Tax-aide lends a hand with free tax preparation

By Daria Laycock

Outlook Writer

Call Sherly Kelly a penny pincher if you want. But when it comes to preparing her taxes, she likes to account for every cent.

Kelly, 71, doesn’t trust technology like most folks do at tax time. She will, however, take whatever help she can get; providing that it’s done on paper.

“I like to know where every nickel goes,” Kelly said. “My daughter tells me ‘ma I can file on-line for you.’ I tell her no you can’t. I don’t want all my business on-line for everyone to see (because) I don’t trust it.

“I always do my own taxes.” 

However, she doesn’t mind taking the help she gets from the American Association of Retired Persons Tax-Aide program. Tax-Aide is a collaboration with Internal Revenue Service. Trained certified tax counselors volunteer to assist with the program.

For people like Kelly, knowing that she will get assistance from a certified tax preparer gives her a sense of relief, Kelly said.

“These people walk me through it,” she said. “We fill out the forms and I leave it for the mailman.”

While the AARP’s target audience is anyone over the age of 50, low- to moderate-income individuals could also use the program.

When the cost of using a paid tax preparer became overwhelming for 43-year-old Bobby Clarke, he turned to the free assistance program. Paying someone $100 or more to prepare his tax used to leave him feeling disenfranchised, he said.

“I work for my money,” said Clarke. “The government takes some (and) they decide they want me to give it back. Then I’ve got to pay someone to figure out how to get it back.” 

Clarke said he discovered the free tax help with a quick Google search. He uses the service mostly for double-checking, he said.

“I just want a second set of eyes to make sure they (the IRS) aren’t going to come for me,” he said.

The AARP Tax Aide is set up at four locations throughout the city through April 17. Walk-ins can get help at Capital City Christian Church on Mahan Drive. Additional locations are First Presbyterian Church on North Adams Street and the downtown branch of Leon County Public Library.

Appointments are required at the Tallahassee Senior Center on North Monroe Street.