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Volunteers help handle a taxing situation


By Richard Baznik (2010)


Late last year, as Congress considered changes in U.S. tax laws that could affect 2010 returns, taxpayers across the country worried about the impact of these modifications. But in Oberlin, as in communities elsewhere, the delay in resolving changes in the tax law posed special concerns for a local group of volunteers.


Meet Kendal at Oberlin’s participants in AARP’s Tax Aides program. Sporting denim shirts with “AARP Tax Aides” logotypes, these seven residents work every year to help area taxpayers prepare their returns – at no charge. They are among more than 70 volunteers in the program serving Lorain County. Kendal residents participating include Gay Fischer, Carol Ganzel, Joe Palmieri, Bob Randel, Don Reeves, Bill Rice, and Ira Steinberg.


The Tax Aides study evolving tax regulations to stay up to date, and must enroll in training classes and pass a standard IRS test every year to make sure they are qualified. The delay in new regulations this year affected the schedule for training.


“With the various tax credits people can receive these days, preparing returns can be a complicated process,” says Joe Palmieri, the Kendal resident and retired Oberlin College faculty member who is the program’s district training coordinator for Lorain County. “We try to make sure everyone gets the benefits to which they’re entitled.”


Kendal volunteers manage two locations in the county, the Oberlin Senior Center, where Kendal resident Bill Rice is site coordinator, and the Lorain County Office on Aging in Elyria, coordinated by Palmieri. The others serve as Tax Aides at sites in Amherst, Grafton, and Oberlin.


“The Tax Aides program has operated here at the Oberlin Senior Center for several years,” says Marlene Telegdy, OSC Director, “and it’s a tremendous service for our members and the whole community. The volunteers are patient and professional, and 95% of the returns are completed in one day.”


The procedure is designed to be simple for the clients, Palmieri says, but its goal is accuracy and thoroughness. “The Tax Aide interviews the taxpayer and records the information he or she has brought,” he explains, “which is then entered into a computer. Then the draft return is passed along to a different Tax Aide for a quality review before the final version is printed.”


In all, three Tax Aides handle each return. “Our goal is to make sure nothing is missed,” Palmieri notes.


The program, now more than 40 years old, is intended to assist elderly and low- and moderate-income taxpayers file their federal and state returns. At twelve sites across Lorain County, Tax Aides helped prepare a total of more than 4,000 returns in 2010. OSC’s Telegdy estimates that the daily volume of completed returns at her site this year is a dozen, all at no charge.


Area residents interested in becoming Tax Aides for future tax seasons can obtain additional information from Mary McAtee, the program’s district coordinator, at (440) 365-7580.


Bill Rice (left), AARP Tax Aides coordinator at the Oberlin Senior Center site, confers with program volunteer Ira Steinberg before the arrival of the day’s first clients. Rice is seated at a computer where completed returns can be submitted electronically.



Tax Aides volunteer Don Reeves receives information from a client who has brought her tax information to the Oberlin Senior Center. All information is treated confidentially.



The first clients of the day at the Oberlin Senior Center site share their tax information with volunteer Ira Steinberg before he helps them prepare their federal and state returns