"Neighbor helping neighbor" is how Ron Gipe describes the Chambersburg AARP Tax Aide Program.
Gipe is local coordinator for the volunteers at the Greencastle Senior Activity Center. They are part of a group of nearly 85 counselors and facilitators ready to help at sites across Franklin County and beyond.
The AARP Foundation has been providing its Tax Aide service to the public for five decades, including 37 years in Franklin County. The county volunteers serve about 3,400 individuals and families every year, and return approximately $2.7 million dollars to the community, according to Roger Schwalm, program coordinator.
Tax preparation and filing is available at the Greencastle center, 10615 Antrim Church Road, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Tuesday through the end of tax season.
Although the program is aimed at seniors, just about anyone can get their taxes prepared through the free program. A Greencastle resident in his third year as a volunteer, Gipe said that last year he did the taxes of a Greencastle-Antrim High School student, and noted Spanish services are available in Chambersburg.
Some folks the aides help have trouble reading and writing, according to Walt Heidelbach of Chambersburg. A CPA who had a career with the telephone company, Heidelbach is a 24-year volunteer.
There are a few exceptions, and volunteers do no help some types of businesses, farmers, landlords or "President Trump," Gipe said.
Preparation includes federal, state (Pennsylvania and Maryland), local and earned income taxes as well as property tax/rent rebates.
Twenty-three people had their taxes done on opening day, Feb. 3, in Greencastle. Appointments take an hour or two, depending on the complexity, said Gipe, who has been doing taxes since 1966 as a CPA and retired as executive vice president and CFO of Martin's Potato Rolls.
Pamela Wagner of Waynesboro is a facilitator who describes her role as sergeant-at-arms to maintain organization and order. She gets people signed in and reviews their information to make sure it is current. Wagner, who retired from the federal Department of Agriculture, also volunteers in Waynesboro, where the Tax Aide Program is offered at the Knights of Columbus, 42 W. Second St., Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
After people are signed in, they are assigned to a counselor. Counselors are IRS-certified every year through a weeklong training and testing program. Every return that is done by a counselor is reviewed by another volunteer before it is e-filed, Gipe explained. If there is a problem with a return after it is filed, the tax aides will do the followup.
"Our counselors and facilitators are a special group of people," according to Roger Schwalm. "These volunteers dedicate a large amount of volunteer time and do an absolute marvelous job supporting their communities ... Without their participation the program wouldn’t be able to function, and that would be a major loss to the community."
The volunteers say they get "returns" from helping people with their returns.
"I have a great time. I like to deal with people and we have a great crew ... we have fun," Heidelbach said. "There's a real satisfaction in helping people out. People walk out with a smile on their face and that's all the pay I need."
"The camaraderie is amazing. It's not like any other work environment," Gipe added.
Wagner said she enjoys people and gets to see old neighbors, friends and co-workers.
Other sitesChambersburg Rec Center, 235 S. Third St., Chambersburg, Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. American Legion, 755 Philadelphia Ave., Chambersburg, Wednesdays and Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. American Legion Post 561, 611 N. Fifth St., McConnellsburg, Wednesdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
What to bringLast year’s tax return (whether AARP did it or not.) Social Security numbers for taxpayer and dependents W-2s from each employer All 1099 forms (for a variety of miscellaneous income) Brokerage statements (make sure to bring all pages in the statement) Educational and Brokerage forms (1099 B and 1098-T) Forms K1 or W2G All retirement and pension forms (1099-R) For property tax or rent rebate, stamped as paid tax receipts or rent certificate signed by the landlord