Volunteer enjoys tax help

Published 10:28 am Thursday, February 5, 2009

PROCTORVILLE — Sherry Popp had spent her career as a medical transcriptionist when she moved to the eastern end of Lawrence County a couple of years ago.

“I was looking for ways to meet people,” she said. That’s when she saw an advertisement asking for volunteers to help out with the United Way’s free tax preparation service.

“I can count so I went to the meeting last year,” she said. She decided that particular volunteer job would be a good fit.

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It was the first time the local United Way had sponsored a free tax service that helps taxpayers in Cabell, Wayne and Lincoln counties in West Virginia and in Lawrence in Ohio.

It was also a first for Popp as a tax preparer. Now in its second year Popp is the site coordinator for the service to be offered at the Ohio University Proctorville Center.

Before volunteers can start working on others’ taxes, they must undergo extensive training.

“We had four meeting at the United Way with trained accountants certified to teach the tax law,” Popp said. “Also the IRS provides a Web site for you (to study) at your own convenience in tax law. Then you have to be tested and can do it on line.”

There are four separate tax law courses: basic, intermediate, advanced and military. After passing the tests, the volunteers are then able to work on returns.

“What they like is for volunteers to take the basic and immediate tests because we are dealing with people who have on average incomes of under $41,000,” Popp said. “It is always intimidating working with someone’s finances. I know how expensive it is to have your taxes prepared and a lot may not get to take advantage of what is available to them.”

Last year the demographic of the UW tax client was the elderly, students and lower income families. Taxpayers do not need to make an appointment, but must bring certain information including their Social Security card and cards for all dependents claimed; a picture ID; W-2s; a copy of Social Security income; savings and dividend income; and day care expenses.

When a taxpayer comes to the Proctorville Center, there will be someone who will check if the client has brought in all the documentation. Then another volunteer will input the information.

“It is all done online. We can file it immediately with the IRS and they can have their refund direct deposited into a checking account. They get it within a much shorter period of time.”

The tax service at the Proctorville Center is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon starting Feb. 9 through April 14. For more information call (304) 781-1033 and dial 2-1-1 or go to www.wveitc.com.