SEATTLE - One way to save a few bucks this year is to have income taxes prepared at no cost by volunteers at Tax Aide offices across the state. They're expecting a busy season. In Washington, they filed more than 50,000 income tax forms last year.
Tax Aide volunteers get at least 80 hours of training and have to be re-certified every year by the IRS. Some are retired accountants and executives. Others are accounting students getting hands-on experience.
Harold Wiggins, at the north King County office, has been a Tax Aide volunteer since 1997.
"I enjoy working with numbers; I also enjoy helping the people out there. A lot of people really need this assistance. They're pretty nice people to work with, they really appreciate our help and they need our help."
Tax Aide is an AARP
program created to help lower- and middle-income taxpayers with returns that are not too complex. People don't have to be AARP
members or senior citizens to use the free service.
One tax break the volunteers might suggest is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refund for lower-income taxpayers.
The average EITC check in Washington last year was almost $2,000 - although in some cases, it can be more than $5,000, according to IRS spokesman Richard Panick.
"Four out of five eligible workers do claim the credit. But what we're seeing is folks in unusual economic circumstances - perhaps in prior years they weren't eligible for the credit. Now, because of setbacks they may have suffered because of the economy, they may be eligible - but they don't know they're eligible."
Information on the locations of Tax Aide offices is available by calling 888-227-7669, or online at www.aarp.org