Free Advice Takes The Sting Out Of Taxes

April 07, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

With little more than a week to go until Uncle Sam absolutely, positively has to have your tax return, a group of more than 90 professionals, most of them retired, is ready to make April 15 a little less taxing for county seniors.

"Taxes get more confusing as you get older," said Harold Forst, a 63-year-old retired Aberdeen Proving Ground engineer and physicist who serves as the publicity chairman for the American Association of Retired Persons' tax aid program.

As part of the national program, federal and state income tax returns are prepared free of charge for any Harford resident over 60, orfor anyone with low to moderate incomes.

The Harford program, co-sponsored by the county Office of Aging, began in 1978 with 28 volunteer tax preparers. They filed more than 2,900 state and federal returns last year.

Forst did not have an estimate of the number of returns filed by the volunteers so far this year.

Many of the 90 or sovolunteers on board this year are retired accountants, engineers andother professionals, Forst said.

All undergo more than two weeks of training and must pass a competency test before filing any returns.

The tax aid service has been available at five county locations since February 1 and will continue past the April 15 deadline.

Thetax aid centers are in Bel Air, Aberdeen, Edgewood/Joppatowne, Havrede Grace and Whiteford. Forst recommended making appointments ratherthan walking in to a center and waiting to be helped.

One of the advantages of using these volunteers, Forst said, is that they are aware of the changes in the tax code. Yearly changes in tax regulationsoften are cumbersome and difficult to understand.

"As you get older, your ability to think about and understand all of the tax rules tends to lessen," Forst said. "It can get really confusing, making youexcited and frustrated."

Last year, more than 175 people who could not leave their homes had their taxes prepared by AARP volunteers.

Before visiting one of the volunteer tax preparers, make sure to gather up all the necessary tax information, such as W-2s, 1099s, a copy of last year's state and federal returns, and verification documents for any deductions you may want to declare, Forst advised.

And it's best to make an appointment by calling the tax aid program's central office at 836-9321. The office, at 145 N. Hickory Ave. in Bel Air, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. weekdays.

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