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AARP Tax-Aid volunteers give free tax prep

Justine Wettschreck/Daily Globe The AARP Tax-Aide team consists of coordinator Charles Magyar, seated, Alfred Henning, left, Ruth Shore, Ilene Luknic and Shirley Olson. Not pictured is Margaret Willardson.

WORTHINGTON -- On filing for tax returns, Albert Einstein once said, "This is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher."

Luckily for those who do not claim to be either, the AARP Tax-Aide volunteers in the area help 300 or more people each year with free tax preparation.

"This is a huge program nationally," said local coordinator Charles Magyar. "They do a couple million returns. Last year here we did 316 people's taxes."

This year, the AARP all-tax team includes several returning members and one new preparer.

Magyar is a retired school psychologist who was asked by another member to participate. Ilene Luknic saw an article looking for volunteers about 15 years ago and decided to help. Around that same time, Alfred Henning commented to the former coordinator Ed Kellen that he liked math and soon found himself involved in preparing taxes. Henning turned around and recruited Shirley Olson, who wanted something to do that would keep her mind active. The other veteran preparer is Margaret Willardson.

Ruth Shore is the new kid on the block. This will be her first year as a Tax-Aide for AARP.

"I'm an AARP member, and I got a letter in the mail that said they were looking for volunteers," Shore said. "Then I got a phone call from (Magyar)."

Each year, the volunteer tax preparers attend a week-long course and spend time studying before taking a test. Once they pass, they are ready to help others. Most of the work is done on laptops, which are provided by AARP and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Some of the volunteers prefer to use their own laptop computers, or in Henning's case, no computer at all.

"He reviews all the work we do," Magyar said. "It is required that someone check each return."

Written returns are also available, but the bulk of them are done on computer, the volunteers said.

Because everyone's tax situations are different, there are times when the volunteers consult each other as they work.

"We really work as a team," Magyar stated. "Sometimes there are three or four people discussing what the proper route is for a client."

A client that brings in an overly complicated return will be referred to a tax specialist. There are some types of tax forms the volunteers are not trained to handle, such as agricultural or large business. The group is used to working with clients who have some Iowa taxes that need to be addressed, but prefers not to handle those with multi-state items.

Language barriers can be a problem, the tax team agreed, but with help from the collaborative and those that bring their own translators, they have managed to help a lot of people.

The tax preparation service is available to all age groups, and volunteers will assist clients in completing 2009 federal, state and tax refund forms and will e-file the returns at no charge.

Anyone interested in asked to call the Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) at (507) 376-3300 to make an appointment. The tax volunteers are across the hall from the NCIC in the former West Elementary building from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays. They also work one day a week at some of the apartment buildings in Worthington. Appointments can be made beginning Feb 1 and will go through April 15.

Clients are asked to bring the current year's tax forms and preparation booklet, last year's returns, W-2 forms, unemployment compensation statements, relevant forms and social security cards for all dependents.