File Taxes Early and Free in Arlington

Volunteers assist low-income families and elderly.

Now is a good time to get free assistance filing 2017 income taxes. According to Jim Morris, assistance with taxes began Feb. 1 and goes as late as April 17. "It is really busy in the beginning and at the end but March is the quiet between the early birds and the procrastinators." Morris, a spokesman for the Arlington Central Library location, is a 26-year volunteer preparing tax returns for the elderly.

Four locations in Arlington offer assistance for low-and moderate-income elderly and families. Although all four locations offer assistance to both groups, the Arlington Central Library and Columbia Pike Branch Library locations, run by the AARP Foundation Tax Aide Service, serve mostly elderly. The Arlington Department of Human Services and Ethiopian Community Development Corporation (ECDC), run by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, serve mostly low-income families with an income limitation of $54,000. There is also a tax assistance service for homebound that is handled by the travel team. The number is 703-766-6268.

Only the Central Library location takes appointments although an appointment is not required. Appointments may be made by calling 703-829-6162. Morris says an hour and fifteen minutes is allocated for each appointment. He says a person must present a photo ID and a social security or Medicare card for each family member. In addition, the applicant must also bring all tax documents.

Each person is assigned to a counselor. "We don't do taxes for people who own rental property but we can do taxes for people who have stock dividends, who sell their house and can calculate taxes on retirement or social security benefits," Morris said. When the tax forms have been completed, a quality review team comes in to double check the results. The form goes back to the original counselor to print it out and then to file it electronically.

The four sites are all staffed by volunteers who must pass a test in order to participate. Morris says there are a large number of volunteers. The Central Library counselors can handle 13 tax returns at a time and four additional volunteers do quality review. They have three shifts at the Central Library on Tuesday and two shifts on Thursday.

Morris says you don't have to live in Arlington to take advantage of this service. "People come from Maryland and all over."

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