Demystifying DTS for the bewildered Guardsman

Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond, a 111th Attack Wing photojournalist, stares in confusion at her computer screen while working in the Defense Travel System (DTS) at Horsham Air Guard Station, Aug. 8, 2016. DTS is a is the travel system that handles all military travel plans and travel pay for all temporary duty, or in some cases, home station training for members outside the commuting area. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Christopher Botzum)

LINCOLN - The AARP Foundation's Tax-Aide program is the nation's largest volunteer-run tax-preparation service - and it's expanding its Nebraska team of volunteers for the upcoming tax season.

The program offers in-person tax preparation to seniors and low- and moderate-income workers, free of charge. Don Ellingson, a volunteer trainer, says Tax-Aide can be a lifeline for people who can't afford to hire an accountant, or are just not comfortable filing electronically on their own.

"They may not feel they have the computer skills," says Ellingson. "We have widows or widowers who may not understand some of the issues, or they may not have been doing the returns for the last 20 years."

You don't have to be a lawyer or CPA to volunteer, and Ellingson encourages people to check out a training session before deciding if the program is a good match. Volunteers are shown how to navigate an online form and enter information provided by clients.

Ellingson says the software works with most basic wage, contractor and pension returns, and can help qualified filers get Earned Income Tax Credits and homestead property-tax exemptions. To learn more about volunteering, call toll-free: 888-OUR-AARP, or 888-687-2277.

Nationally, on their 2018 returns, participating taxpayers received $1.4 billion in tax refunds and more than $200 million in Earned Income Tax Credits. Ellingson says many satisfied Tax-Aide clients come back year after year, and he notes the volunteers also get benefits.

"As a volunteer, I guess what I appreciate the most is realizing the gratitude that they have for getting this onerous task accomplished for them," says Ellingson.

Last year, some 200 Tax-Aide volunteers in Nebraska helped more than 14,000 people file their federal and state tax returns. The service is offered at two dozen sites across the state, including senior centers and libraries, and filers don't have to be an AARP member or a senior to get tax help.

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