50 Years of Free Tax Help from AARP Foundation

In California alone, more than 2,800 volunteers for the AARP Foundation's Tax Aide program will be on duty through mid-April. Photo Credit: Jeffrey Salter

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

LOS ANGELES – The deadline for filing income-tax returns is only 10 weeks away, and the AARP Foundation’s free tax-preparation service is now in full swing.

Tax-Aide turns 50 this year, with an army of nearly 34,000 IRS-trained volunteers to help people with their state and federal tax returns. Tax-Aide sets up shop at libraries, senior centers, banks and malls across the nation. More than 2,800 volunteers will be helping in the Golden State alone.

Nancy McPherson, state director of AARP California, said 97 percent of the people who use the service say they’d recommend it to others.

“Last year, we helped 2.5 million people. They received $1.37 billion in income-tax refunds and more than $222 million in Earned Income Tax Credit,” McPherson said. “And that’s something people often don’t know they’re even eligible for – are their EITCs.”

Tax-Aide assistance is open to people of any age, but is meant to serve seniors who might not otherwise be able to afford a tax-preparation service. There are 378 locations in California alone. To find one near you, visit AARPFoundation.org/taxhelp.

Since its inception in 1968, McPherson said, Tax-Aide volunteers have served more than 50 million people. And they’re also up on the latest changes to the Tax Code.

“And they go through IRS training each year in order to qualify to participate,” she said. “And many of these folks are retired accountants, tax lawyers, tax preparers, other people who like working with numbers.”

McPherson said In California last year, Tax-Aide volunteers assisted close to 185,000 people file their returns, helping them secure almost $96 million in refunds.