.

So far, at least 55 returns have been filed and more than 80 people helped with advice. Although it's been going on about 10 years as part of a national AARP effort, Schoder said more people have been taking advantage of the free program this year.

For a simple return, with a W-2 income form and perhaps Alaska Permanent Fund, filing takes about 45 minutes, Schoder said. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins will also be helped as time is available.

Participants should bring a copy of last year's tax return and their income and retirement forms as well as any other income or deduction records. Appointments and information may be obtained by calling 235-7655.

The plan was to offer the same program at the Anchor River Senior Center, but Schoder said not enough trained volunteers were available. So this year, persons seeking the tax help must travel to the Homer center on Svedlund Street.

Although all the AARP advisers have to pass an Internal Revenue Service test, Schoder said the program focuses on basic personal taxes. Itemized deductions are fine, and a small business with less than $2,500 income is OK, but complicated business issues are best left to professional preparers, he said.

The program is open to anyone 60 and older, as well as people of any age with moderate or low income. The income level is not set specifically, Schoder said. "We concentrate on low and middle income," he said and that typically includes a family income in the range of $45,000 a year or so.

"I haven't seen anybody I would turn away," said adviser Karen Howorth as she helped fill out a return.

In addition to Schoder and Howorth, AARP volunteers Joan Mello and Bill McDaniel have also been rotating as advisers at the center.

The combination of electronic filing and the option of direct deposit to bank accounts, speeds up the

refund process.