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Free Tax Time Service in Chelsea Helps Older Adults

By Crystal Hayduk

Many people experience some dread each winter as they contemplate annual tax season. But Chelsea resident Lynn Fox and a team of volunteers walk through the challenging task with older adults, helping them to file their federal and state returns at no charge.

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program assists with filing taxes, focusing especially on taxpayers who are older than 50 with low to moderate incomes, said Fox, who volunteers as the program’s Chelsea coordinator. Membership in AARP is not a requirement—anyone can use the service. 

This year in Chelsea, six to eight IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers spent their Thursdays from Feb. 15 through April 11 directly advising and helping taxpayers.

Both the Chelsea Senior Center (CSC) and the Chelsea School District (CSD) contributed to the program’s success. Staff at CSC managed the appointment calendar, while CSD donated the use of their board room in the Washington Street Education Center to hold appointments.

For privacy reasons, data alone shows the financial picture of many personal stories. Fox said in 2024, 138 federal and state tax returns (which included property tax credits and home heating credits) were prepared by volunteers. Of the returns involving joint filers, at least one spouse was 60 years of age or older.

The average AGI (adjusted gross income) was $31,422. The average refund received was $983. The total refund among all returns filed was more than $103,000.

Sixteen question-and-answer sessions did not result in a tax return being prepared.

For Fox, helping people with taxes brings back memories of her father teaching her how to file her own taxes when she was a young adult. “When my husband and I bought our first home here in 1978, H&R Block offered a tax course,” she said. “I took the class and when it ended, they offered me a job, so I kind of fell into [doing taxes]. When my children were young, I worked evenings and weekends and had my summers off.”

Then in 2018, Fox became a Tax-Aide volunteer in Ann Arbor. “I said, ‘We need this in Chelsea.’” Through her efforts to start a local branch, the district coordinator and another local coordinator trained Fox in 2019. The program fizzled in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations in March. It returned in a hybrid format in 2022, when the IRS approved Chelsea as its own official location instead of a satellite Ann Arbor site. This year, the Chelsea program resumed as fully in-person. 

“The volunteers find satisfaction in being able to help people in a tangible way,” said Fox. “You’re sitting across from a client or a couple having an in-depth discussion about their finances and their personal life with no judgment. Everyone is doing the best they can.”

The volunteers are also pleased to help put more money back into the pockets of the taxpayers. Especially for people who have lower incomes, every dollar is important for purchasing necessities. Those necessities are often bought locally, which in turn helps Chelsea business owners.

“We want to get the word out so we can help as many people in the target population as possible,” said Fox.
As tax time approaches, more information will be available at CSC or on their website

 

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