WESTFIELD – Westfield Council on Aging Executive Director Tina Gorman has announced that the AARP Tax Assistance for area seniors will be offered again this year through the Westfield Senior Center, but with some changes due to COVID-19.
“Last year we were on target to assist 450 older adults. We were able to help a little more than half of them before we closed the Senior Center in mid-March,” Gorman said.
This year, seniors with appointments will drop off all documents on the scheduled date, and must be available by telephone for consultations with tax aide volunteers.
The AARP Tax Aide program is a no-cost service with emphasis on helping older adults who have a low to moderate income and relatively simple tax returns. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated health risks to the tax aide volunteers, there will be no in-person, face-to-face help offered.
Beginning Jan. 6, those wishing to schedule an appointment can call the Senior Center at 562-6435 after 9 a.m. All tax appointment calls will automatically go to a dedicated tax assistance voicemail. Calls will be returned within a two-week period and an appointment will be scheduled for a particular date, but not a specific time.
A confirmation letter, detailed instruction sheet, and Intake Form will be mailed to all scheduled participants in advance of their appointment. All necessary documentation must be left in the white Council On Aging drop box located outside near the front door by 9 a.m. on the day of the scheduled appointment.
Participants must be available by phone on the day of their scheduled appointment for frequent consultations with the Tax Aide volunteer. All those with appointments on a given day must retrieve their tax documentation between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. on the day that their return was filed. All taxes will be filed electronically. There will be no paper tax returns.
The entire tax filing process will necessitate two trips to the Senior Center and telephone availability for consultations until the individual’s return is processed, on the day of the appointment.
“The COA staff and AARP Regional Tax Coordinator, Bruce Tomaso, have spent countless hours preparing a safe and efficient plan for this year. However, because of the uncertainty that accompanies all pandemic plans, flexibility will be key. Those who have had their taxes done at any of the area Senior Centers in the past should understand that it will not be business as usual. And I would urge everyone to have a Plan B ready in case we have to suspend the program again this year because of COVID complications,” Gorman said.