Certified volunteers offer free help filing taxes


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Last year, AARP Foundation Tax Aide reports taxpayers received over $1 billion in refunds with their service, but tax season is starting off slow across the nation with average refunds down by 8%.

In Wilmington, the AARP tax prep site is usually packed with taxpayers in the early part of the season but Tuesday morning it was fairly empty.

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AARP Foundation Tax Aide volunteers are certified preparers that guide low to moderate income taxpayers through complicated tax codes to ensure proper credits and deductions, when filing federal and state tax returns. The 2017 tax overhaul will continue to usher in changes over the next few years that will directly impact the refund taxpayers will receive.

“It is unlikely that most people will itemize deductions this year because the standard deduction on the federal tax return has increased quite a bit,” said Tax Aide Volunteer Kevin O’Grady.

O’Grady says taxpayers can still consider itemizing deductions on the state level.

Another favorable effect of the tax overhaul is the credit for household dependents.

Many Americans view their tax refund as a major financial relief to costly expenses and free filing services are helpful to taxpayers trying to keep money in their pocket.

“When I went to a couple of places that did taxes, they were expensive,” said Ada Pierce, who has filed with AARP Foundation’s Tax Aide Volunteers for two years. “They were charging me for every piece.”

“We have a lot of repeat customers,” said O’Grady. “More than half have been with us before.”

Tax preparers like O’Grady have been guiding Wilmington residents through filing taxes for 14 years at New Hanover County Main Library, but Pierce says last year was busier.

“Last year, I had to wait two days to get up help but, today I came and it wasn’t that many people here,” said Pierce. “I sat down, they helped me go through the paperwork, and showed me what other papers I needed so, I brought everything I needed. I got through it and I got a nice little refund.”

But not every taxpayer will receive a hearty return this year. If taxpayers used the new IRS income tax withholding tables, their take home pay was greater which will in turn reduce the final refund.

But Pierce is grateful that she will soon have money to help family still struggling since Hurricane Florence.

“Other people in my family can use my help so when I get my refund, I can help some of them that are still displaced,” said Pierce. “A lot of them lost everything.”

The AARP Foundation Tax Aide volunteers will be offering free tax prep help from 9 AM to 1 PM daily until April 15 on the 3rd floor of New Hanover County Main Library located at 205 Chestnut St in Wilmington.

Make sure to bring your social security cards, photo I.D., W2’s, 1099’s and mortgage statements.