LET’S SEE IF, for a brief shining moment, I can distract you from the fact that open enrollment for Medicare Part D started yesterday.
Have you ever noticed that it’s become fashionable for anyone who is introducing anybody or anything to declare that they’re excited?
And often, they don’t look particularly excited as they introduce Morey Lipscomb and his collection of antique wine corks or LannieMae Foratz on the finer points of peach fuzz, or the grand opening of a new alley.
And you think to yourself: “Really? You think that’s exciting? If you think that’s exciting, I think that’s kinda depressing. Exciting is getting out of town on a Friday afternoon without a single car on the road.”
With that in mind, I’m excited to bring you an exciting opportunity.
In fact, momentarily you’ll be so excited that you’ll be hop-scotching about, heralding, “You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out …”
Here’s your chance to help people do their income taxes.
(I’ll wait while you get yourself under control).
No, I’m not kidding, and yes — I mean you.
(Take a deep breath.)
Tax time is coming
OK, now, look: Pretty soon, it’s going to be tax time, which means that AARP Tax-Aide, the good guys, will be out helping us civilians navigate the labyrinthine maze of the U.S. tax code.
They are the folks who volunteer their time to sit through classes, study their excited posteriors off through the holidays, sit through more classes, then get tested by the IRS to see if they actually know what they’re doing, then get to give away major portions of their lives in the name of helping the rest of us evade near-certain, tax-related implosion.
We like these guys.
And you have the opportunity to become an IRS-certified Tax-Aide volunteer right here, right now.
(Alright, now that’s enough of the peppermint twist or the cha-cha. Sit down and pay attention.)
Here’s what you’ll have to do:
• Complete an application (we’ll get to that), then go to new volunteer orientation classes in Sequim on Dec. 5 and 6.
• Then you’ll be self-studying your way through IRS-provided tax material and software so you can be ready for more required classes in Sequim on Jan. 5 and 6.
• Then you’ll have to pass the IRS test and sign off on the IRS Standards of Conduct that say you understand ethics and confidentiality.
• Then you’ll be expected to volunteer at least four hours each week during tax season. (Note: Many Tax-Aide volunteers put in more than that because they actually care, but four is the minimum).
In case your untethered excitement has suddenly deflated in the face of the realization that you are not a tax pro, CPA, bookkeeper or a computer wonk, allow me to reinflate you: Most Tax-Aide volunteers aren’t any of those things.
If you’re good with numbers and good with people (not necessarily in that order) and have a reasonably civil relationship with computers, you can do this.
You are also not required to be retired, and this really has nothing to do with being a member (or not) of AARP.
It has to do with being a reasonably intelligent and genuinely decent human being who is willing to help other genuinely decent, low-to-medium-income taxpayers get through their taxes intact.
(I know. But take it easy with your “Happy Dance.” You might be frightening the pets.)
How do you get there from here?
Run (don’t walk) to your computer and go to www.aarp.org/taxaide and complete the Tax-Aide application.
If you really have questions, even after my breathtakingly informative presentation, here are some local Tax-Aide coordinators who can answer them:
• Around Port Angeles, contact Lois Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-457-1497.
• In Jefferson County, try Ron Ryan at email@example.com or 360-379-1226.
• Around Sequim, it’s Julia Roberts (well, I told you this was exciting) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Forks/West End, get a hold of Hearst Coen at email@example.com or 360-452-6541.
Now’s the time to apply
Now would be a good time to do this before you get sidetracked by Part D or your Halloween costume because everything has to line up by December.
This is about as free as free gets.
It’s not going to cost you anything, except a lot of time and some major chunks of your life, but look what you’ll get: a lot of knowledge about taxes (your in-laws will suddenly acquire a new level of respect for you), all kinds of brain exercise (you’ll laugh in the face of The New York Times crossword puzzle) and a whole lot of gratitude from a whole lot of us who will be genuinely grateful.
(OK, did you do the online application? Good. Now, sit down and gather yourself — I know, it is exhausting, but at least you know you’re alive.)
I think I’ll pass on Morey’s corks.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.