Get Expert Help with Your Tax Returns
Do you need assistance preparing and filing your state or federal tax returns? Did you know that you can turn to the free tax preparation services that are available at North Shore Senior Center?
The Center’s tax assistance program began decades ago, and now is one of 5,000 sites nationwide that works with the AARP Foundation to ensure access to expert tax preparation services. “We work hard to make sure you get every tax credit and deduction you’ve earned,” reads the AARP slogan. Larry Rabin, CPA, is coordinator of the local program and echoes that sentiment, adding, “We’re a very knowledgeable group. If someone can’t answer a question, somebody else can. We tap into each other’s knowledge.”
Larry is among the five volunteers currently providing valuable service and advice in the Center’s program (35,000-plus volunteers nationwide). They take an IRS-mandated exam that covers ethics and practical issues, and receive specialized training through AARP with materials the IRS provides. They have a lot of years of experience in the finance or tax field among them! Sue Hering, Gail Gil, and Larry are CPAs. Audrey Beasley was an accounting major and worked in the IT field. And Rick Hanson is a retired tax attorney.
The Center’s in-person tax services are open to all area taxpayers, but in order to qualify for the assistance, the client’s tax return can’t be too complicated and must be within the scope of what the program was designed for (AARP and the IRS set the parameters). Volunteer Charlie Dubman, who fields calls about the services, can give you a preliminary idea whether you would qualify by asking questions about your situation. He will ask if you have a home business, for example, and whether you have sold a home. “Some home businesses are classified by the IRS as hobbies,” said Charlie, “and that wouldn’t necessarily disqualify you.” But you would have to go elsewhere for assistance if you have a complicated home business. Similarly, dealing with the tax implications of the sale of a home probably is fine if the sale was within the state of Illinois. Tax preparation volunteers make the final determination whether your situation fits within the scope of the program.
More than 250 individuals took advantage of the free tax preparation services this year. Many have used the services for several years—60 to 70 percent according to Charlie—and each person who returns for service is matched with the same volunteer from previous years. If you are a newcomer to the services, Charlie will give your name to a tax preparation volunteer who is available, and the two of you will set up a mutually convenient time. All the work is done in the Technology Learning Center on the Northfield campus, and by the time you leave after your session with one of the experts, your tax return has been completed and filed!
The Center’s skilled, experienced tax preparation volunteers are available to help you from February 1 to April 15. So mark your January 2017 calendar now to take the first step: call 847.784.6000.
If you don’t need assistance with your own tax returns, but you have the expertise to volunteer your time to help others with theirs, additional tax preparation volunteers are always welcome. Larry was looking for some meaningful things to do when he retired in 2013. “I contacted the Center, talked with the volunteer coordinator, and the rest is history,” he said. Audrey had been coordinator of the tax assistance program for more than ten years, and chose to hand the reins over to someone else, so 2016 is the first year Larry has been in that role. He makes sure the other volunteers are trained and pass the required exams, and also keeps the AARP regional coordinator apprised of how the program is going.
If, like Larry, you enjoy meeting people and are looking for a worthwhile spot to use the skills you have acquired over a lifetime, contact the Volunteer Office at 847.784.6052.Back to Blogs