Daily Local News (West Chester, PA)
FREE TAX PREP SUPPORT FOR SENIORS IS AVAILABLE
It’s a time of year that many of us don’t look forward to — tax filing season, with an April 18 deadline looming.
If you are retired and are contemplating whether or not you should file a tax return, Brian Parkes, the executive directive of TriCounty Active Adult Center in Pottstown, encourages seniors to continue filing for an alarming reason.
“One thing seniors should remember is that they should file a tax return every year, even if they technically do not need to,” Parkes said. “This reduces the chances of fraud when scammers file a false return in their name to try to get a refund.”
TriCounty is offering free tax prep for seniors this year, which is already full.
“A shortage of volunteer preparers is making it difficult for organizations to offer the programs,” he said. “There are two organizations that train preparers — AARP and VITA. We have the AARP preparers here.”
Typically, senior centers, family services and some libraries provide free tax prep services that offer one-on-one support. If you are in need of assistance, Parkes offered some local avenues to explore that likely still have space to register for an appointment.
“Other organizations offering free tax prep are Family Services of Pottstown, Boyertown Area Multi Service Center, Phoenixville Area Senior Center and the Henrietta Hankin Library,” he said.
For at least 10 years, the Henrietta Hankin Library in Chester County has offered the tax prep program through a partnership between the library and the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program.
Their incentive to offer the program is centered on the library’s continuous efforts to seek ways to serve the community.
“This program fits in nicely,” said Meghan Lynch, manager at Henrietta Hankin. “Our mission is to ‘provide informational, educational and cultural services to the residents of Chester County and member libraries so that they may be lifelong learners.’”
Those eligible to receive inperson and virtual tax assistance free of charge at the library are taxpayers who are over age 50 and have low to moderate income.
“At the Hankin Branch, we see mostly seniors, but there are certainly people under retirement age that utilize the service,” Lynch said.
She shared the primary objective of offering the service.
“The goal is helping community members who may encounter challenges completing their tax returns, be those financial or otherwise, and to access a service that allows them to have their state and federal tax returns prepared for free by welltrained, knowledgeable volun
teers,” Lynch said.
The tax prep program is a popular one at Henrietta Hankin, with people contacting them to seek out appointments one month before they even start booking them in mid-January.
“In 2022, we set up a schedule with 408 potential appointment spots, and 362 of those appointments were utilized,” she said. “If we look just at what the AARP Tax-Aide volunteers considered peak season (Feb. 17 through April 7), 99.3% of the appointment slots were filled.”
Both the Hankin Branch and its parent organization, the Chester County Library, offer this service. Each has different days and times available to receive tax support.
“At the Hankin Branch appointments are offered on Thursdays and Fridays from Feb. 9 through April 14 and are available at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.,” Lynch said. “At the Chester County Library, it’s offered on Mondays from Feb. 13 through April 3, and appointments are available at noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.”
Each day that Henrietta Hankin offers the program there are approximately six AARP tax preparer reps on site. Individuals who have appointments should bring the following materials with them, Lynch said.
• Photo identification (typically a driver’s license) for the primary taxpayer (and spouse if filing jointly)
• Proof of Social Security number for all individuals (including dependents if any) included in the tax return (proof consists of either Social Security card, form SSA-1099 or a letter from the Social Security Administration
• Documents/forms supporting their 2022 income, tax deductions and credits, which may include W-2 forms 1099 (including SSA-1099 /1099R /1099INT /1099DIV /1099B), HSA account info, post-secondary education expenses if any and statements (brokerage) for sale of stocks, bonds, mutual funds or sale of home.
Lynch said that bringing last year’s tax return may also helpful expedite the process.
Lynch said the library has received positive feedback from those who participated.
“We get many thanks, and occasional donations, from grateful community members who utilize this service and many return each year,” she said.