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Free income tax return preparation and filing help in Silverdale and Bremerton
For some, spring may mean cleaning, more hours of daylight or the daunting task of filing tax returns. But for Angelia Myers of Silverdale, the task is far from daunting — she knows where to get help.
“I’d rather let someone else take care of it,” Myers, 46, said. “I know I would make a mistake.”
Many residents stopped by the Silverdale Community Center Tuesday, including Myers, to receive free help preparing and filing their income tax returns through the AARP Tax-Aide program. The program runs through April 16 at three locations in Silverdale and Bremerton with a total of nine locations in the county.
Internal Revenue Service-certified volunteer counselors can help most, but not those with significant business income or loss, any rental income or first-time homebuyer credit.
For many years Myers used to pay for the service of having a professional prepare and file her income tax returns. But with the financial burden of paying for it, she decided to go with the free service last year and continued with it this year because of the quality customer service she received.
“It’s convenient,” Myers, a cosmetologist, said. “I got in real quick today. I didn’t have to wait.”
Ann Russell, who has been a volunteer aide for nearly 20 years, said that each year volunteers must go through training and take a test to qualify them regardless of whether or not they have previous volunteer experience. They use a computer program approved by the IRS to prepare and file the returns electronically, she said.
There is a state and national trend of people filing their returns electronically, according to the IRS. For tax year 2008, filed in 2009, there were about 3.4 million individual returns in Washington state of which almost 1.9 were filed electronically, said David Tucker, spokesman for the Washington region of the IRS. For tax year 2009, filed in 2010, there were about 2.1 million people who filed electronically out of a total of 3.1 million, Tucker added.
“It’s the easiest and most effective — they get their refunds faster,” Tucker said, adding that if people file electronically and request direct deposit, they can receive their returns in as few as 10 days.
There is also less room for error when filing electronically. The error rate for filing online is less than 1 percent, compared to an error rate of nearly 20 percent when using mail, Tucker said.
Last year, at the Silverdale location, 437 tax returns were electronically filed through the AARP program with a total of 3,509 electronically filed at all nine county locations. On average this year, about 30 people a day receive assistance at the Silverdale location, said Carolyn Brower, a volunteer aide.
There is also an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in Silverdale where residents can seek guidance and help. It is located at 9657 Levin Road and is open Monday through Friday.
And although the AARP Tax-Aide program is geared toward the elderly and lower-income families, the volunteers can help anyone, Brower said. She added that some people come in with all their forms — photo identification, Social Security cards for all people on the return, all 2010 tax documents and a checkbook or other document from a financial institution that shows the routing and account numbers for direct deposit — and have the volunteers dive right in. Other people stop by with a question or two, but Brower said it is easier if they just start over and prepare the return for them.
“We convince them, ‘Hey, let us do it for you.’ It’s easier,” she said.
AARP Tax-Aide through April 16
Silverdale Community Center
9729 Silverdale Way NW, Silverdale
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays
Sheridan Park Center
680 Lebo Blvd., Bremerton
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays
1600 Chester Ave., Bremerton
12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays