In the United States last year, more than 32,000 volunteers in AARP Tax-Aide program helped about 2 million people with tax questions and/or return preparation.

Here in Maine, more than 150 volunteers, at more than 75 sites throughout the state, assisted more than 13,000 thousand individuals and families with questions and/or tax preparation. And this help is provided at no charge.

Volunteering to work in the AARP Tax-Aide program is a rewarding activity that only requires a commitment in the winter and early spring.

For anyone not heading south or west for the winter, it is a wonderful opportunity to “get out and about.” Volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and are an absolutely great team.

Retirees in the AARP Tax-Aide program include teachers from elementary through college, engineers of all types, accountants, administrative assistants and business executives.

Volunteers do not need an accounting or tax background to participate in the program. As long as volunteers have prepared their own tax returns in the past, they can be volunteer tax preparers.

Since tax returns are prepared electronically, volunteers should be proficient in computer basics. Also needed are volunteers who are computer-tech types to help set up computers, install programs and printers.

Individuals who do not do their own taxes or work well with computers can work as greeter/hosts at tax sites or assist the three southern Maine district coordinators with some of their administrative duties.

The training as a greeter/host takes a couple of hours. Working with the program on tech issues requires no training, just a willingness to share one’s expertise. The training material for volunteer income tax preparers is provided by IRS and can be completed via computer, attending classroom training or self-study.

After that, volunteers who will be preparing returns must be certified by taking and passing an open book test. The test is not difficult, and covers the areas most likely to be encountered when preparing returns that are part of the program.

Where does all this AARP tax-preparing take place? Here are some of the locations in southern Maine: Dyer Library in Saco, MacArthur Library in Biddeford, Walker Memorial Library in Westbrook, Lyman Community Center, Bridgton Community Center, Unity Gardens in Windham, Trafton Senior Center in Sanford, Southern Maine Agency on Aging in Scarborough, the Scarborough Public Library, Portland Public Library, South Portland Public Library, Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham.

As you can see, the area is pretty well covered and AARP Tax-Aide can certainly use more volunteers to handle the demand, particularly in February.

This is a great opportunity for retirees to use some of the skills they acquired in their working years. Maybe not as “taxing” (pardon the pun) as what they did during that time, but it is something to keep their mind active while helping others.

The AARP Tax-Aide program has been in existence for more than 30 years. Those who would like more information can call or E-mail volunteer Joan Jagolinzer, state and Greater Portland area coordinator for AARP Tax-Aide, 883-8415, or [email protected]

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