AARP tax aid is for everyone

01 February 2024- By now, we all probably know the standard joke that there are only two certainties in life – death and taxes. 

Both can be pretty scary for people. 

While no one has figured out a way to stop the first one, taxes really don’t have to be all that bad. 

If you’ve got that looming fear as April 15 draws nearer and nearer with each passing day and would love some help, AARP is there for you. 

And you don’t need to be a member to benefit from the tax help they provide – anyone can get the assistance and it’s free. 

Roger Schwalm of AARP explained, “The focus is we do taxes for senior citizens with low to moderate income. Everybody gets kind of confused because number one, they think they’ve got to be a member of AARP. They do not. It’s just the service provided by them and it’s not just for senior citizens. We do young people all the way up to very senior citizens. Primarily, a lot of young people that were in high school, flipping burgers for the summer to make money for whatever and they need their taxes done. So we cover the whole gamut.”

There is a call center if you need help. 

Schwalm said, “We have the folks call into the call center, and we have one that manages the Waynesboro and Greencastle area and back up here to Chambersburg. The third site is over in McConnellsburg and they have a separate call center that manages their calls over there.”

When you call, you will pick the day and time. 

In Chambersburg, taxes are done Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rec Center on Third Street. 

In Waynesboro, taxes are done at the American Legion Post 15 on Mondays and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

All the tax preparers are taught and tested on tax returns within a certain scope. 

Ron Gipe of AARP said, “We don’t do tax returns that have any depreciation. That’s too complex. It’s outside the scope of our preparation. We’ve been training for two months now. We get that done in the October, November period. People are taking tests. I’m a CPA, I’ve been doing taxes. I figured this morning that I am 57 years old and I took the test because the law changes every year. All of our people are certified through the IRS. We take a test that the IRS presents and you have to have 80%.”

You will sit down with the counselor and go through the whole process. 

Schwalm said, “It’s a conversation that takes place between you and the counselor to make sure we touch all the bases. It’s on the computer. We’re doing the initial conversation on paper, just to make sure we got all the right pieces of paper. Then we go over to the computer and we do it online on the computer. We get the package together. When we’ve got it all done, the counselor thinks he’s got it, he has to go to a checker. Every return has to be reviewed by a separate set of eyes. That’s an IRS and an AARP requirement. When that’s done, then they go back to the client to review the return with them because the important thing to remember here is that this is the client’s tax return, it’s not ours. So we’ve got to make sure that they understand, not the intricacies of it, but the overall things like you had a W2. Here’s your W2 income. You had a retirement or you had Social Security, here’s that money from Social Security.”

The folks that are helping understand that taxes and sharing personal information like this can make people nervous. 

Schwalm said, “We understand those intricacies that are involved and the personality thing that takes place. So you work with it, not against it. The more you can bring them into the process the better off both are.”

Gipe said, “The majority of our returns are electronically filed and a significant number of them are direct deposit. So we have to verify those key numbers, the bank routing numbers.”

The group can’t do walk-ins, so you need to call to set up an appointment. 

It’s all free. 

Schwalm said, “Last year for volume, we did 2,700 packages. We brought back $3.2 million in refunds.”

It’s also all volunteer. There are about 85 people involved overall. 

To make an appointment call 717-263-5479. If you leave a message, someone will get back to you within 24 hours. 

Gipe said, “We do remind people that the IRS considers them taxpayers and they’re legally liable for the contents of the return.”