Tax assistance services seeks volunteers

A desire to help people and a certain amount of computer confidence are all it takes to become an AARP tax aide.

Gary Ellingson, volunteer coordinator of the AARP Tax-Aide program in Minot, said the program is seeking additional volunteers to provide the free tax assistance program to low- to moderate-income residents.

Last year, tax aides prepared about 450 tax returns.

“We could do more,” Ellingson said “We had to turn a lot of people away because we didn’t have enough help. We desperately need people who are comfortable using a computer and meeting people.”

It helps to enjoy working with numbers, but the program uses professional software that handles the math. Tax aides just need to be familiar with how to use the software and where to plug in the numbers, and training is available to provide that familiarity.

Training classes can be taken online or are offered locally in a classroom setting over four or five days in January. The tax assistance service begins Feb. 5 and runs through mid-April in 2018. The tax headquarters in the American Legion on North Hill typically opens Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tax aides work with basic returns, often for people aged 60 and older, and all returns are filed electronically.

Ellingson said volunteers can decide which days they are available to serve. The tax aides also work cooperatively so there’s always backup if a puzzling situation arises.

“It’s a team effort,” Ellingson said. “You are not on your own.”

There also are openings for client facilitators who do not do taxes but greet clients and help ensure their materials are organized before directing them to an available tax aide.

“It’s an important job. It’s something we need as tax preparers. It saves us a lot of time and makes life easier,” Ellingson said.

Anyone age 18 or older who is interested in the program can call Ellingson at 839-9632. Ellingson said he will meet with prospective volunteer tax preparers to show them the software and set them up with some online practice labs they can work with at home to determine whether being a tax aide is something they might enjoy doing.

“It’s a great job and it’s really fun,” he said. There’s always coffee on and often cookies or doughnuts, too, but the best rewards come from working with the clients, he said.

“They really appreciate that we are helping them out,” he said. “They are very happy to have us, and that really helps to keep me going. It makes me feel good to know I am doing something worthwhile.”