Get free tax help in Pinellas with AARP's Tax-Aide Program

ST. PETERSBURG — The room is buzzing at the St. Petersburg Public Library as people wait to get their taxes done by volunteers for AARP's Tax-Aide Program.

Some sit with a tax counselor at tables laid out in a U-shape. Others wait to have their taxes prepared or for their just-prepared returns to be checked and verified before they are e-filed.

AARP's Tax-Aide Program provides free tax preparation and assistance to millions of low- and middle-income taxpayers. Special attention is given to those 60 and older, but the service is available to all ages. And you don't have to be an AARP member.

"We take anybody who walks through the door," said volunteer Betty Beck, who prepares returns at the Sunshine Center at 330 Fifth St. N, St. Petersburg.

The service will run through April 15.

Delinda Peterson of St. Petersburg does her own taxes, but has her work double-checked by the service. And "it's free e-file," she said.

Last year, about 13,600 returns were processed and filed in Pinellas County, according to Diane Hernan, state coordinator for the Florida 5 district.

"We have a lot of people who go through here," Beck said. In one day, the Sunshine Center will process 30 to 40 returns. At the library, about 70 were processed in one day. It is the busiest location in South Pinellas, said Peter Bishop, site coordinator. Bishop has been a volunteer for four years. As site coordinator, he must get the site going "like a smooth-oiled machine. There are a lot of people coming in, and we try to get them out as soon as we can.''

There are 750 volunteers in the district, according to Hernan, and they come from "all walks of life. Some are engineers, about 50 percent have college degrees and some are truck drivers."

One volunteer at the Pinellas Park Public Library is an anesthesiologist, Hernan said.

All volunteers must receive about 50 hours of training.

"We train every year," said volunteer Katy Johnson, a retired accountant who works at the Sunshine Center and the library. Once training has ended, everyone is required to pass a test to become a certified tax counselor.

"We can answer questions regarding all the new tax laws," said Alyssa Dowd, a St. Petersburg resident and volunteer at the Sunshine Center and library.

There are certain areas, however, such as depreciation and amortization, the volunteers do not do because they are too complicated.

Once a return has been prepared, it is electronically filed.

The public benefits, but what do the volunteers get?

"Volunteering gives you a lot of satisfaction," Hernan said. A retired nurse, Hernan taught practical nursing for Pinellas County schools for about 25 years.

Mike C. Russo, who also volunteers at the library, said volunteering "gives you a sense of value."

St. Petersburg

Bank of America: 8181 54th Ave. N

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

St. James United Methodist Church: 845 87th Ave. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday

St. Petersburg Main Library: 3745 Ninth Ave. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday; exceptions are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 18 and April 15

Sunshine Center: 330 Fifth St. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday

Gulfport and Beaches

Gulf Beaches Public Library: 200 Municipal Drive, Madeira Beach

Hours: 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday

Gulfport Public Library: 5501 28th Ave. S

Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday

Pinellas Park

Pinellas Park Public Library: 7770 52nd St. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Thursday; 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Largo

Largo Library: 120 Central Park Drive

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14, March 28 and April 11

Seminole

Seminole Library at St. Petersburg College, Seminole Campus: 9200 113th St. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday

Clearwater

Clearwater East Branch Library: 2251 Drew St.

Hours: 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday

St. Cecelia Catholic Church, Colreavy Hall: 820 Jasmine Way

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday

Top of The World Recreation Center: 2069 World Parkway Blvd.

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday

First United Methodist Church: 411 Turner St.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday; 1 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday

Dunedin

Dunedin Community Center: 1930 Pinehurst Road

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday

Hale Activity Center: 330 Douglas Ave.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday and Wednesday

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church: 750 San Salvador Drive

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday

Palm Harbor

Palm Harbor Community Center: 1500 16th St.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday and Friday

St. Mark Village: 2655 Nebraska Ave.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday

By appointment only. Call 785-2577, ext. 743.

Highland Lakes: 3300 McGregor

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday

Safety Harbor

Compass Center: 401 Second St. N

Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday

Oldsmar

Oldsmar Library: 400 St. Petersburg Drive

Hours: 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday

Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs Library: 138 E Lemon St.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday

Get free tax help in Pinellas with AARP's Tax-Aide Program 02/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 3:30am]

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