Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition seeks volunteers for the 2016 tax season

Do you enjoy working with numbers? Have a facility with personal tax preparation and computers? Enjoy meeting people? These are just a few of the attributes that one of the AARP Tax-Aide volunteers shared as important for tax preparation volunteers. In order to be a volunteer tax preparer, you don’t have to be an accountant, but you shouldn’t fear preparing taxes online and also should have the time to attend the free tax preparation training provided by the AARP Foundation Tax Aide and the IRS held in January in Dutchess and Orange Counties – as well as have time to volunteeronce the tax sites open. 

“We are pleased to partner with the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition to offer this important tax preparation service to our community,” stated United Way President & CEO Jeannie Montano. “During the 2015 tax season, $6,176,853 in tax refunds were generated for 7,655 Dutchess and Orange County residents thanks to the volunteers of the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition and AARP Tax-Aide.”  

The Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide along with 15 partners, including United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region and Community Action Partnership for Dutchess County once again will offer free tax preparation for those in need from February through April 15, 2017, assisting low to moderate income households, individuals and seniors with tax preparation in order to increase their financial stability. In order to offer this service, volunteers are needed. To become a volunteer tax preparer, a comprehensive free training will be offered in January. For more information about becoming a volunteer, in Dutchess County you may contact Linda Eddy (845-475-7500 or leddy@dutchesscap.org) or, in Orange County, contact Dave Weaving at hvcash@uwdor.org

Tax-Aide volunteer Martin “Marty” Conroy from the Lagrange / Pleasant Valley area, who describes himself as “good with numbers,” served as a mentor last year and now hopes that he’ll “train Marist student volunteers who will be doing tax preparation at the College this year.” Marty explained that, “Although I’m a retired accountant, you don’t need an accounting degree to volunteer, but what you should have is personal tax preparation experience, to like working with numbers and to enjoy working on a personal computer. The new tax preparation software really is self-explanatory and easy to use. The comprehensive training includes learning the software as well as training on knowing where to look for answers, for example how to determine if someone qualifies for the Earned Income Tax Credit.” 

Marty’s wife, Flo volunteers as a client facilitator and loves it.  Together they volunteer at Catholic Charities in Poughkeepsie and while Marty helps prepare the taxes with the clients, Flo helps clients sign in and keeps the client’s children entertained. Flo explained that, “When Marty mentioned that there was a position that didn’t entail doing taxes, but focused on meeting people, I was in. I love people. I’m a retired physical therapist and have always worked with people of all ages. I just love volunteering with the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition and seeing people’s faces when they know that we’re there to help them. People come in and don’t know what to expect. Sometimes I read the tiny print on forms to people who can’t decipher it themselves or help with children as Marty mentioned.”

Flo reiterated that, “One thing that concerns both of us is when we hear about people who are struggling and really can’t afford the expense, going to a professional tax preparer instead of coming to a Tax Aide site and having their tax return prepared for free. The thing I really enjoy is seeing the face of someone who thought they’d have to pay for their taxes to be prepared and pay a tax bill on top of that, realize that they’ll be receiving a tax refund – with absolutely no cost to them!” 

Marty wanted to make sure people realized that this is an opportunity that is not limited to individuals with financial or accounting backgrounds: “Volunteers should like talking with people and not be intimidated by numbers. You don’t have to be a math genius! With the intake form that the client fills-out (with help from client facilitator), it’s easy to go through what’s required for the tax return. If the tax-preparer volunteer is new, they can always ask for help from another, more-experienced volunteer. With the software it’s really easy to prepare the returns and it’s a wonderful way to give back. I’ve been fortunate to retire a little early from IBM, so in addition wanting to giving back, I also wanted to keep mentally sharp. By volunteering as an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer for the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition, I do both!” 

Mount Saint Mary College student, Jessica Tobar, said that, “I chose to volunteer with Tax Aide to help people within the community. When I heard that the College needed volunteers, I thought becoming a Tax-Aide volunteer would help me gain experience in accounting. I enjoyed being a volunteer because I am very quiet, but the experience helped me become more outgoing and be confident in my work.” Jessica is volunteering again this year as, “Everyone helps one another and it warms my heart to be helping the community complete their taxes. I would recommend volunteering as a tax preparer to other students and people because it is an opportunity to meet new people and give back to the community. Every time I completed a tax return, the taxpayers were so grateful for the service that was given.”

To become a volunteer tax preparer, there are no technical or professional requirements except that the volunteers enjoy doing taxes and are open to meeting new people. Volunteers can choose their own hours and each of the 30 locations across the two counties have evening hours to accommodate those with busy work schedules during the day. Benefits for volunteer tax preparers include IRS certification as well as learning new and useful information, making a difference in the community and lending a helping hand to those in need. Many of the volunteers return each year because they have had such positive experiences and have gotten to know other volunteers along the way.

In addition to tax preparers, volunteer opportunities include the client facilitators who serve as tax site greeters, technical support, confirmation callers, marketing and public relations support, Spanish language interpreters, as well as other opportunities. With some of these opportunities, volunteers can work from home. All offer flexible hours and minimal training. 

AARP Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest free volunteer-run tax assistance preparation service.  It is leading the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition’s localized service. United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region helps support Hudson Valley CA$H through grants from IBM Corporation and Key Bank.

For more information on the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition and volunteer opportunities, go to www.hv-cash.org.

About CA$H and AARP Tax-Aide

CA$H stands for "Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope" and has been helping residents of Dutchess and Orange Counties for 12 years. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide has helped low to moderate income individuals for more than 40 years. The Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition, with AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region and Community Action Partnership for Dutchess County, includes members from business, community, education, government, religious, social, and service organizations dedicated to helping low and middle income residents and seniors in the Hudson Valley save money and improve their financial stability. The partners include Catholic Charities Community Services of Dutchess County, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Fidelis Care, Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union, Literacy Orange, Mount Saint Mary College, MVP Health Care, Northeast Community Center, PathStone, Poughkeepsie Plaza, RSVP, Taconic Resources for Independence,and Walden Savings Bank. 
www.hv-cash.org

 
Photo: Regina Taylor, a 1997 Mount Saint Mary College graduate, mentors current Mount accounting student Christopher Sagan of West Hempstead, N.Y. in tax preparation. Both Taylor and Sagan are volunteers of the Tax Aide program through the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition, which provides free tax preparation for local middle- and low-income families. Photo by Matt Frey/Mount Saint Mary College