Students learn to prepare taxes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

Citizens on a fixed income will file their taxes for free this tax season.

Harold Pickens, a tax specialist with the Internal Revenue Service in Birmingham, held a training session at the Selma Disability Advocacy Center, 701 Lauderdale St. Some of the students, who work as mentors at the center, will continue training and work as volunteer preparers during the tax season from January to April 15.

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The students can then assist people who receive Social security disability benefits to file their returns electronically.

Carolyn Bates, founder of the advocacy center, which aids children with special needs, is also a facilitator for the volunteer tax program. Bates said most of the people with disabilities do not file tax returns, and as a result, will not be able to take advantage of benefits they could be entitled to.

“This was an opportunity for them to benefit from the stimulus rebate,” said Bates.

Evelyn Cox, AARP chapter 3352 president, knows the importance of the offering the free services for people receiving disability benefits and those with low incomes.

Cox has referred retired citizens she works with to the advocacy center to have their taxes prepared.

“They’re on a fixed income, so they really can’t afford to allocate money for taxes,” said Cox. “Those that are on disability and SSI and retirement, they were not accustomed to filing. This is the year they need to file to get that extra little check.”

Pickens showed the group how to file a 1040A form, which is primarily the form used for filing by those receiving disability benefits. He explained that many people are intimidated by the long list of entries on the form. After proper instruction, the students found they only had to fill out a few of the lines.

Lashanna Jones works as a tax preparer for the advocacy center. She encouraged the students to continue with the training and become certified.

“They can learn how to do their own (taxes), and they won’t have to pay anybody,” said Jones.

Students Kevon Savage, Felicia Leshore, Teundr Peterson, DeAnna Stelle and Dinissa Johnson plan to return to the center as volunteer tax preparers.

Savage called the training “a wonderful experience.”