AARP Tax-Aides offer free tax prep assistance by appointment only

Story provided by Stillwater Public Library

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Tax-Aide volunteers will offer free tax preparation help at the Stillwater Public Library beginning the week of March 1, 2021, through Thursday, April 15, 2021. Assistance will be offered by appointment only. Appointments are limited and must be made in-person at the library. The service looks very different than previous years due to COVID-19 precautions.

“Tax time is always one of the busiest times of the year at the library,” said Library Director Stacy DeLano. “The hallway in front of room 119 where AARP volunteers prepare taxes is usually packed with people waiting for help, but we just cannot have that many people in the library at once right now.”

The emergency declaration currently in effect restricts the number of people allowed in the library and requires that masks be worn at all times. There are also a limited number of volunteers available to help prepare taxes this year.

According to Saundra Mace, a long-time AARP Tax-Aide volunteer, working out the operations required a lot of safety considerations.

“We had to take into account the safety of our volunteers, library staff and those coming in for help,” said Mace. “The drop-off method we are using does require people to visit the library several times, but for very short amounts of time.”

A summary for how the process works follows:

1.          Call the library at (405) 372-3633 x8106, or stop by to check on appointment availability. Appointments are limited, and availability is not guaranteed.

2.          Visit the library to schedule an appointment and pick-up an intake interview packet. The paperwork in the packet must be completed before the appointment.

3.          Attend an intake appointment. Currently, intake appointments take place on Mondays and last around 20-25 minutes. AARP Tax-Aide volunteers will prepare and provide a quality review of tax returns on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

4.          Return to the library to review, sign and receive a copy of the tax return. This last step takes place on Thursdays and will be at the same time patrons came for Monday appointments. For example, if the intake appointment was Monday at 9:15 a.m., the pick-up appointment will be Thursday at 9:15 a.m.

The library asks that taxpayers attend appointments alone whenever possible, unless they are co-filing with a spouse. There is not an open waiting area in the library at this time and there are restrictions on the number of people allowed in the building at any given time.

Due to the limited number of appointments available, the library requests that anyone with the ability to get their taxes prepared by alternate methods to please consider doing so.

“There are many people in the community who rely on AARP volunteers because they do not have anyone else who can help. Many do not have computer access or skills to file online and cannot pay to have them prepared,” said DeLano.

Mace mirrors DeLano’s concerns. “We wish we could help everyone, but this year, that just isn’t going to be possible. We’re asking community members to only schedule with us if they really need to. Hopefully, next year, things will be back to normal.”

It is crucial for individuals receiving AARP tax help to bring all of the required documentation to scheduled appointments. The intake packet includes a checklist of all needed documents. Failure to bring the required paperwork will result in the need to schedule another appointment, which will be very difficult, if not impossible, this year due to limited availability.

Individuals who made $72,000 or less adjusted gross income in 2020 can also file for free online using a link via the library’s website using IRS VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, through OnLine Taxes (OLT). There are no age restrictions, and free eFile options are available for federal and state tax returns. Anyone using the service can also send questions about returns via email to certified tax coaches.

Additional free file options for taxpayers in income tax brackets both above and below $72,000 are available using IRS Free File online. IRS Free File consists of nine online tax preparation partners that provide the service. Various partners have different restrictions, but the IRS states that about 70% of taxpayers qualify. Taxpayers can review each partner’s rules and select the best option for their situation at www.IRS.gov.

The library also has hard copies of 1040 forms and information packets available for pick-up. All other tax forms must be accessed online or requested for mailing. Librarians may print needed forms and instructions for 10 cents per page.

Information about accessing forms, tax filing services and AARP tax assistance can be found at http://library.stillwater.org/taxes.php. Please direct any related questions to the Help Desk at (405) 372-3633 x8106. Keep in mind that librarians can assist with information but cannot give any tax advice or handle taxpayer documents.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. Library hours are Monday- Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.