HELP LINE: It’s not too soon to plan to do your taxes

IT’S DEC. 8 so most of the Thanksgiving leftovers are still identifiable and many of us are already hurtling toward the December holidaze.

Thus, it’s only fitting that I jump in with a fitting holiday topic: taxes.

(“What?! Is Harvey finally losing it, completely?”)

Deftly stepping around that question, allow me to observe that (a) I have this info now, and (b) if you cut it out now and put it on the fridge, it might survive the December onslaught of children’s/grandchildren’s artistic renderings.

More specifically, the AARP Tax-Aide Foundation — the good guys.

These are volunteers who have weathered some pretty excruciating training, plus an IRS-designed exam, in order to help many of us with electronically filing our income taxes for free. And remember, this is not just about elders. It’s about low- and middle-income taxpayers of all ages.

True, they don’t do returns that involve income from rental properties or complicated business returns, but you can always stop by and ask. You might be surprised.

Let’s begin with the schedules, running from Feb. 1 through April 15, 2020, then we’ll go from there.

• Port Angeles Library: Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. First come, first served, or call 360-452-6147 for an appointment;

• Port Angeles Senior Center: Mondays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Appointment required, so call 360-457-7004;

• Shipley Center (aka, Sequim Senior Center): Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointment required, so call 360-452-6147;

• Forks City Hall: Feb. 1, 15 and 29, March 14 and 28 and April 11, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. First come, first served.

• Port Townsend Community Center: Tuesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Appointment required, so call 360-385-9007;

• Tri-Area Community Center: Mondays from noon to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Appointment required, so call 360-390-4014, option No. 4;

• Quilcene Community Center: Feb. 15, March 14 and 28 and April 11, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointment required, so call 360-765-3321.

OK? So, what do you actually do?

Well, first, if the site you’re going to visit requires an appointment, make an appointment.

Sites that don’t require an appointment are crazy-busy at the beginning of tax season, so if you can mellow-out until March, it might be smart to do so.

Tax-Aide volunteers are required to see your photo ID and original Social Security card (including those for spouse and dependents). Yes, we all know that carrying that original around is a lousy idea, but this is the IRS’s rule, so gather them up.

You’ll need to have last year’s tax return, and all of your W-2s, 1099s, 1095s (health insurance documentation) and any other relevant documents.

If you want a refund directly deposited into your bank account, bring your checkbook or a bank document showing the account numbers. Scribbling them on a piece of paper will not work.

When you get to the site, you’ll be greeted by a Tax-Aide client facilitator, who will ask you to complete a rather lengthy IRS Intake Form. Yes, lengthy, but you’re getting your federal income taxes done for free, remember?

And don’t worry, because there will be folks there to help you if you get lost in the form.

Pretty soon, you’ll be called for your interview and the game’s afoot.

These good folks really try to stay on schedule, but this is a people business, so you might want to bring a book and some munchies.

Once your tax return is complete, it’s then checked by a second Tax-Aide volunteer for accuracy.

Once that happens, you’ll be asked to sign a form authorizing them to e-file your return, and you’re done.

One more thing to remember: These Tax-Aide volunteers are giving away major chunks of their lives — for free — to help you. It wouldn’t hurt to thank them for that.

Good? OK, go clear a space on the fridge and have a lovely holiday, with one less thing to fret about.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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