Program has operated for 36 years in Clark County and continues through pandemic
CLARK COUNTY — Charles Humble was helping a single mom file her taxes. She had her children with her and it was challenging, but they got it done. When she saw her return amount, her eyes filled with tears of joy. It was thousands of dollars.
“I can finally fix my car,” she said.
The whole process to get her that tax help still operates today, and it’s 100 percent free for anyone who needs it.
“The gratitude even people who are just normal people have, they’re just so relieved to get their taxes done and know that they’re done right,” said Humble, who is now a representative for the program. “We have people who have been coming back every year for, you know, 15 years, and they just count on it.”
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program is taking appointments for its free tax preparation and e-filing services. Due to the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional face-to-face preparation with a Tax-Aide counselor is being replaced with a Contact-Free approach, but the process is still simple.
Anyone wishing assistance with their tax preparation must first make an appointment. Appointments for taxpayers living in Clark and Skamania counties can be requested by calling (360) 302-2641 and leaving a voicemail. A volunteer will call back to set up an appointment. Assistance may also be requested through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide website at www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide.
“We don’t have the number of volunteers that we’ve had in the past, and that’s largely because some people are just reticent to want to be involved at all because of COVID,” Humble said. “We don’t have face to face contact with the taxpayer. Other than if we scan their documents for them, somebody will have to pick them up from them.”
All tax preparation interaction with taxpayers will take place via phone and video call. The service will be offered through April 15 and is free. Tax-Aide is capable of processing most personal tax returns with some limited exceptions.
“Tax-Aide is a free service for anyone who needs help completing their tax return and filing it electronically,” said Debbie Carroll, Washington Tax-Aide District 1 coordinator. “Our dedicated and certified volunteers will provide the same high-quality service as in years past, just in a different way to accommodate COVID-19.”
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is an all-volunteer organization whose tax counselors are trained and certified by the IRS. Last year, Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 25,000 taxpayers in Washington before all sites were closed in mid-March. More than 1,700 of those were for local taxpayers.
“We ended up having to shut down in the middle of March,” Humble said. “So we lost about 30 days of the tax season. Although, we did come back then in the summer, and we did some more returns because they extended the tax deadline last year.”
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide operates the nation’s largest volunteer-run free tax preparation service. Volunteers are trained and IRS-certified every year to ensure they understand the latest changes to the U.S. Tax Code.
In 2020, 1.5 million taxpayers who used AARP Foundation Tax-Aide received more than $1 billion in income tax refunds. They also avoided any tax preparation fees and pitches for high-interest tax credit or “refund loans.” The service is offered in conjunction with the IRS. AARP membership is not required.
“You bring your stuff, we do your taxes, we file your taxes, you don’t pay anything, you know that it’s done right, we send you away with your copy of your taxes,” Humble said. “It’s just a tremendous service for the community.”
Information provided by AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program