Nora Laughlin, who has volunteered for the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program for over a decade says volunteers for the free tax preparation help service are needed in Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Nora Laughlin, who has volunteered for the AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide program for over a decade says volunteers for the free tax preparation help service are needed in Juneau. (Ben Hohenstatt | Capital City Weekly)

Tax return preparers badly need volunteers

• Top volunteer Nora Laughlin steps down after decade of providing tax help • Tax-Aides provide free service for low-income, elderly

Nora Laughlin was part of a team that would help 50 people with their tax returns in one day.

But the longtime AARP Foundation Tax-Aide preparer and recent recipient of open-heart surgery is hoping to slow down and relinquish her lead role with Juneau’s Tax-Aides.

“I just can’t lead it anymore,” Laughlin said in an interview. “I can still help out. I love it. I love helping people.”

However, she might have to continue leading the efforts this year if new tax preparers don’t step up before the impending tax season.

“We need volunteers,” Laughlin said.

The Tax-Aide program is a collaboration between the American Association of Retired Persons Foundation and the Internal Revenue Service. It offers free help filing tax returns through the use of IRS-certified volunteers. It is primarily intended to benefit low-income and elderly people.

However, Laughlin said there are no age or income limits on the program.

The Tax-Aide preparers cannot help prepare complex tax forms — people with business profits and losses, capital gains and losses or owners of rental properties are generally out. More information about what the volunteers can and can’t prepare can be found online at www.aarp.org/money/taxes/aarp_taxaide/.

The tax preparers can also help people understand letters they have received from the IRS, Laughlin said.

Last year, from early February to mid-April Juneau Tax-Aides offered help two days per week in Nugget Mall, Laughlin said. This year, limited volunteer availability might reduce the days help is available to one day per week.

[Capital City Fire/Rescue needs volunteers]

Laughlin said she is also waiting to hear whether they will again be able to use space in Nugget Mall this tax season.

“If we don’t get that, I don’t know what we’ll do,” Laughlin said.

The IRS provides the equipment the tax preparers use, and Laughlin said it tends to be heavy, so a space that can be locked overnight is necessary. Otherwise, volunteers have to move and set up the equipment at the beginning and end of the day.

That’s the reason Laughlin said the tax preparers switched years ago from being located at a library to the mall.

“We’re pretty much old people, so it really got too difficult,” Laughlin said.

Becoming a volunteer

No previous tax preparation experience is needed to volunteer.

Before Laughlin began helping others with their taxes more than a decade ago, she didn’t even file her own taxes.

“I’m proof a person can start from nothing,” Laughlin said.

She was encouraged to pursue being a volunteer tax preparer by friends when she lived in Idaho, and the retired chief landscape architect for Alaska for the USDA Forest Service continued to help folks file their taxes when she came to Juneau.

Laughlin said the training required to become certified by the IRS, as all the Tax-Aide preparers are, may take someone with no background a few weeks to complete.

Willingness to learn can go a long way, though.

“What we need are people who would like to take the training,” said carolyn Brown, council member for Juneau AARP. “We don’t need IRS people.”

Laughlin said retired financial professional would likely find it easy to quickly become certified.

Those interested in volunteering can find out more by calling 1-888-687-2277 or visiting www.aarp.org, and Laughlin can be reached by email at NoraaL48@yahoo.com.

Other local source for tax help

There aren’t a ton of other local resources for free tax help, Laughlin said.

Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority confirmed it also offers assistance with taxes this year, said Desiree Jackson, director of tribal services, but Jackson said she was unaware of another entity that would be providing similar services.

“We’re definitely still going to put it on, and we’ll actually be traveling out to some of our villages,” Jackson said. “It’s generally focused on low-income people, but we don’t close the door on anyone.”

Juneau Public Libraries will not be the site of free tax help.

The housing authority does not yet have an exact schedule but, Jackson said the service typically starts in February and runs through April. Assistance is anticipated to take place at the housing authority’s Jenkins Drive location.

Typically, Jackson said the free help is available during a weekday, and there are usually a few “super Saturdays” included, too.

Jackson said typically the service is popular.

“We’ll have a long line of people,” Jackson said. “It’s a high-demand thing for sure. It’s busy days for us for sure.”


• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com.


More in News

At a permafrost monitoring site northwest of Barrow years ago were researchers Max Brewer, Jerry Brown and Vladimir Romanovsky. (Courtesy Photo / Kenji Yoshikawa)
Alaska Science Forum: 30 years on semi-solid ground

People no longer squint at him with a puzzled look when he mentions what he studies.

The jury in a trial for a 2018 killing is currently sequestered as they deliberate. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Jury deliberations last through second day in trial for Yakutat killing

The jury will decide whether the defendant is guilty or innoncent of the charges.

It's a police car until you look closely. The eye shies away, the . (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, Jan. 28, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Alaska Rep. David Eastman sits at his desk on the Alaska House floor in Juneau, Alaska, on March 5, 2020. (AP Photo / Becky Bohrer)
Eastman could be sanctioned over Oath Keeper ties

Actions being discussed include expulsion, censure or a vote of disapproval.

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a Glance for Wednesday, Jan. 26

Numbers come from reports from the City and Borough of Juneau Emergency… Continue reading

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Mickey Prescott checks the smoking process. (Vivian Faith Prescott / For the Capital City Weekly)
Planet Alaska: Lessons from the smokehouse

Dear Readers, here are Lessons from the Smokehouse, things we’ve learned in 2021.

Most Read