Volunteers make filing less taxing for seniors

Bob and H. Cleone Bolthouse used to have their friend look over their income tax return before they sent it to the IRS each year, but no more. Now their friend, Charlie Edwards, does the federal and state returns for the Grand Haven Township couple as part of a local senior citizen agency's program.
Mark Brooky
Apr 9, 2012


"He's smarter than I am," H. Cleone said of Edwards.

The Bolthouses are among about 400 clients that the two dozen volunteers for the North Ottawa County Council on Aging's tax preparation assistance program see each year.

"It's a great program and fills a big need for a lot of senior citizens," said Martha Cook, the agency’s assistant director and tax prep coordinator. "So far this year, we've saved about $200,000 for our clients.”

Cook said some seniors haven't done their taxes in several years because their income may be below the poverty level and they aren't required to file. However, they may not know they could qualify for some federal and state credits, which may result in a refund.

"Some refunds are $26 and some are $2,400," Cook said.

The program's tax preparers are all volunteers. Edwards, Cook and two others attend IRS training arranged through AARP in October, then share their knowledge with the rest of the program's volunteers shortly after Jan. 1. By mid-January, clients are already calling to make appointments.

"I don't think any of us say we're experts," Edwards said. "We don't know a lot about tax law, but we're pretty good at understanding the system and pretty good at explaining the system."

The senior tax preparation program is offered to residents of northern Ottawa County who are age 60 and older. The service is free, but donations are welcome.

To make an appointment, call North Ottawa County Council on Aging at 842-9210 or visit noccoa.org/tax.html.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


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