On the fourth floor of the Lakes Area Senior Activity Center, low income, elderly and disabled people can find free tax service.
Inside two adjoining rooms, they are able to have their income taxes prepared by AARP volunteer tax-aide counselors.
The senior center where taxes are prepared Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. also is among 10 sites offering the service. The other locations are the Brainerd Public Library, Central Lakes College, Garrison Light of the Cross Church, Jessie Hallett Library in Crosby, the Crosslake Community Center, Oakcrest One and Two, Woodland Acres and North Star Apartments.
Volunteer tax aide counselors Gary Shaffer (left) and Dennis Jensen shared a moment with Marilyn Olson of Fifty Lakes as they prepared her capital gains form on the fourth floor of the Kingwood Senior Center Wednesday. Volunteer counselors like the pair provide their services for low-income, senior citizens and the disabled on the fourth floor of the center Mondays through Wednesdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
The senior center and Brainerd library are the only two sites that offer walk-ins. The rest are by appointment. The service started the first week of February and ends April 15.
As many as 40 residents have been helped at the senior center in one day, said Wendell Fristedt, the AARP tax aide district coordinator. Each person is given a number and chairs are provided in the hallway while they wait to be called.
The only two sites that offer electronic filing, of which the software is furnished by the IRS and the State of Minnesota, also are the senior center and the college. Fristedt noted that he does bring a laptop to some sites to file electronically.
People waiting to have their taxes prepared by the volunteer counselors at the senior center are provided chairs and a couch in the hallway near the tax-preparation room. Each person is given a number and waits their turn.
Brainerd has offered this service for more than six years, said Don Stang, a former accounting teacher at the college who has been involved in the tax preparation business for 20 years.
He said this service allows the preparers to learn within 24 to 48 hours if a person's tax refund is accurate. It also takes on average a half hour to an hour to prepare a person's taxes instead of "hours" before electronic filing was in place, said Stang.
"It's the only way to go," he commented.
Marilyn Olson of Fifty Lakes watched as volunteer tax aide counselor Gary Shaffer entered income information into a computer as fellow counselor Dennis Jensen reviewed some of Olson's paperwork at the Kingwood Street senior center Wednesday.
Volunteers can be of any age. They must complete a week of classroom training and pass an open-book test.
Fristedt said the service is always looking for volunteers.
Volunteer tax aide counselor Gary Shaffer stood as the AARP Tax Aide District Coordinator Wendell Fristedt assisted Marilyn Olson with her capital gains form.
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