Free tax aid offered at Ashe Services for the Aging assisted over 280 Ashe County residents, both young and old, this tax season, saving tax payers an estimated $35,250.
“We assisted tax-payers as young as 17-years-old and and old as 92,” said Charles Caudill, who supervised the volunteer tax councilors at the senior center.
Caudill estimated nearly 280 tax-payers have been assisted by the senior center’s tax preparers, as of Thursday. Caudill pointed out each one could have saved about $125 by choosing to file their taxes for free, rather than paying to have a professional file.
If Caudill is right, and tax professionals charge an average of $125 for their services, the senior center’s volunteers saved tax-payers $35,250 on service fees alone.
“All you have to do is look at those figures,” said Caudill, “you look at what we save people in just fees alone.”
According to Caudill, total federal refunds from volunteer tax preparers amounted to $338,584. Also, state refunds totaled $36,186 and money given back from the earned income tax credit totaled $71,980.
The volunteer tax councilors said they follow a very thorough and strict process when filing taxes.
After the first volunteer councilor prepares a return, another volunteer will perform a quality review to ensure the numbers are consistent. Afterword, the return is checked once more when processed in a computer program.
According to Caudill, the most time-consuming problem volunteer preparers face is correcting W2 forms when they bare an incorrect social security number.
“We don’t file anything without the proper forms,” said volunteer tax councilor Warren Miller.
Caudill said the IRS audited the senior center’s tax councilors in early March, and were very complementary of the volunteers.
“It went very well,” said Caudill about the audit. One comment left by an IRS auditor read “I wish every site we have was as good as this one.”
Because tax software is provided by AARP, the senior center is technically considered an AARP tax sponsored collection site, and tax counselors are volunteers through AARP.
In order to become a volunteer tax councilor, volunteers are instructed to take four tax classes, which includes beginning, intermediate and advanced tax preparation, along with an ethics class.
“Our training is intense,” said Linda Gouger, a volunteer tax councilor. “You’re dealing with an IRS that’s still making changes to its code.”
Free tax preparation was available for all ages, leading volunteers to say Ashe Services for the Aging should be referred to as a “multi-generational center,” rather than a “senior center.”
“The two best places in Ashe County are Wilkes Community College and the senior center,” said Caudill, because both sites offer services for different age groups.
Along with tax preparation, the senior center also offers exercise programs and overnight trips for all ages.
The senior center has planned four trips in 2013, which include a trip to Lancaster, Pa., from July 8 - July 11, Branson Show Extravaganza from Oct. 13 - Oct. 19, the Biltmore Estate from Nov. 5 - Nov. 7, and Myrtle Beach from Dec. 2 - Dec. 6.