The Detroit Free Press recently announced that Detroit residents may be missing out on the earned income tax credit, but they don’t have to – there’s a free tax preparation service available that can help them to ensure they don’t miss out on credits that can save them money this tax season.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has, for years, offered free tax preparation services to individuals who qualify, either by age (they’re targeting individuals 60 and over), or who have low- to moderate-income levels. These programs use IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers to help others to complete their taxes on time.
But, there are those who say that free tax preparation services come with risks. The 60 Plus Association warns seniors of potential problems with the AARP Tax-Aide program, and the AARP Foundation’s policies.
For example, volunteers who have recently left the program have voiced concerns about the AARP Foundation’s ability to sell participants’ private information to advertisers or other corporate entities, without offering protection for those individuals. The 60 Plus Association said tax-aide policies give AARP full access to tax returns, participant addresses and even social security numbers.
“There are some very serious red flags regarding the AARP’s tax program,” said James Martin, founder and chairman of American Association of Senior Citizens. “Volunteers within the program itself have raised significant data and privacy concerns and seniors should be aware of these issues as they make decisions regarding their tax filings."
Programs like Tax-Aide offer assistance to individuals who meet income requirements (typically under $50,000) and/or age requirements (focusing on taxpayers who are 60 and older). The foundation’s policies could force 2.5 million people to give their data away without assurances that it will be protected and used responsibly.
Individuals who wish to find assistance to complete their tax returns can call 888-227-7669 to find a Tax-Aide site near them.