AARP FOUNDATION TAX-AIDE LOCATIONS
Where: Hall County Library System Murrayville branch, 4796 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
When: 1 to 5 p.m. Monday and Thursday
Contact: 770-532-3311 (Call for an appointment)
Where: Hall County Library System Spout Springs branch, 6488 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday
Contact: 770-532-3311, ext. 191
Where: Forsyth County Parks and Recreation, Central Park, 2300 Keith Bridge Road, Cumming
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Dahlonega Senior Center, 266 Mechanicsville Road, Dahlonega
When: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Jefferson First United Methodist Church, 188 Martin St., Jefferson
When: 12:30 to 4 p.m. Friday
What to bring:
* Photo ID
* Social Security cards for taxpayers and all dependents
* Income, interest, dividend, and pension and annuity statements
* Last year’s tax return
* Blank check for direct deposit
Roberta Eaton of Gainesville walked into the conference room at the Murrayville library carrying her Social Security card, photo ID, her tax forms and her previous year’s return. Her purpose was simple: Have a qualified AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer double-check her tax return.
Volunteer Tom Fox examined her perfectly filled out form and did something unexpected.
“He said (to his supervisor) look at this form,” Eaton said, recalling the moment from several years ago. “You have to hire her.”
And he did. Eaton joined the ranks of the tax-aide volunteer program because Fox “talked her into it.” And Fox is now her supervisor for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program’s Murrayville location.
Fox, 83, of Lumpkin County, has been leading the team of four to five volunteers for several years. But he started out as a volunteer 21 yeas ago for the same reasons as others — to help people and give back to the community.
The Tax-Aide program helps low- to moderate-income taxpayers have more discretionary income by assisting with tax services and ensuring they receive applicable tax credits and deductions, according to the tax-aide website, www.aarp.org. The free service is run by volunteers, who undergo 24-30 hours of classroom training and must pass a written test.
Fox began his journey of volunteering in 1992 after he retired as an administrator in the computer branch of the Internal Revenue Service. But his first volunteer job was not with the Tax-Aide program.
“When I retired ... people told me to stay active,” Fox said. “So, the first thing I did when I retired was joined the Meals on Wheels program. The next year, I answered an ad to join (the) tax program.”
As a volunteer, Fox found himself helping residents, especially senior citizens, fill out and file their tax returns. His exceptional work led to a promotion as a site facilitator, meaning the 83-year-old examines other volunteers’ work before it is submitted. He is also the go-to person if the other volunteers have a question.
“If he doesn’t know the answer, then he knows where to go and find it,” volunteer Rebecca Roby said.
Fox’s tax knowledge also led to him having a following in the community. Many residents return each year to the Tax-Aide program because of the impact Fox and his volunteers have had on their tax returns and lives.
Fox said he enjoys seeing his friends year after year and renewing old acquaintances.
David Satterfield, 82, is one of those friends. He has taken his taxes to the AARP service for 10 years.
“I feel like I get more exemptions,” he said. “I’m realizing more refunds and less taxes.”
The Gainesville man added Fox’s experience and knowledge is comforting.
“He is a professional,” Satterfield said. “He knows the tax laws and knows the structure. He’s a retired employee of the Internal Revenue Service and knows exactly what needs to be done.
“I’m happy that we have Mr. Fox and the crew he supervises, because they all work together as a unit. They all check each other and review the tax return before it’s emailed in.”
Betty B. Smith of Gainesville said Fox’s demeanor and knowledge has kept her returning to the Tax-Aide program each year.
“He always put you at ease,” the 76-year-old said. “He went out of his way to do everything for you that he could.”
Fox said he enjoys helping people, and that saving residents money with the free service keeps him going. But the best reward is finding money for his friends.
“One that sticks out that happened several years ago is this friend of mine worked at the day care at the church I attend,” Fox said, noting the woman was hoping to receive more than $50 from her Georgia income tax return but did not receive it. “She showed me her return and asked to help.”
Upon examination, Fox discovered the form did not have her birth date on it.
“They had no way of knowing she was over 65,” Fox said, adding she was eligible for a larger deduction.
Fox then questioned her about her federal return. He learned her daughter filled out a 1040EZ form. He immediately realized she was not receiving an extra deduction by filling out the EZ form.
“I told her to bring me her returns for last three years,” he said. “We did an amended return ... She got $850 for those previous years that she was entitled to. That was one I remember for a long time.”
Fox added not every taxpayer will receive those kinds of refunds, but the volunteer program will ensure all deductions are found and all returns are entered properly. In fact, finding out all the tax returns filed by the volunteers were correct is one of the reasons Fox returns year after year.
“My wife for several years has been asking me why I keep doing this,” he said. “And yesterday we were really busy and I think this year should be my last year. (But) then I look at the computer and find all of the returns went through smoothly. And I think why not do it a little longer.”
Smith said it’s people like Fox who keep her returning to the program yearly.
“This program gave me the confidence that they would to it correctly,” she said. “And everything is done online. And they have the knowledge to do that, which I did not. (It) gives me peace of mind that it is done correctly.”