North Shore tax sites help seniors maximize returnsFree tax preparation sites are again available throughout the region, including several within easy traveling distance for Lake County residents.
By: Tom Olsen, Lake County News Chronicle
If you want to get your maximum tax refund – or just make sure you get your tax return filed properly – you’re in luck.
Free tax preparation sites are again available throughout the region, including several within easy traveling distance for Lake County residents.
“It hasn’t even been advertised yet and we already have people calling about it,” said Jane Johnson, the executive director at Northshore Area Partners, a tax site host in Silver Bay. “A lot of people utilize it because it’s free.”
Tax help at Northshore Area Partners is being offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday in room 23 of the Mary MacDonald Building, beginning Feb. 12 and running through April 9. Appointments are required and are available by calling (218) 226-3635.
Other sites include the Two Harbors American Legion, where Wednesday appointments can be made by calling (218) 834-4379, the Grand Marais Community Center, Vermillion Community College in Ely, as well as numerous locations in Duluth.
The program is sponsored by AARP in conjunction with the IRS. The service is designed for seniors over the age of 60, although all low- and middle-income residents are welcome to take advantage of the program.
“It’s the ease of being able to come in here and sit down and be done with it,” Johnson said of the program’s popularity. Northshore began as a tax site four years ago; previously, a lot of seniors would have to travel to Two Harbors to use the service.
There are four tax preparers volunteering at Northshore this year, and that may not even be enough to fill the high demand, Johnson said.
Many taxpayers who come in for help, particularly seniors, do so because they have a tough time doing the taxes themselves, said Marion Burge, the volunteer site coordinator at Northshore Area Partners.
“Most of our seniors are not computer wise, so they need a little help,” she said, “and then we e-file the return for them.”
Seniors don’t generally require any special forms or documents beyond what they’ve filed throughout their lives, Burge said. Many seniors who don’t have regular income don’t even need to file a return.
“In our area, we don’t have a lot of wealthy seniors, not that many that have enough income that really comes in,” Burge said. “But ones that have some income can come in for help.”
Some seniors can qualify for the IRS’s credit for the elderly and disabled. Taxpayers who are over the age of 65 or received disability income in 2012 and file a Form 1040 or 1040A may qualify for the credit of up to $1,125.
Anyone utilizing the free tax sites should try to bring along a Social Security card, photo identification, income records, deduction information, rent credits and property tax statements. Last year’s tax return is also helpful for the preparers.
Taxpayers who want to get their returns faster can also sign up for direct deposit by submitting a bank routing number and savings or checking account number.
More information on AARP’s tax site program, including site listings, hours and contact information is available by visiting www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide.