By Rebecca Rose
Killeen Daily Herald

Seniors in Killeen can get their taxes done for free at several locations, thanks to an AARP program.

Deb Edwards, the city’s senior center director, said AARP has sponsored the free tax-counseling program for more than 20 years. Getting the free service is easy, she said.

“They have to be 55 and older; they need to bring last year’s tax return and any other pertinent tax information,” she said. “That’s all it takes.”

Edwards said the service is popular among area seniors. On Thursday, 13 seniors stopped by and had their taxes prepared, and about 200 people took advantage of the service at the Lions Club Senior Center last year, she said.

Edwards said the program is important because seniors are especially vulnerable at tax time, when a tax return can cost as much $100 for professional preparation.

“Money is tight when you are living on a fixed income,” she said. “Any service they can get done for free, especially something as necessary as a tax return, helps them economically.”

Seniors do not have to be an AARP member to take advantage of the program, nor do they have to be a member of the senior center.

Tax returns are completed by trained volunteers provided by AARP, like Dave Kowalski. The retiree has been volunteering with AARP for five years.

Kowalski said volunteers are trained and must pass a test from the IRS in order to do tax returns.

He said seniors need to be aware of all their taxable income. The biggest problem people run into with the IRS is forgetting to cite all income sources, said Kowalski. Interest gains, stock dividends and gifts are easy to forget from year to year.

One major area seniors need to be aware of is their Social Security income. Depending on circumstances, up to 70 percent of Social Security can be taxed, said Kowalski.

“That comes as a surprise sometimes,” he said.

Kowalski said one of the reasons why seniors need to bring last year’s tax return is to look for major discrepancies.

Since retired seniors often don’t have major changes in income amounts from year to year, locating major differences from previous tax returns can help spot mistakes in the current year’s return.

For more information, contact the Lions Club Park Senior Center at (254) 501-6399 or Bob Gilmore Senior Center at (254) 699-1717.

If you go

Participants should bring a copy of their most recent tax return, W-2 or tax form, and any other pertinent tax information. Representatives will meet with participants on a first-come, first-served basis.

AARP tax preparation locations in Killeen

Community Center: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fridays, 2202 Veterans Memorial Blvd.

Lions Club Park Senior Center: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursdays, 1700 E. Stan Schlueter Loop.