Free tax preparation offered in Austin

Published 10:19 am Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Austin AARP Tax-Aide program kicks off Monday, Feb. 2.

IRS-certified tax preparers will offer free tax assistance and preparation through April 15.

The Austin preparers will help clients from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in the lower level at Accentra Credit Union, 400 Fourth St. N.E.

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“We have 16 volunteers helping us this year,” said Merlyn Sellers, district coordinator for the Austin AARP Tax-Aide program.

The crew includes Kay Finney, Marty Burke, Merlyn Sellers, Lucy Gotz, Dale Mullenbach, Larry Gorden, Bill Gotz, Dick Waldman, Jim Burroughs, Roger Boughton, Rich Chuick, Larry Cox, Mahlon Schneider, Harry Willmot, Daryl Franklin and Geoff Baker.

The volunteers will work in teams of four at a time. Appointments, depending upon the client’s information, should last 30 minutes each.

“Another 16 volunteers will make appointments for clients and greet them when they arrive,” he said.

Sellers has been assisting the local preparers for 13 years. The preparers range in age from 40 to Sellers’ 82.

They include men and women, retired Hormel Foods Corp. legal counsel and senior tax accountant, other business executives and still others with a knack for numbers and a curiosity about state and federal tax work.

For the last seven years, the AARP Tax-Aide program volunteers have made the Accentra Credit Union their headquarters. “We really appreciate Accentra Credit Union for all that they do for us each year,” Sellers said.

Lucy Gotz coordinates the local AARP Tax-Aide program. This year, five new tax preparers have joined the ranks of the local volunteers, according to Gotz.

All returns are electronically filed.

Last year, the local volunteers prepared between 1,700 and 1,800 returns. In all, they assisted more than 2,000 people; many of whom simply needed answers to questions.

“Our volunteers are all IRS-certified and receive extensive training each year before they go to work,” Gotz said.

That includes no less than three separate tests that they must pass with a minimum of 85 percent.

Retired to the sidelines is Ken Rolfson, who was an active volunteer coordinator of the service for more than two years.

The services are offered free of charge. No money is required. The AARP Foundation and Internal Revenue Service sponsor the entire program.

The Austin office does not have bilingual services, preparers requiring interpreter services should be advised.

The Austin AARP Tax-Aide program takes pride in its work, according to Gotz. “The Austin office does more returns each year than any other office in southern Minnesota,” Gotz said.

The AARP Tax-Aide program has become the nation’s largest free tax assistance and preparation service in its near four decades of existence.

More than 32,000 specially trained volunteer tax preparers work at 7,000 sites nation-wide, helping taxpayers obtain all the tax deductions and credits they are entitled.

This year, the Austin volunteers said it will be important for taxpayers to remember to bring records of their 2008 economic stimulus checks and real estate taxes paid last year.

“Otherwise, they can leave it to us. We’re trained and ready to help,” said Sellers.

To find the nearest AARP Tax Aide Program site go to

To make an appointment with the Austin office call 434-3329.

The office will not be staffed until Feb. 2.