AARP kicks off tax aide program
The AARP Tax-Aide Program will once again offer free tax assistance in Woodbury every Monday from now until April at Central Park.
The local group, which is part of the nation's largest volunteer-run tax preparation service, was able to recruit more volunteers this year, coordinator David West said.
From four volunteers last year, the group grew to seven this year in an effort to help more people, he said.
Although the group offers appointments on Mondays only, West said with more volunteers helping this year, more returns could be filed in that same time period from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"What we will probably do is increase the number of appointments that we take in the same Monday time span," he said.
West, who made a special effort to recruit more volunteers this year, said he's passionate about giving the service for free to those who really need it.
The AARP Tax-Aide Program aims to help elderly, disabled and low-income residents of Woodbury and beyond.
Last year, the Woodbury group filed 165 returns. West is hoping to double that number this year.
"I'll tell you, it's an extremely rewarding program, for me personally, to help these folks," he said.
Volunteers go through training every year to stay up-to-date on all the tax documents and information they need to file returns properly.
West said the Woodbury site sees a few more complicated returns due to the demographics in the city.
"Higher income levels - with that often goes added complexity in our returns and added work, so they take more time," he said. "I'm not being negative; I'm just trying to be descriptive."
Although the bulk of clients come from Woodbury, there are others who seek tax assistance who come from other towns as well.
West said since the program is free, it strives to help those who can't afford to pay to file their taxes.
"It's part of our role, I believe, to help out people like that so they don't go and spend 250 bucks at a tax return business for something that we can do in 20 minutes," he said.
However, the more complicated returns for small businesses or those who own rental properties are out of the group's scope.
"We consider them out of scope because we try to limit the amount of time we spend on any one person," West said.
West is an Afton resident who was recruited to lead the Woodbury group this year.
He said he wanted to make sure people knew the service is available in Woodbury, not just St. Paul and Cottage Grove.
"I said what the heck, it's 10 weeks," he said. "If I can help out in a more intense fashion for the 10 weeks, that would be better."
The Woodbury group went through a training session in January at the Eagle Valley Golf Course.
Often times when the site is filled with appointments, other tax preparers are recruited from nearby cities, West said. Depending on the demand, some additional sessions may be scheduled for other days.
Tax assistance sessions will are held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Oak and Tamarack rooms at Central Park's lower level.
Appointments may be made by calling (651) 714-3583. Questions about the program can be directed to West at (651) 485-8680 or by e-mail at WoodburyTaxAide@aol.com.