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AARP can't open Tax Aide stations

by CRAIG NORTHRUP
Hagadone News Network | January 29, 2021 1:07 AM

Organizers are hopeful the AARP Tax Aide program will open for in-person assistance this year for those needing help filing taxes, but the complications of COVID-19 have made those plans tricky to negotiate.

Karen Cummings, district manager for AARP’s North Idaho Tax Aide program in Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Rathdrum and Kellogg, said the organization’s headquarters won’t allow volunteers and staff to open its doors in areas deemed too risky by a specific map, and that map considers the spread of COVID-19 in much of Kootenai County at epidemic levels.

“We know that we will not be able to prepare in-person tax returns as long as the Johns Hopkins COVID map shows our area in the epidemic stage, like we are right now,” Cummings said. “We are preparing to open our sites in all cities if we are not in the epidemic stage and the facilities will allow us to operate.”

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore has one of the top medical schools in the country. The university measures the per capita infection rate across the country in determining COVID-19 hotspots. Kootenai County’s 9,304 cases per 100,000 people puts the area at too much risk in the eyes of AARP’s national office.

“We are actively working with the IRS and AARP to bring our tax services to the community this year,” Cummings said. “The information I am providing is from the Tax-Aide National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. We are obligated to abide by their instructions.”

While AARP is dedicated to people ages 50 and older, the annual Tax Aide plan is available to anyone with low-to-moderate income, free, with no promotion of AARP products or required membership, Cummings said.

She added that while the Tax Aide program will not open on its usual Feb. 1 date, she’s optimistic the program will open its doors this year, and that alternatives such as virtual assistance are being explored, as well.