Free tax help abounds

Orville Hector | Daily TidingsLiberty Tax Employee Corinna Morrison, a sophomore at Southern Oregon University, dances in her green velvet Statue of Liberty costume on the corner of Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland on March 5. See video below.

It's tax time again, and one team of Ashland volunteers wants to make sure Uncle Sam does the least damage possible.

For at least 25 years, AARP Tax-Aide volunteers have provided free filing to low- to middle-income taxpayers of all ages.

"These guys are really good," said Debbie McKeever, who said she needs the $150 her tax preparation would normally cost for gasoline and food.

"They're accurate, they don't charge and they know what they're doing," she said.

The service, offered in Pioneer Hall through April 15, is a no-frills operation, with two folding tables and three laptops connected by a jumble of power cords, but last year the all-volunteer staff filed more than 1,000 returns between sites in Ashalnd and Talent.

This year, they've already filed about 650 returns since Feb. 1, and they expect to beat their record before April 15, because even those who don't normally file taxes must do so this year in ted under the stimulus package recently passed by the federal government.

Glenda Brown, who receives social security, came to file for her check. She said she is grateful for the help with the stimulus requirements.

"It costs so much to prove that you didn't make any money," she said.

The volunteers, many of whom are former CPAs, bookkeepers and even IRS auditors, keep abreast of changes like the stimulus package and help each other out when a complex return crosses their desk. Depending on the person, a return could take 5 minutes or two hours, and they try not to turn anyone away. People who earn as much as $100,000 have come for assistance, said Darlene Steffani, who has worked as an aide for 10 years.

"We thought it would be good for people to not have to pay for something they have to do," she said.

Liberty Tax

— Tax Dance:Corinna Morrison does a good job of attracting the attention of would-be customers for

Liberty Tax Service, which just opened a branch in Ashland this year, is also offering free returns to those with qualifying income, such as Social Security and certain veterans' benefits.

They have not seen many people filing to receive the tax stimulus, according to owner Jill Hargrave-Radford, but the addition of their business has brought entertainment by a crew of dancers dressed as the Statue of Liberty to those who drive by the intersection of Ashland Street and Siskiyou Boulevard.

"I get honks, I get waves, I get people dancing along with me in their cars," said Corinna Morrison, a sophomore at Southern Oregon University who dances in the green velvet costume for $8 an hour. "I get some people looking at me like 'Oh my gosh, you're crazy.' But overall, it's pretty positive."

Although she hasn't done her taxes yet, she's encouraged plenty of others to get a head start on the April deadline.

The company has seen a steady flow of people, 95 percent of whom say they were attracted by the dancing Liberties.

"We've had really good reaction to them," Hargrave-Radford said. "We ask everybody what brought them in, and the wavers are it. That's what does it for them."

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .

Share This Story