I am writing today for three reasons.  First, to share the impact of the Tax-Aide program on the community - the numbers of folks we have helped along with statistics on program results. Secondly, to encourage volunteer participation; we cannot serve without preparers – volunteers who we train and certify. And, finally, to commend our wonderful community resource, the Tillamook County Library, who has continued to partner with this program in so many ways.

Tax-Aide is one of several service programs under the AARP Foundation, operating in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service. It is a nation-wide volunteer driven program that provides free tax preparation services to individuals and families.

This service has been available in Tillamook now for seven years. The first year we filed 35 returns for community residents. The second year it was 75. In year three we had three more volunteers and we completed and transmitted 125 returns for individuals and families. We continued to grow each year, even throughout the pandemic, bringing this service to our community.

This year, our seventh, we prepared and transmitted 231 returns. Refunds generated totaled over $220,000, with an average refund of $958. We served 153 individuals and 78 families, and obtained child tax and additional child tax credits, earned income credits and education credits for those who qualified for them. We helped our clientele understand how to save tax dollars on their Oregon returns. These folks are our friends and neighbors and we are happy to help.

We have created a very congenial, collegial team of volunteers, with diverse backgrounds, who train together and put this program on each year. As with any volunteer program, the numbers of volunteers ebb and flow, so we are always open to adding new volunteers. To reach more of the community we need to add two more volunteers for the next tax season.  We start training in November, preparers become certified through a testing process in January and begin tax season in February. Greeters have less training requirements. It does require the ability to use a computer, study from on-line and hard copy resources, and have a desire to help others. Go on-line to AARP.org to register to volunteer and to find additional details about the program.

Come join our group of dedicated volunteers and see how much fun you can have preparing taxes! We need greeters for the next tax season, as well as preparers.

Now, I come to the best part, at least for me. Imagine trying to start a volunteer program like this, with no budget.  First you have to find a space.  A free space.  Not just any space, but one that has the internet. A secured internet. Not just that, but with room for privacy for all the tax preparers and clients.  Sight and sound. Who has that?

Imagine my surprise when I walked into the Library’s main desk and asked “do you have any spaces that I might use for the Tax-Aide program?” The answer was “yes, you can sign up here with your Library card.” Welcoming, smiling, happy to help out. I will never forget that moment.

The Tillamook County Library has community room spaces available based on your Library Card! And they provide internet, tables, chairs; a private space, with ample room for this programs volunteers to provide the service. And they take our appointments! They help us provide this service that has helped so many in our community!

What a blessing the Library has been for this program and for so many others. Library staff have helped us in so many ways, not just in taking the appointments, but with our computers and a bit of technical internet assistance. They “partnered” with us around year 3 with some advertising and occasionally the loan of paper for the printer. And they continued to provide assistance during the pandemic while they were closed to the public. It’s the Library – the Library staff – that have made this all happen.

My thanks go to the Tillamook County Library for their assistance in providing this program.

So, of course, I’m voting for the Library levy and hope you do, too.

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