Taxes are a sure thing.
There are federal, state, county and municipal levies on income and taxes on gasoline, alcohol and tobacco products. As April 15 approaches each year, people fret about reporting to the IRS.
For Gloucester County’s low- and moderate-income families, there is help from the free AARP TaxAide program, which is actively recruiting volunteers for the 2024 tax season. Training begins after Thanksgiving at the Monroe Township library in Williamstown.
“The focus of the program is to serve low- to moderate-income clients independent of age,” said AARP District Coordinator George Tice, who has been TaxAide for eight years. “In 2022, we completed 1,600 returns with total refunds of $1,727,570. We are still trying to recover from the pandemic, where our numbers declined. For tax year 2019, we completed 2,200 returns.
“Our volunteers are the backbone the program,” he added. “We operate seven sites in Gloucester County where appointments are required to have your taxes completed. The total number of appointments is dependent on the number of certified counselors available.”
To meet those needs, TaxAide is looking for people who would like to learn about the tax code and help others at the same time. Apply at aarpfoundation.org/taxaidevolunteer or call (888) AARP-NOW.
TaxAide will hold free, in-person training for new volunteers at the library every Tuesday and Wednesday, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., beginning on Nov. 28, according to Tice. After training, they will be assigned to offices in West Deptford, Deptford, Washington Township, Mullica Hill or Williamstown beginning Feb. 1.
Pitman resident Dave Hoh has been a volunteer for the past two years and will be the coordinator at the township senior center when tax season begins next year. He is a former middle-school teacher and journalist.
“I had been retired for a couple of years from teaching middle-school reading and writing, but substitute teaching wasn’t enough to keep me feeling useful,” he recalled. “I saw a notice about the TaxAide program in my AARP magazine and called.
“I used to do my own taxes, but as I got close to retirement, I felt I needed a pro, so I had hired a CPA,” Hoh added. “Still, I wanted to get back to doing my own; I just needed to know more. Here was a chance to learn and be useful, so I jumped in.”
Hoh said the training was everything he hoped it would be.
“First, there’s the software,” he explained. “It’s not like a program you buy and simply follow their prompts to plug in your data. This is a professional version of Tax Slayer customized for AARP.
“We learned mostly by doing returns in the software, with scenarios such as a divorced parent with a child in day care who also had gone back to school, or a retired person with Social Security and pension income who was running a small business,” Hoh continued. “That way, we covered the full range of income types and deductions and credits.”
The goal of the program is to get a return done correctly and get the taxpayer the largest refund possible.
“Taxes are overwhelming to a lot of people, especially those of us who are older and those without a lot of money to hire an accountant,” Hoh pointed out. “When our client is a senior, they’re looking at someone just like them – nearly all the volunteers are seniors, too – so I think that’s comforting.”
Hoh described the work as rewarding. He remembered the case of an older woman whose husband had recently died. He had handled all the finances, so his widow needed financial reassurance.
“In addition to making her feel comfortable with the process and doing her return, we were able to explain how her tax situation would change the following year and how to adjust her withholding” Hoh said. “It was so nice to see her the next year and take care of her return again.
“I am hooked. This is going to be my primary volunteer work for as long as I can do it.”
After training, some of the volunteers who will actually prepare returns have to pass the IRS Advanced Course test, which covers ethical issues like confidentiality and accepting gifts. Other volunteers will become facilitators who schedule appointments or greet taxpayers as they start the TaxAide program.