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AARP at rec center to help with taxes
March 20, 2019

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Having your taxes done by a professional can be expensive, and doing it yourself can be a real hassle.

At the North Fort Myers Recreation Center, from now until April 9, AARP is helping area residents get their taxes done for free, and you don't have to be 50 and over to get it.

The program is presented by the AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide and the Internal Revenue Service and is being done at the rec center from Sunday through Tuesday, as well as three Cape Coral locations.

Ken Shandelson, a volunteer for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, said they are part of the charitable arm for AARP and will do taxes for anyone who needs it. They can do all forms and even state income taxes, if need be.

"We prepare taxes for those who are elderly and those with lower incomes. We do more than 500 returns every year and people are happy to see us," Shandelson said. "We'll do taxes for anybody, but most of those we see are retired. We like seeing young people here because we want to help everyone."

The rec center has put on this program since opening in 2014. Before that it was done at the library. With the new library opening this summer, it is unknown if the program will move back there.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide started in 1968 with just four volunteers working at one site. Today, nearly 35,000 volunteers (nearly 30 in North Fort Myers alone) serve low- to moderate-income taxpayers at 5,000 locations in neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers and senior centers nationwide. AARP membership is not required.

Volunteers are trained and certified each year to ensure they know about and understand the latest changes to the U.S. Tax Code.

Shandelson said his job is very rewarding, as tax prep tends to be nerve wracking.

"You look at people when they come in and see the perplexed look on their faces. When they leave, whether they get a refund or not, they're very happy. They really appreciate it," Shandelson said.

Charles Patterson, of North Fort Myers, had his taxes done and was happy there was someone who can do them.

"My wife has always done our taxes. She did it for 52 years and I never had to do it," Patterson said. "We went to paid accountants before we retired and it's great that we can come here."

In 2018, the program's volunteers helped 2.5 million people navigate tax codes, ensure proper credits and deductions, and file their federal and state tax returns (There is no state income tax in Florida).

AARP Tax Prep is open Sunday from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Monday from 9:15 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Tuesday from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in Room 102A.

Slots have filled up quickly, and the appointment book is full. The best chance you have is to appear at the rec center in person, put in your name and number, and hope that a spot opens up.

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