AARP offers a helping hand in Morro Bay during tax time

Special to The TribuneMarch 9, 2014 

For more than 25 years, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers have been available from February through April 10 to prepare and file tax forms for free.

A volunteer asks some questions to determine whether your tax returns are within the scope of services they can handle. Then you’re scheduled or directed to one of nine sites around the county.

You will need to bring your Social Security identification, the previous year’s tax return, and your 2013 paperwork and tax receipts.

A security-trained volunteer will greet you and help you get organized before you sit down with the tax preparer. Once the forms are filled out, you sign and get a copy, and the tax return is e-filed for you. 

It’s best to call by April 1.

Morro Bay’s Central Coast Tax-Aide site handles the scheduling for six of the nine centers at the Church of Christ at 1001 Las Tunas St. A veteran in the program, site coordinator Dale Johnson is grateful for the donated facilities and proud the national program works with only 10 paid administrators — with none at the state or local level. It was started to help seniors prepare simple tax forms, but the program helps all ages.

Vicki Ryal, schedule center coordinator in Morro Bay, has been with the program for 15 years.

“We are a team,” she said.

Volunteers typically have prepared their own taxes and are savvy with computers. AARP Foundation (http://www.aarp.org/taxaide) training is mandatory for all volunteers in the program. New volunteers must go through a week of training; returning volunteers get two days of training.

“You don’t have to memorize the tax code, just know where to find the information,’’ Ryal said. “Morro Bay has been an innovator in the program. We centralized scheduling. We have five qualified preparers on site with private rooms to meet with people. The IRS likes that. And our tech coordinator, Les Moss, helped us become the first local site to e-file returns.”

Ryal urges people to sign up for the service.

“Our philosophy is we shouldn’t have to pay to pay our taxes — unless (they’re) complicated,” she said.

Johnson said the center typically serves 400 people, but it can handle more.

“Call us,’’ he said. “It’s free, but we don’t turn down cookies.”

For appointments, call 354-1157. More information is available at http://www.ccfreetax.org.

• • •

Who said cookies? The Cayucos Educational Foundation will offer High Tea on March 22 to benefit Cayucos Elementary School’s visual and performing arts program. The students will play music and serve treats, including Brown Butter Cookie Company cookies, according to Elaine Thompson. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 995-0739.

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at judysalamacha@gmail.com.

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