Each year, hundreds of residents in Orange and Madison counties get their taxes done for free by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) volunteers.
This year, the advocacy organization will continue to offer the service to low- and moderate-income families, but the procedures will be much different because of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Most notably, unlike previous years, there will be no walk-in appointments. Because of public health safety requirements, fewer volunteer tax-preparers will be available at each location, likely leading to a smaller number of tax returns processed in 2021.
Starting last weekend, taxpayers in Central Virginia can schedule appointments at tax prep sites in Orange, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Essex and Caroline counties. Some communities, like Madison and Ladysmith, that previously hosted this service, are not participating this year.
The free tax preparation service is provided to area residents with an annual income less than $125,000. AARP membership is not required to utilize the free service.
Susan Ball of the AARP District Communications Department advises people to schedule early this year.
“COVID has really changed our procedures,” she said. “We can no longer have 10 preparers working in one space. It’s also important for the people who used the Madison, Ladysmith and Dawn locations to find the next closest location and book that appointment. This past year has been hard and this is just one more example of something that has really changed.”
Lew Sherman, district coordinator for the Piedmont region of AARP, said 400 taxpayers used the Orange County site and 200 used the Madison County site for free tax preparation services last year.
“Clients that used the Madison location in the past have two choices this year: they can go to Orange or Culpeper,” said Sherman. “Those people really have to set an appointment soon before spaces are taken.”
Hours and days of service vary by location. Orange County has two locations: the Orange Public Works community meeting room (on Warren Street in Orange) offers Tuesday, Thursday and some Wednesday appointments; and Lake of the Woods Clubhouse with Friday and Saturday appointments. Culpeper offers appointments at the Culpeper Senior Center Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Spotsylvania County offers Saturday appointments at the Snow Library (8740 Courthouse Rd.) and Monday and Saturday appointments at the Howell Library in Fredericksburg. The Salem Church Library will take Wednesday and Friday appointments after it re-opens.
This year, participants must fill out their intake form and have their tax documents ready before their appointment. Procedures for appointments will be provided when the taxpayer makes the appointment. Masks are required for in-person appointments.
To schedule an appointment in Orange County, call (540) 661-5475 for the Orange location, or (540) 268-8837 for Lake of the Woods. In Culpeper (540) 317-0539 and in Spotsylvania (540) 507-7565 for the Snow Library location, (540) 372-1144 for the Howell Library and (540) 785-9267 for the Salem Church Library location.