AFTER ALL THESE years, there’s a reason that we insist on continuing to call this little weekly effort “Help Line,” and that reason is that we are supposed to, at least occasionally, help, which most of us find eminently reasonable if not painfully obvious.
So here comes help.
To begin, I know that if we listen long enough to people who want us to listen long enough, we begin to get a bit confused about who is or isn’t paying taxes, or at what rate, or whether corporations are people or people are corporations, or whether people might want to incorporate in order to become “people” who might not have to pay taxes, or … I know.
And if we stop listening long enough, here’s where we’ll end up: Most of us have to pay taxes or at least deal with the reality of a tax return.
This is a realization that rarely cheers us up at this time of year, so we’ve placed Valentine’s Day squarely in the middle of February and characterized it with chocolate as an incentive to continue to continue.
This is an example of help:
Corporate status aside, taxes are looming directly ahead, so who’s coming galloping to our rescue (again) with real help?
That’s right: Tax-Aide. (That’s the “William Tell Overture” you’re hearing in the background).
For those of you who have only recently joined the species, Tax-Aide is the group of good folks who come to our rescue at this time every year by providing free, skilled tax preparation and e-filing (that means they do the whole tax thing online) and thus save us from ourselves.
These are volunteers who get to read copious amounts of tax stuff, then go to classes, then take a test administered by the IRS to see if they really learned all the tax stuff they had to read and listen to in classes.
Then they get to give away major portions of their lives — for free — to help us.
They must like us. And we certainly like them.
IRS, AARP sponsor
Tax-Aide is sponsored by the IRS and AARP.
You do not have to be a member of AARP to partake.
In fact, you don’t even have to be an elder.
You can just be a regular tax-paying or tax-return-filing person of any age.
So much for prioritization.
Now look, if you have income from rental properties, complicated business returns, mega-bucks, own property in nine different states, have beaucoup investments or have long since incorporated yourself, give these folks a break, huh?
For the rest of us, here’s the deal: Bring a photo ID; Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents; W-2s, 1099s, 1095s (health insurance documentation) and any other stuff necessary to get the tax return job done; your 2015 tax return; and bank account routing and account numbers if you want a refund deposited directly, wait for it to be Feb. 1 (Hint: That’s Wednesday), then go for it.
Here’s another hint: Sites that don’t require an appointment are crazy busy in early February so you might want to either mellow out until March or bring a sandwich.
OK, ready? This is the part that you need to cut out and stick on the fridge:
• Port Townsend Community Center, 620 Tyler St., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. You’ll need an appointment, so call 360-385-9007 to get one.
• Tri-Area Community Center, 10 West Valley Road, Chimacum, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays or 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays. Call 360-732-4822 to make an appointment.
• Quilcene Community Center, 294951 U.S. Highway 101, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 25, March 16 and April 8.
You’ll need an appointment.
• Shipley Center, 921 E. Hammond St., Sequim, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays or 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Call 360-683-6806 for an appointment.
• Port Angeles library, 2210 S. Peabody St., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. No appointment necessary, so just show up with something to read and good-natured patience.
• Port Angeles Senior & Community Center, 328 E. Seventh St., 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays. Call 360-457-7004 for an appointment.
• Forks City Hall, 500 E. Division St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. these Saturdays: Feb. 4 and 18, March 4 and 18, and April 1 and 15. No appointment needed.
Feel free to thank these folks because except for migraines that’s all they’re getting out of doing this.
Just a couple more things (I hope you have a big fridge):
• The IRS blessed Tax-Aide with new tax preparation software this year, which means they will not be able to look up your data from last year’s return.
One thing this means is that you will have to bring a Social Security card (or Social Security Benefits Statement) for every person on your return.
• Many of us have received at least one threatening phone call, email or social media contact from a fake IRS “representative.”
Beware of scams
The IRS will never, ever, ever do any of those. They’re scams.
Now we’re hearing that some of these scams are even appearing in snail mail, which the IRS does use, so it’s even more deceptive.
If you get a nasty, threatening missive from what appears to be the IRS and you just aren’t sure, you can bring it with you to Tax-Aide, and they’ll help you sort it out.
OK? That’s it. Good luck.
And if you’re still hearing the “William Tell Overture,” try humming the theme song from “M.A.S.H.”
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@example.com.