Free income tax return preparation and electronic filing, for both state and federal returns, will be available again this year for mountain-area residents, offered by the AARP Tax-Aide program. Services are provided free of all costs and charges.

Tax returns are prepared by specially trained and certified volunteers. The returns are prepared on site, and then electronically filed the same day. Tax help is offered to persons of all ages – you don’t have to be a senior citizen, or a member of AARP. Indeed, last year, Tax Aide prepared first tax returns for several 17 and 18 year old students who had their first jobs.

This year the program is moving from the Sierra Senior Center, where it has always been hosted, to the community room at the Oakhurst Library. Services will be available Tuesdays between February 10 and April 7. Three Saturdays are also available, February 28, March 21 and April 11, to make the services more accessible for families and working adults.

For the first time, there will also be a day of services offered in North Fork, at the Studio, on February 21. Appointments for all of these dates and locations can be made by calling Brian at 559-285-1494.

Tax Aide services are also offered at the main library in the City of Madera. Services are provided there every Friday beginning February 13 and continuing through April 10. Appointments are available there, and also for two Mondays in the City of Chowchilla, by calling Jeannie at 559-673-4115. The program has been headed locally by Jerry Ephraim for over 25 years.

Ephraim is presently serving as regional coordinator for California district 3, a large area which extends from Modesto in the north to Bakersfield in the south, and from San Jose and Monterey in the west to Sonora and Barstow in the east. Although he has handed the day to day duties in Oakhurst and Madera to Darlene Kelly, Ephraim will still be present on most return preparation days in Oakhurst to lend a hand and to meet and greet his long-time clients.

AARP Tax-Aide is the nation=s largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service available to taxpayers with low- and moderate income, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Over 33,000 AARP Tax-Aide volunteers, trained in cooperation with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), now help over 2 million taxpayers file their federal, state, and local tax returns each year at nearly 7,000 AARP Tax-Aide sites nationwide.