Woman does taxes to help others

Staff writer

Taxes can be tricky, but Barbara Smith makes it easier for seniors and low-income Marion County residents to file.

Smith began working on taxes after working at H&R Block.

“I wanted to figure out how to do retirement taxes so I took a class from them and they asked me, ‘Why don’t you just work here,’” Smith said.

She may have left H&R Block, but Smith is still helping people with their taxes, and showing people how to use tax-filing programs, what to look out for, and what things they can deduct.

This year she took a refresher course to make sure the changing health laws did not affect seniors or low-income filers.

“It was mostly to renew my skills. It didn’t affect anyone I’m working with taxwise much,” Smith said, even though she has had to deal with a few large changes this tax season.

A rebate for food sales and rent for low-income residents was excluded from state tax laws this year.

“There were a lot of people in the county who used to claim both so it’s a big loss for people in the county,” she said. “Probably half of the taxes I did last year were for people who could claim those exemptions.”

Those wanting Smith to help with their taxes can either drop them off at Marion Senior Center, or set an appointment with Smith or Gayla Ratzlaff. Smith is free to do taxes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. unless she has a conflict in her schedule.

Monday was the first day Smith began doing taxes.

“Federal taxes can be filed before Feb. 1 but they aren’t processed until Jan. 31 so I always start around Feb. 1,” she said. “It gives me time to get current on everything that is new this year.”

She said taxes are slightly different for retirees in the amounts of money that can be used in exemptions and the way social security is taxed.

For seniors who don’t bring their taxes to her, she recommends they use a computer because it’s lower margin of error.

“They say there’s somewhere like 2 percent error margin when using a computer, because they can catch things so quickly, versus paper and pen,” she said.

The biggest mistake one can make is an error with a social security number.

“If something is wrong with your social security number it messes up everything else,” she said.

For those looking at doing their own taxes, Smith recommends using filing sites from the IRS or the state.

“Both sites are free and work well,” Smith said, “but you can pay for a program, too. I’ve used some of them.”

Tax experts recommend using the same program year after year, Smith said.

Smith likes to focus mostly on retirees and low income people because she feels like she is performing a good service.

“I’m not doing this to keep busy,” she said. “I’m doing this to help people. Everyone should do something to help people.”

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