It was another successful year for the AARP Tax Aide program. Sal Tahiri, who leads the free tax preparation program, and his team of volunteers had to contend with the global COVID-19 pandemic and public health guidelines.

“Despite the pandemic”, said Tahiri, “we’ve achieved quite a bit.” He went on to say that the free tax prepetration service saved community members collectively more than $3 million dollars in the fees charged by traditional preparation services. “Credit in my book goes to our volunteers. They’re some of the best experienced [and] selfless volunteers who take pride in and really enjoy this work. Doing taxes is not everyone’s cup of tea”, said Tahiri.

NeighborWorks Waco provides office space at no charge to the AARP Tax Aide program. This year 25 volunteers dedicated 1841+ hours over 64 days to prepare 956 tax returns. One volunteer prepared 200 tax returns alone! In total, the prepares got $1,119,531 refunded to taxpayers of our district. The higher return for a taxpayer was $24,951 and the lowest (non-zero) was $1. 7 days of tax preparation efforts were canceled due to one of the worst winter storms in Texas’ history.

In response to pandemic concerns, NeighborWorks Waco purchased and provided a smartphone for the Tax Aide program. Taxpayers called to schedule an appointment for the free service, and were called at the time of the appointment to enter the building. This limited the number of individuals in tight spaces and emphasized the importance of social distancing. More than 1711 voicemails and 416 text messages were received from taxpayers, and schedulers made over 2270 calls to clients.

Despite a global pandemic and a once-in-a-lifetime winter storm, NeighborWorks Waco and the AARP Tax Aide program had a very successful year serving our local community. The millions of dollars saved by area taxpayers are dollars that can be invested into our local economy. Tax returns may provide the perfect opportunity for families to achieve their dream of homeownership.