Free tax preparation programs are available, but seniors should be aware of how their data may be used

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The Crossville Chronicle recently published a note publicizing a service through the American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) Tax-Aide free, income tax preparation services for individuals with income challenges, and those who are 60 and older in a piece where they warned about tax preparation fraud.

While it’s true that the AARP Tax-Aide program is available in Crossville, Knoxville, and Nashville, and no one from Tax-Aide, AARP Foundation or the IRS will ever call and suggest that you schedule an appointment, it’s important to know that if you do choose to have Tax-Aide help prepare your taxes, volunteers have raised concerns about the safety of your data, and what it might be used for.

This is a warning that 60 Plus Association is hoping to get out to individuals who might use Tax-Aide locally and in other areas.  In a Feb. 10 press release, the 60 Plus Association pointed out that volunteers who have left the program have raised concerns that AARP Foundation could sell the private data of individuals who use Tax-Aide preparation services, to corporate partners or advertisers, without warning or approval from those citizens.

“There are some very serious red flag warnings regarding the AARP’s tax program, and America’s seniors should be extremely cautious when considering whether or not to participate,” James Martin told the Tennessee Business Daily. “Volunteers within the program itself have raised significant data and privacy concerns and seniors should be aware of these issues as they make decisions regarding their tax filings.”

Tax-Aide services are available for residents at the Lorain Public Library System Main Branch, 351 W. Sixth St., in Lorain, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; at Ohio Means Jobs Lorain County, 42495 N Ridge Road, in Elyria Township from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays; and at the United Way of Greater Lorain County, 642 Broadway, from 4 to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday.

There are a variety of sites, including Fairfield Glade, Crossville, Jamestown, Tansi, Pleasant Hill and Sparta. These sites vary in the different communities, but the programs are geared toward individuals who have lower income levels and are 50 or older, a demographic, that, according to Tax-Aide coordinator Emily Paul, is less likely to have access to computers and online tax preparation tools.  

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