Free tax help available

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Tax returns are a daunting task for some. But help is available in the area. And not just help, but free help.

AARP, ENMU, Tax Help NM and Eastern Plains Community Action Agency are offering free tax help at five locations in Clovis and Portales, according to a press release from United Way.
“It is hugely important to keeping dollars in these families’ pockets. They pay an inordinate amount to have their taxes processed,” said Erinn Burch, executive director for United Way of Eastern New Mexico.

The free tax help relies heavily on volunteers to review and process tax returns.

But Clovis Community College has taken it a step further. Through Tax Help New Mexico, the college is offering class credit to learn how to file a tax return and volunteer. Monica Sanchez teaches the classes and said the most rewarding part of the process is watching her students go from being terrified to helping people with such a personal thing.

“It’s really great. Many of our students have never had the opportunity to volunteer,” Sanchez said. “I hope this will plant the seed in them so they will want to volunteer to help the community in other ways.”

The Tax Help NM class prepared 289 returns in 2006’s tax season.

AARP in this area attended to another 2,000 people with questions and returns. Kay Berry, a volunteer with AARP Tax-Aide for 15 years, said the free aspect is what makes all the difference.

“We’re not out to make money. We are very interested in the welfare of the people we serve,” Berry said. “Some of our low income people only get $90 or $80 back, and to have to pay $30 or $40 is ridiculous.”

Berry said patrons enjoy the peronal service provide by volunteers.

Locations and times are waiting to be finalized, according to the United Way. But most locations will begin hours on Feb. 4.

Free tax help will be offered in five locations in Clovis and Portales. The following are schedules currently available:

AARP Tax-Aide is offering the free help Jan. 23-April 15, from 9-11:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday at Roy Walker Recreation Center, 316 W. 2nd, for walk-ins only; and Feb. 4-April 15, from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Monday-Thursday, by appointment only — 769-7908.

Clovis Community College’s Tax Help NM will open Feb. 4-April 10, with a break from March 24-28 for spring break.Hours will be Monday from 5-8 p.m., Wednesday from 12:30-2:30 p.m. and Thursdayd from 9-11 a.m. in Room 109.