AARP offers free tax return assistance

Volunteers with the American Association of Retired Persons Tax Assistance Program in Montana will be offering free tax counseling and preparation for taxpayers with middle and low income again this year. As in previous years, special attention will be given to taxpayers age 50 and older.

In southeastern Montana, Tax-Aide volunteers will be available to help taxpayers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Thursday, Feb. 2, and continuing through Thursday, April 13, in Miles City and Glendive.

In Miles City, volunteers will be providing assistance in the Miles City Public Library at 1 S. 10th St.. Call 406-234-1496 for appointments.

In Glendive, the volunteers will be providing tax assistance in the Glendive Senior Center Sagebrush Alley at 604 Grant Ave. Call 406-377-3791 for appointments.

Dorothy Willems of Miles City is the District 8 coordinator for the AARP Tax-Aide program, which includes Miles City and Glendive. She explained that she also provides the program’s District 1, which includes Roundup and Harlowton, with computer assistance. 

According to Willems, AARP Tax-Aide is administered through the AARP Foundation, in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service. The AARP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan charitable organization  established in 1961.

Willems said that the required items of information needed by a volunteer to do a tax return are include a  copy of the 2015 tax return or the last return you filed.

“Our program does not have access to your previous returns this year,” said Willems. “If you do not have a copy of your 2015 return, stop at the library in Miles City or Glendive on Tuesdays or Thursdays and we can help you apply for a copy of your last year’s tax return. It takes five to 10 days to receive a copy of your return, so be sure to do this early. If AARP did your taxes last year, bring the envelope you received along with all information included when last year’s return was completed.”

Also needed to complete a return are:

— an original Social Security card for anyone on the return in order to claim Tax Return Credits. Copies of the cards will not work.

— photo identification for the taxpayer and spouse. This is to insure against identity theft.

— all other information needed for preparing a 2016 tax return. 

Willems explained that AARP Tax-Aide has limitations and the volunteers will not be able to do the following:

— Schedule C (Business profit and loss) if there was a loss or if expenses exceed $25,000.

— Complicated Schedule D forms (Capital Gains and Losses) without proper paperwork.

— Schedule E (Rental Property) forms with expenses, including depreciation. “We can do land rental and some royalties,” Willems added.

— Schedule F (Farm Income) forms.

— Form 2106 (Employee Business Expenses).

— Form 3903 (Moving Expenses).

— Form 8615 (Minors’ Investment Income).

— Portions of schedules A and B not included in a volunteer’s training.

— Schedule K-1 that involves depreciation or deductible expenses.

— Multiple state returns in the same year. “We are only trained in Montana state returns,” Willems explained. Taxpayers filing returns for other states must work with certified tax preparers for whichever state the taxpayer is filing.

“Commitment on my part to the program is being able to help senior citizens and those who may not have the funds to pay to have their taxes done,” said Willems. “Those who help me with the program are those who want to help others.”

She explained that the program is geared for senior citizens, but “because there is no VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program in the Miles City area, we are allowed to do tax returns for non-senior citizens.”

Willems said she finds working in the program to be rewarding.

“I consider tax preparation volunteers very special people. They must be certified by the IRS and spend many hours of study to help in our free tax preparation program,” Willems said. “But for myself, it is the most rewarding volunteer program I belong to.”