Originally created 02/05/06

Filers can get free assistance with returns



It's tax season, and that means there is free filing assistance at the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center.

About a dozen people from the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program started helping taxpayers with their returns Monday.

The volunteer tax preparers got an assist from the Internal Revenue Service, which provided seven laptop computers to speed up the filing process.

Jeff Moment, a cook at Ryan's Family Steakhouse on Whiskey Road, said he was using the volunteer service for the first time because it was just as efficient as a paid service and, of course, it was cheaper.

"And it looks like they do pretty good work," Mr. Moment said.

Volunteers provide assistance Monday through Wednesday during February. It's not uncommon for volunteers to show up at the center at 9 a.m. and find anxious taxpayers already waiting for them, said coordinator Tim Garvin.

The service continues Mondays and Tuesdays in March, he said, and ends March 28.

In 2005, volunteers filed 1,171 returns last year, Mr. Garvin said. He said he expects to prepare as many or more tax returns this year.

Volunteering has become a way of life for some members of the assistance program.

Bob Overman, 83, said he started 23 years ago. He, like many other volunteers, is retired. Though many of them don't have professional tax experience, they've filed plenty of their own returns.

"There's a need for it," Mr. Overman said. "(Most) people who come here are elderly or poor, but we'll take anyone who comes in the door.

"They are grateful that we're doing it."

Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or josh.gelinas@augustachronicle.com.

FREE TAX HELP



The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is in room 3 at the H. Odell Weeks Activity Center in Aiken. Help will be offered 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday in February, and the same hours Mondays and Tuesdays in March. The program ends March 28. The program is for independent filers, including those with families, and does not provide help for businesses.

For tax tips, forms and links to online filing, visit AugustaChronicle.com/taxtips