Free tax service offered to River Valley residents

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published February 17, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated February 15, 2013 at 11:20 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Barbara and Russell Easter, left, look on as Gene Alden does their taxes during a free tax-prearation event held by the AARP at the Hughes Center in Russellville.

With tax season already upon us, some Arkansans who aren’t able to hire someone to do their taxes have cost-free options in their communities.

The Fairfield Bay Senior Center and Russellville’s Hughes Community Center are offering free tax-preparation service geared toward Arkansans with low incomes and senior citizens.

Every tax season, the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program offers free, individualized tax preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, especially those 60 and older, at nearly 6,000 locations nationwide, the AARP website states. The program has been in place for more than 40 years.

O.D. Smith, local coordinator for the AARP Tax-Aide program in Russellville, said this is his 12th year to be with the foundation. He finds that helping others with taxes is a way to give back to the community.

“We are open to anyone who has a tax return that we can do,” Smith said.

Smith said the Russellville site completes about 1,700 tax returns while the center is open.

The tax service will be available at the Hughes Community Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday until the tax deadline, April 15.

Janice Cusick, a tax preparer at the Fairfield Bay Senior Center said the service, although geared toward people over 50 years old and with low incomes, is available to anyone who makes an appointment.

Cusick said she has

volunteered with the Tax-Aide service for the past four years, and she does taxes for people every year because she enjoys it.

“We do about 200 [tax returns] a year,” Cusick said. “It’s not a very big site.”

The Fairfield Bay site has only two tax preparers, while the Russellville site has about 20.

Smith said the Russellville site needs volunteers every year.

“You’ve got to be a person who enjoys doing this sort of thing,” Smith said.

Volunteers go through a training course to learn how to prepare taxes. This course, given by respective AARP Tax-Aide centers, provides returning volunteers with a “refresher” on the tax forms and notifies them of any changes made on the forms.

Cusick said February has been a busy month for the Fairfield Bay tax site, adding that use of the service steadily slows down as the tax deadline draws near.

“People want their refund checks,” Cusick said.

Last year, the Internal Revenue Service issued nine out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and the same results are expected for 2013, the IRS website states.

More information on finding an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide center near you is available at www.aarp.org.

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501)244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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