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Well, here we are again in one of my favorite times of the year, tax season. It’s not that I like paying them, but as one of the 20 St. Mary’s AARP Tax-Aide counselors led by our district coordinator, Dana Davis, it gives me another opportunity to help my neighbors in the county.

It makes me mad that our “beloved” Congress has, among many other things, made the federal income tax laws so convoluted and cumbersome that the average person not only can’t prepare their own taxes, but some retirees cannot determine whether they even have to file a return. This situation drives many low- and moderate-income individuals/families to paid preparers who charge exorbitant rates for even modest returns; they even charge for determining that the person is not required to file.

Unlike Rep. Steny Hoyer, I have no opportunity to influence changes in the federal tax laws that would make them easier to calculate for the average person. I can and do, however, volunteer to learn each year’s tax laws and changes and qualify as an AARP Tax-Aide IRS-certified volunteer counselor. While I cannot change the laws, I can at least help others save some unnecessary expenses, help them in preparing their tax returns and have their federal and state returns electronically filed.

This service is absolutely free for those who come to us. The only thing we request is that you give us a smile when you leave with a copy of your free tax return. No one has failed to do that during the five-plus years I’ve been volunteering and none of my co-volunteers has failed to see one either.

While we prepare returns for all ages, from teens with a first job through retirees, the emphasis is on low- to moderate-incomes with special attention to seniors. Many families visit our preparation sites to have returns prepared for several generations while they wait. All returns are done face-to-face with a counselor so that they can ask specific questions and you, in turn, can get your questions answered by a trained professional. Return preparation generally averages about an hour.

Last year under Ms. Davis’ leadership, St. Mary’s County had an efficient operation and prepared more than 700 returns. I was amazed that as rural a county as St. Mary’s could have the level of participation we experienced as compared with other areas of the state which have higher population densities. Her expansion of the number of her volunteers to 20 while increasing access throughout the county has enabled us to assist an ever-increasing number of our neighbors.

While appointments are required for many counseling sites, we also have a site donated by McKay’s on Great Mills Road where walk-ins are taken four times each week. For appointments or operational hours of the various sites call 301-884-8370.

It is personally gratifying to hear some taxpayers returning year after year saying, “You did my taxes last year,” for that lets us know we are providing a valuable service and our efforts are appreciated. It is equally gratifying to see new folks who have heard about us and want to try out our free service.

As the number of people served increases our satisfaction grows, knowing that last year we saved more than an estimated $100,000 in paid preparer fees that instead have gone to pay for prescription medications, food, clothing and utility bills.

We hope to see you in the coming months (if you have not already visited) and help you with your tax returns. Y’all come see us now, y’hear?

Glenn Weder, Hollywood