Tax help available for seniors and low income people

Jan. 22—Tax season is upon us and low income and older adults in the area can get some help filing their taxes once again this year at the Senior and Family Services Center on Main Street.

"Our service here will begin Feb. 1. We are taking appointments. You can start calling now to schedule an appointment," said David Lennen, site coordinator of tax preparation for low income and elderly citizens in Daviess County. "We have a team of eight volunteers that will be preparing the taxes and then a team of six individuals that are going to greet the people when they come in and get their information and prepare them for the tax preparation."

"A lot of seniors don't have the ability to prepare their taxes on their own because it is now so geared toward computers. We offer this to make it a little easier to file and the cost. They can't afford to go to a preparer," said Jodi Rook, fiscal director at the Senior Center. "There is no cost for this. They can donate to the Senior Center if they want to."

People using the service need to do some specific things. When they come in for their appointment, they need to bring all of the pertinent documents. That includes proper identification.

"Make certain you bring in proof of identity. Identity theft is such a serious concern. Make sure you have your driver's license or other picture ID. You need to provide your social security number," said Lennen. "If you have any dependents, any children that are living with you, we will need their social security numbers as well."

Other items people need to bring with them are a copy of last year's return, current year information including 1099s and W-2s. Plus things like their landlord's name, the amount of rent they pay, and the landlord's address. For some a copy of the property tax statement will be needed.

"This is not just for retirees. It is for low income people. There is a threshold of $70,000 we are supposed to hold to," said Lennen. "We don't do the complicated multi-page returns. The ones we do, by tax standards, are fairly simple. For a lot of people, even thinking about it is not simple. It is almost all on line now and with the different changes that have taken place in tax law. It can be difficult for people to keep up."

Lennen points out that having the proper information when it comes time to do taxes is important.

The earlier people come in the better, but people need to be certain they have all the information they need.

"Most people on Social Security have received their statements or will soon," said Lennen. "If you have a statement coming from a brokerage firm or a bank, those don't have to be sent out until the end of January. In some cases, the deadline is Feb. 15. If you know there is missing information don't schedule your appointment until you have all the material. We are preparing the taxes but it is on the individual to make certain we have all of the information."

Besides the operation in Washington, there will be a satellite tax office working once a week in Odon.

"We will have a satellite office available in Odon on Thursdays. One of our preparers lives up that way. She will be at the Odon Library from 10 until 2," said Lennen. "People can drop off their information and they will be interviewed. Then the materials come down here, we prepare them and then send them back to Odon."

The cost of the tax service is free. Volunteers do the work while equipment and other support is supplied by Generations at Vincennes University.

The first step though is to make an appointment. Appointment times begin at 9:30 a.m. and the last appointment of the day is at 2:30 p.m. To make an appointment stop by or call the Senior Center 812-254-1881. Ask for Trisha.

"If they come in and have their taxes completed while they are here, then they are done," said Lennen. "Some might not be able to stay because they are working or have other things to do. They can drop the information off, go through the interview process and then those returns will get done as we have time. Those will be done within a couple of weeks."

Last year the program handled 670 returns.

"That was an exceptional number. I have been doing this for five years. The first year was 480 and it has just gradually increased each of those years," said Lennen. "I think it has grown because word is getting out around the community that this free service is available."