Each year, tax deadline day is widely met with feelings of pressure and anxiety. Luckily, there is a special group of well-trained volunteers who don't mind tax season at all. In fact, this group welcomes the months leading up to tax day and spends this time helping minimize the stress – and maximize the returns – of fellow Alaskans.
Free Tax Preparation Anchorage has gained popularity in the past several years as more Alaskans use its services to get their taxes prepared and filed accurately and on time – thanks in large part to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, the free volunteer-run tax preparation program that provides the majority of the volunteer tax preparers. But, as the demand for assistance has grown, so has the demand for the volunteers who make these services possible.
Free Tax Preparation Anchorage offers an assortment of options to help Alaskans complete their taxes for free — a true collaborative among AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, United Way of Anchorage, the IRS and various community organizations.
[One solution to Alaska's fiscal crisis? Volunteer for free tax preparation]
Tax sites are open across the city throughout tax season for people who want to work one-on-one with a tax preparer. People can also use MyFreeTaxes.com to complete their own taxes online when and where it's convenient for them, with phone and online assistance, as needed. Special events are planned intermittently January through April to assist with taxes and connect people to other finance-related resources, as well.
To make all this happen, we need certified tax preparers, MyFreeTaxes tax coaches, Alaska Saves savings ambassadors and event helpers – there's a role for everyone.
Here is where you come in! AARP Foundation Tax-Aide and United Way of Anchorage have begun recruiting volunteers to help prepare basic federal tax returns during the upcoming tax season. As a volunteer, you will help others file correctly and on time, ensuring they receive all eligible tax credits. This does a lot more than earn families and individuals a little extra short-term money. Free tax preparation is an important boost for individuals and families working to improve their financial stability. A higher refund sometimes means another month of heat, rent or food.
During the last tax season, more than 50 well-trained tax preparers filed federal tax returns for 5,300-plus Anchorage residents at no charge to the taxpayer. This service saved Anchorage residents an estimated $1,062,000 in tax prep fees and delivered $6,991,777 refunds back to Anchorage families and our local economy.
Becoming a volunteer tax preparer is easier than you think. No prior tax experience is necessary, and all training and materials are provided. Volunteers do need basic computer knowledge, must have an email address and have time to attend classes. Volunteers will assist at one of seven sites open throughout Anchorage during the tax season, which runs Jan. 27-April 17. Schedules are flexible, and volunteers can choose days and sites that work best for them. Weekday, weekend and evening options are available.
Training for new volunteer tax preparers in Anchorage starts Dec. 18. Online, self-study options are also available for part of the course. Volunteers finish training with a learned new skill, new connections, and a deep feeling of satisfaction from helping fellow Alaskans through the often stressful tax filing experience.
Share your knowledge and make a difference in the lives of fellow Alaskans! If you or someone you know has the time and interest to become a volunteer tax preparer, or volunteer in one of the other roles, please visit freetaxprepANC.com/volunteer to learn more and complete an application.
Diane Nesvick is the Tax-Aide Partnership/Communications Specialist for Alaska, has been a tax-aide volunteer since 2005. She is retired from the Internal Revenue Service. Maureen Haggblom is the director of Income Impact at United Way of Anchorage, working to help families save more of their hard-earned income and build a strong community of financially stable families.
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