Free help for seniors

March 26, 2008 4:57:52 AM PDT
You probably have heard a lot about the economic stimulus package that will put hundreds of dollars into the pockets of most Americans. But millions of people who are eligible to get checks won't if they don't take a very important step first.

The stimulus checks will only go to people who file a tax return. Most senior citizens have stopped doing that. It's one of the perks of growing old Now the IRS is opening several centers in Houston to give free help to new filers.

It's the middle of the day and retirees are enjoying a game of bridge. Why not? They've earned a slower paced lifestyle. It turns out work is not the only thing they've left behind. Most don't have to file a tax return either because their income levels have fallen.

But this year, these retirees do need to file a tax return. That's because the economic stimulus checks that should be in the mail soon will only go to those filing a 2007 tax return.

"We are getting quite a few people who have not filed for several years, have not had to and they are getting the word and coming in and doing it," said volunteer Paul Weber.

Weber volunteers as a tax preparer at the Bayland Park Community Center. He says dozens of retirees who typically do not file a return have already come by to get free help, but thousands more may be unaware of the tax filing requirement. The good news is the form retirees need to fill out is easy to manage.

"It is actually a pretty simple form," said Weber. "They have to enter two numbers, how much Social Security they got and their address."

The form is the 1040A Schedule 3. Earlier this month, the Internal Revenue Service sent out notices reminding retirees to fill the 1040A Schedule 3, and now the agency is opening offices around town Saturday to offer senior citizens free help in filling out the forms.

"Everybody has to file a return to get the stimulus payment and we are reaching out to those that do not traditionally have to file, so we want to make sure we are accessible and open and they can come to us as a resource," said Lea Crusber with the IRS.

About 20 million Americans don't make enough income to file a tax return. More than one million of those are right here in Texas.

There are four offices open on Saturday in Houston to help seniors fill out an income tax return. They are 12941 I-45 North, 4410 Navigation, 8701 South Gessner, and 1919 Smith Street. That's the Leland Federal Building. You can get the help from 9am to 3pm Saturday.

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