Your AARP ; Texas News
Bilingual volunteers needed
Free Tax Help Available
After retiring from his job as an auditor with the federal govern- ment, Lupe Gonzalez knew he still
wanted to do something that would use his
In 2003, Gonzalez started volunteering as
an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide counselor in
“I get everyone from college students to
80-year-olds. I volunteer because these
people can’t afford to go anywhere else,” he
said. “I plan to keep volunteering until I just
can’t do it anymore.”
Gonzalez, 68, is one of more than 2,200
Tax-Aide volunteers in Texas who work out
of more than 300 sites in places such as li-
braries, community centers and senior cen-
ters. Last year, Tax-Aide volunteers helped
nearly 160,000 Texans file their returns.
Begun in 1968, Tax-Aide is a nationwide
program provided in cooperation with the
IRS. Today, over 35,000 trained volunteers
nationwide help more than 2. 5 million taxpayers file their taxes annually. Tax-Aide’s
target audience is low- and moderate-income people 60 and older, but it is open
“It’s a needed service because the IRS is
going towards electronic filing, and a lot
of the people who come to us don’t have
access to computers,” said Ron Craig, the
regional volunteer coordinator for the program in Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.
“We are their access.”
Increase in Hispanic clients
Craig said he has seen an increase in the
number of Hispanics using the Tax-Aide
service, but there are no specific figures
because the program doesn’t ask for the
ethnicity of the taxpayer. Hispanics are the
largest minority in Texas, with 38 percent
of the state’s 25.1 million residents. African
Americans make up about 12 percent.
“We do have a push to recruit volunteers
from the minority population,” Craig said.
David Baltimore, a Tax-Aide coordinator
responsible for 72 of the state’s 254 counties,
said the program has had some difficulty
recruiting bilingual volunteers.
“When dealing with sensitive financial
information, Spanish-speaking clients might
prefer to have a volunteer who can speak directly to them, instead of having to communicate through a translator,” Baltimore said.
Gonzalez volunteers twice a week at a site
in a library. “Many times I’ll get the people
who only speak Spanish, because I’m fluent
in the language. I know they feel comfort-
able with me, especially because we’re
dealing with financial information.”
Gonzalez said those seeking help should
bring their 1099 and W- 2 forms, plus cop-
ies of important receipts and a copy of last
year’s tax return. Taxpayers receive assis-
tance on a first-come, first-served basis.
Bobbie Drennan, 83, of Grapevine, has
been using the AARP Tax-Aide program
since the mid-1990s.
“I’ve always trusted them and have never
had any problems. The volunteers are very
knowledgeable, and they’re prompt in getting me in to get my taxes done,” she said.
Training begins in January
Volunteers don’t need any specific qualifications, except basic computer skills, nor
do they need to be AARP members. Volunteers don’t have to have experience doing
taxes but must be interested in helping people, Baltimore said. Volunteer tax counselors get a week of free training online and in
the classroom. They must pass an IRS certification test that covers their knowledge
of tax laws. Volunteers only prepare forms
such as the 1040, 1040-A, and 1040-EZ.
Anyone interested in volunteering must
apply by Jan. 1 by going to aarp.org/taxaide.
Or they can call toll-free 1-888-687-2277
(English) or 1-877-627-3350 (Spanish).
Volunteers train in January and work from
February to mid-April.
“I call it the smileage program, because
that’s how we get paid—in smiles,” Baltimore said.
—By Rebecca Aguilar
For other state news, go to
The estimated dollar value of a volunteer hour for
each state, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands for 2009.
Value of Volunteers
* VALUE IS BASED
ON THE AVERAGE
WAGE OF NON-MANAGEMEN T,
SUCH AS DOCTORS
OR LAW YERS.