Tax returns prepared free by volunteers with programs in Fort Mill, Indian Land

Special to the Fort Mill TimesJanuary 21, 2014 

A volunteer with the AARP TaxAide program prepares a tax return for a client at the Fort Mill Library.

FORT MILL TIMES FILE

  • About AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

    The program started in 1968 with just four volunteers at one site preparing 100 tax returns. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide now involves more than 35,000 volunteers and serves 2.6 million taxpayers annually at nearly 6,000 sites nationwide. For more information, visit aarp.org.

    About VITA

    The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $52,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. For more information, call 2-1-1.

  • What to bring

    You will need to bring the following documents with you:

    • Government issued identification

    • Last year’s tax return

    • Social Security cards or other official documentation for yourself and all dependents

    • Checkbook or pre-printed direct deposit information for your reloadable prepaid card showing routing number and direct deposit account number if you want to do a direct deposit of any refund(s).

    Income

    • W-2 from each employer

    • Unemployment compensation statements

    • SSA-1099 form showing the total Social Security benefits paid to you for the year, or Form RRB-1099, Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits

    • 1099 forms reporting interest (1099-INT), dividends (1099-DIV), proceeds from sales (1099-B), as well as documentation showing the original purchase price of your sold assets

    • 1099-R form if you received a pension or annuity, especially if you had a portion withheld for income tax purposes

    • 1099-MISC form showing any miscellaneous income

    Payments

    You will need to bring all forms and canceled checks indicating federal and state income tax paid (including quarterly estimated tax payments).

    Deductions

    Most taxpayers have a choice of taking either a standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. If you have a substantial amount of deductions, you may want to itemize. You will need to bring the following information:

    • 1098 form showing any home mortgage interest

    • Receipts or canceled checks for medical/dental expenses (including doctor and hospital bills and medical insurance premiums), receipts for prescription medicines, costs of assisted living services and bills for home improvements, such as ramps and railings for people with disabilities

    • Receipts for contributions to charity

    • Receipts or canceled checks for all tax income and property taxes you paid, as well as records of tax refunds

    Credits

    • Dependent care provider information (name, employer ID or Social Security number)

    • Receipts, canceled checks or 1099 forms related to continuing education

    Source: www.aarp.org

— To Carole Finn and Lonnie Shrine, volunteers of the AARP tax preparation program at the Fort Mill Library, the service is a small commitment that results in big joy.

About 1,000 tax returns are filed each year free of charge from the Baxter Village location. The all-volunteer, certified staff will begin taking clients starting Feb. 4 and will continue every Tuesday and Thursday through tax season.

“I’m with people, and I enjoy it,” said Finn, 66, who will be a site facilitator for the sixth year. “It’s a little old eight weeks. It’s only a little commitment. I feel like we have helped a lot of people when we get through the season.”

The AARP service is free and isn’t restricted in age or income, though it was established to help seniors and those with low income. Preparers are trained on IRS software and changes to the tax code enacted since last year.

There’s another local service available. The United Way organizes the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program for those who qualify and make $52,000 or less. Locations include the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex in Fort Mill and the Del Webb Library in Indian Land.

The working family benefits most from VITA, said Melanie Outlaw, executive director of the United Way of Lancaster County.

“Individuals that typically fall through the cracks receive their tax preparation for free,” Outlaw said. “It’s a simple service that could save a family a couple hundred dollars. It could even be their determining factor whether they file or not, and having this program brings money back to our county residents that need it most.”

Most days at the AARP site at the Fort Mill Library are busy. When the doors are opened, there are typically people waiting to get in. Some wait a few hours before they see a tax preparer, which is always surprising to Finn and Shrine.

Finn’s husband, Pat, is a tax preparer alongside Shrine, a Fort Mill man who began volunteering 14 years ago. Both have to learn a new software program this year.

Shrine, a retired stockbroker who likes working with numbers, likes the challenge of tax preparation and the appreciative clientele he sees year after year.

While eating at Beef ‘O’ Brady’s a few years ago, he was recognized as an AARP tax preparer and treated to lunch.

“When I asked for the bill, the waitress said there was none. The couple told her, ‘Tell him we appreciate what they do for us,’” Shrine said. “They paid for my lunch. I never knew who it was. They had already gone. I still don’t know.”

“I appreciate that,” he said. “I think that speaks well for the service we provide.”

Tax preparation has been enjoyable for Shrine, though he wonders how some people live on what they make. He volunteers two days a week and feels good about saving people several hundred dollars for his work as the preparer.

“I help a lot of people who otherwise might struggle to pay for someone to do it,” he said.

The AARP program is located on the second floor of the Fort Mill Library, and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Feb. 4 through April 15. Clients are served on a first-come basis. The last clients of the day are taken at 3:30 p.m.

The VITA program is offered for those who qualify from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays in February at Leroy Springs Recreation Complex at 971 Tom Hall St. in Fort Mill. The service is also available at the Del Webb Library site in Indian Land from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. Appointments are encouraged. Stop in at either location for more details.

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