Centers Offer Volunteer Tax Preparation For Seniors

January 24, 1991|By Jennifer Keats | Jennifer Keats,Contributing writer

Volunteers Ned Church and Howard Smith each sat at their adding machines in the Pascal Senior Center for more than 100 hours last year, helping other seniors prepare their income taxes.

Beginning Jan. 28 and running through March, the five county senior centers will team up with the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and repeat this free service to seniors aged 55 and older.

"It's a rewarding feeling to help seniors with their taxes," said62-year-old Glen Burnie resident Bill Ferguson, who will be volunteering for a 10th year at the Pascal center. "And if I have tough questions on my own returns, I know I can call up my co-workers and get the right answers."

"I volunteer my time because I am a senior citizen and realize many people at the Pascal Senior Center need help and sincerely appreciate any help we give them," said Church, 70, a former tax preparer for H & R Block who has been coming to the Pascal center for eight years.

Smith, a retired Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. electrical supervisor, said he wanted to do some volunteer work. Because he had always done his own and his family's taxes, he thought he would volunteer at the center.

About 1,340 taxpayers were servedin 2,016 hours by a total of 34 volunteers at the Annapolis, Arnold,Pascal, O'Malley and South County Senior Centers during last year's VITA program, said Nancy Allred, assistant director of the Pascal center and co-coordinator of VITA. The Pasadena Senior Satellite Center also offers tax preparation services, on Tuesdays only.

"The volunteers come back year after year," Allred said. "Although we lost fourthis year, we also gained four and the volunteers do the recruiting themselves."

The simple tax preparation training takes five days. The IRS provides workbooks, and instructors -- who receive special training from the IRS --review the booklet with the trainees.

Volunteers are trained to handle federal and state returns, as well as homeowners and rental tax credit.

Smith will be an instructor for the first time this year. Church is returning for his fifth year of teaching other volunteers how to talk to people as well as fill out the forms.

At the end of the five-day training session, all volunteers are required to pass a test.

"The tests are quite involved, but allthe students did very well," Smith said. "Nobody failed."

Seniorswho need tax assistance should call any of the five centers to schedule an appointment. Preparing the taxes usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes. The following tax preparation items should be brought to the center:

* Last year's tax return.

* 1990 pre-addressed federal and state tax return forms (W-2, W-2P, 1099, SSA1099).

* Record of income, contributions, taxes, medical bills, etc.

* Statement of dividends, interest or other income, including tax-exemptdividends received in 1990.

* Social security number of dependentor spouse to whom alimony is paid.

* Physician statement verifying disability income received by taxpayer or spouse if it was not filed the previous year.

* Receipt from the previous year's property tax bill, if applying for Maryland Homeowner's Tax Credit.

* Receipt for rent if applying for Maryland Renter's Tax Credit.

Although volunteers cannot accept donations for their time, the center has no such restriction. Money donated goes into the Advisory Board Treasuryand is used to defray the cost of making duplicate copies and buyingdesk lamps and adding machines.

For information and appointments call: Annapolis, 222-1818; Arnold, 222-1922; O'Malley, 222-6227; Pascal, 222-6680; South County, 222-1927 and Pasadena, 222-6825.

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