Preparation for tax season is almost underway for the Senior Tax Aid program. This volunteer-led group works directly with the IRS and assists residents with free tax filing.
The Lake Havasu City-based program seeks out seniors and low-income families who meet a range of requirements in order to receive the no-cost tax services. A few of these requirements include seniors who have income from investments and social security, retired seniors and families who fall in the low income range. Tax services are held at the Lake Havasu Senior Center by appointment only.
From 2022’s tax season, 1,017 claims were filed with 974 of those claims representing taxpayers over the age of 60. Taxpayers who filed for free with the group saved an estimated amount of $215,000. This total is based on a $200 fee for each claim a taxpayer would have had to pay for an outside tax preparation service.
Senior Tax Aid’s Alternate Coordinator Joni Spencer states that the returns they assist with should be simple returns that would otherwise be filed for free. Spencer says her group of volunteers does not prepare complex returns, such as those with rental properties.
Group Coordinator Judy Merrill adds that seniors with retirement money totaling to $180,000, for example, are excluded from receiving their free assistance. Self-employed taxpayers or those who own businesses are also excluded. Merrill says exceptions can be made to this rule on a case-by-case basis depending on the complexity of a taxpayer’s return.
Non-Arizona taxes are typically not accepted but Merrill says she will work with an out-of-state taxpayer on completing their federal taxes.
“We don’t help a lot of winter visitors but we do as many as we can. We’ll print out their state that automatically calculates when we’re doing the federal,” Merrill said. “Our name is not on it, so we’re not associated with it.”
At the present time, Merrill says her program is in dire need of volunteers – specifically people to act as counselors. The role of a counselor is to review each of the taxpayer’s documents and input the data into the online tax aide program used by the group.
Those with an interest in numbers or a background in tax services are encouraged to apply to become a counselor. Merrill adds that all prospective counselors will undergo an IRS certification process.
Following their certification, the new counselors will then receive training from an experienced counselor through Merrill’s group. Volunteer training begins in January followed by the start of the tax season in February.
“It’s always a good group,” Spencer said. “The volunteers are there because they want to be there, they want to help people and they help each other.”
If anyone is interested in learning more about the Senior Tax Aid program or becoming a volunteer, send an email to [email protected].