HELP LINE: It’s time to talk filing taxes

TAXES. TAXES. TAXES.

Yes, I was hoping to get your attention, on the off chance that you might still be groping around for a doable New Year’s resolution.

I have two suggestions:

• Give up …

• … except for this: Get your taxes done.

No, amazingly, Uncle Sam has not magically acquired a fiscal sense of humor, so we will still have to handle/figure out/do/pay taxes. Sorry.

And, no: the “new” tax law won’t change much of anything until next year, because it doesn’t kick in until this year (2018, if we’re feeling a bit disoriented), with one small exception: Under the new law for 2017, taxpayers can deduct qualifying medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

That’s down from 10 percent, but only helps if you itemize.

So, nothing much has changed. Yet.

Now we’re faced with actually getting our taxes done, a prospect most of us greet with the same unbridled enthusiasm that we normally reserve for health insurance, dental work or colonoscopies.

May I offer a thought?

Tax-Aide.

Those of us who have been around for a while know these folks well, because they are the good guys.

These are folks who have sacrificed major portions of their holidays in order to study tax regulations, take tests, study some more, etc., then sacrifice major portions of their lives to prepare our taxes, for free.

Yup, these good folks are volunteers.

No, you do not have to be a member of AARP, because Tax-Aide is sponsored by the AARP Foundation and the IRS.

No, you don’t have to be retired — Tax-Aide prepares tax returns for low-and-middle-income taxpayers of all ages.

(If you have income from rental properties or complicated business returns, Tax-Aide might not be your best answer, but feel free to stop by and talk it over with them. You might be surprised.)

Already worrying about the “when and where,” huh?

OK, let’s go there.

From Feb. 1 through April 17, in Clallam County:

• Port Angeles Library: Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

First-come, first-served, so take a book, a sandwich and your patience. You’re getting this for free, remember?

• Port Angeles Senior Center: Mondays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Call 360-457-7004 for an appointment.

• Shipley Center: Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

First-come, first-served.

• Forks City Hall: Every other Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., so: Feb. 3, Feb. 17, March 3, March 17, March 31 and April 14.

First-come, first-served.

In Jefferson County:

• Port Townsend Community Center: Tuesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Call 360-385-9007 for an appointment.

• Tri-Area Community Center in Chimacum: Mondays and Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Call 360-390-4014, Option #4 for an appointment.

• Quilcene Community Center, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on the following three Saturdays: Feb. 24, March 17 and April 7.

Call 360-765-3321 for an appointment.

FYI, sites that do not require an appointment are crazy-busy at the beginning of tax season, so if you’re not in a blind panic to get this done, you might want to chill out until March.

Tax-Aide volunteers are required to see your photo ID and Social Security card(s) for you, your spouse and dependents (I know, but this is one of those times when we just need to carry them with us), so have those with you.

You’ll also need to bring your tax return from last year and all of your W-2s, 1099s, 1095s and anything else that you think might be relevant.

If you anticipate a refund and if you want that directly deposited into your bank account (good idea), then bring your checkbook or bank statement or something with your account number.

Working from memory or jotting it down on the back of your hand does not work.

When you get to the Tax-Aide site, you’ll have to complete a rather lengthy IRS intake form, so these folks can be sure they understand our true situations and can get us all of the deductions and credits we deserve.

(And, of course, this is the IRS. Did you expect a short form?)

Then, when it’s your turn, present your best self to the volunteer (remember, these folks didn’t write the tax code, so there’s no point in taking our frustrations out on them. You can always go home and drop-kick the fruitcake), and work through it.

Pretty soon, you’ll leave with a paper copy of your tax return, while the Tax-Aide volunteers file it electronically, and voila.

Yes, these volunteers are a miracle. Feel free to tell them that.

And I was just kidding about drop-kicking the fruitcake, unless you’re hoping to increase your qualifying medical expenses.

________

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 harvemb@dshs.wa.gov.

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