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AARP program offers tax filing help for Western Pennsylvania seniors

| Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 3:51 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer David Horgan, left, helps prepare West Mifflin resident Jack Pollard's tax forms on Monday at state Rep. Bill Kortz's Dravosburg office.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
D.J. Ryan, legislative assistant for state Rep. Bill Kortz, refills tax forms and other documents available at Kortz's Dravosburg office.

West Mifflin couple Carolyn and Jack Pollard know where to go when they need help with their taxes.

They both filed with the assistance of an IRS-certified tax counselor through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program Monday at the office of state Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Dravosburg, 751 Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd. in Dravosburg.

“They're always very accommodating when you call,” Carolyn Pollard said of AARP. “(They are) very nice people to deal with.”

The foundation offers free, individualized tax preparations for low- to moderate-income taxpayers age 60 and older at roughly 6,000 locations nationwide. The program has helped nearly 50 million people since 1968.

Kortz's office is just one of 28 locations in Allegheny County hosting AARP tax preparers. Some sites are by appointment only, others accept walk-ins.

“It helps us out because we don't know what we're doing,” Jack Pollard said. “It's a good experience.”

AARP program tax counselors are volunteers, and are certified every year to help stay abreast on tax codes.

Volunteer David Horgan helped the Pollard family.

Horgan, a tax counselor for 10 years, said the AARP is always looking for more volunteers and the organization provides training.

“It's just an effort to help people,” Horgan said. “It keeps your mind active. It's stimulating for us.”

Horgan said locations usually have between three and five tax counselors who file at least 200 returns each year.

Kortz's legislative assistant D.J. Ryan said their location's program is by appointment Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and there is a waiting list.

“I'm proud to partner with AARP and community volunteers to offer help to seniors with doing their state and federal taxes,” Kortz said. “Tax preparation can be confusing and costly, so I'm glad I can ease the minds of seniors who may need this help.”

Some of the documents participants should bring include a copy of last year's income tax returns, W-2 forms from each employer, unemployment compensation statements, SSA-1099 forms if paid Social Security benefits, and all receipts or canceled checks if itemizing deductions.

More information about the program, including other site locations and hours of operation, is available online at aarp.org/taxaide or by calling 888-227-7669.

Other local facilities also offer tax help, or refer citizens to proper locations.

Clairton Public Library has tax forms available, but no program. The library directs patrons to Lifespan Steel Valley at 530 Miller Ave. in Clairton.

Lifespan coordinator Norma Reza said they host AARP's tax program on a first-come, first-served basis on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. through April 8.

She said there are always familiar faces at tax time.

“They know to bring all their papers because they come every year,” Reza said. “The same people come every year. They know (the volunteer's) here. He e-files all their returns. Anybody can come in here. We don't take appointments. We go by numbers.”

Carnegie Library of McKeesport, 5107 Library St., has state and federal income tax forms available on site, and the library directs community members to agencies and locations where free tax preparation is offered.

The library directs its patrons to the CC Mellor Memorial Library, Squirrel Hill Library, Homewood Library, Hill District Library, Rankin Christian Center, Westinghouse Human Service Center, Forest Hills Senior Center, CCAC Boyce Campus, the City County Building in Pittsburgh, and Just Harvest.

North Versailles Public Library does not offer tax assistance programs. Officials there refer people to sites in Monroeville such as CCAC Boyce Campus, Monroeville Senior Center, Hillcrest Presbyterian Church and Westinghouse Human Service Center in Turtle Creek.

In Westmoreland County, North Huntingdon Township Town House at 11279 Center Highway hosts AARP tax assistance for walk-ins Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or mdivittorio@tribweb.com.

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