Seniors can get free income tax help in Elgin

For years, Dundee Township resident Ray Sussmann coordinated a band of volunteers in late winter and provided free income tax filing services to area senior citizens at the local library.

Call the program "seniors helping seniors," and in the dozen years or so he headed it, Sussmann collected stories of many recently widowed seniors who showed up at his table with shoe boxes, seeking help in organizing the receipts they held.

As they pulled apart the tangled web of paper, he reassured them that while their intentions were good, many of the receipts were not needed.

The 91-year-old West Dundee resident passed away, though, in 2011. With him went the organization that kept the yearly ritual going - in Dundee Township, anyway.

Senior Services Inc. in Elgin picked up the mantle and now offers free income tax help in the Northern Fox Valley by appointment from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday.

"I picked up Ray's territory," said Gil Nore, income tax coordinator. "The (Fox River Valley Libraries in East Dundee) can't find enough volunteers, so that service was discontinued there. It's available here at 101 S. Grove Ave."

Nore and two other volunteers have already started helping seniors file simple tax returns. They expect to be busy until their service ends on April 10, seven days before returns are due.

"It's hard to find volunteers for this service," Nore said. "The three of us were trained this year. We had two other people go through the training, but one couldn't start because she hurt her back, and another had to return to work. Now, we do what we can."

The volunteers, also senior citizens, are trained by the Internal Revenue Service and coordinated by the AARP. They are able to tell seniors who is required to file a return because of income. Also, they can file simple returns. Computers help them file the returns electronically.

Like Sussmann, Nore has been filing returns long before a computer program replaced a postage stamp.

"I've been doing this for 12 years. Before that I started filing my parents' income taxes when I was in high school," said the 78-year-old Elgin resident. "Everything was done on paper back then."

People haven't changed much, though. Clients still show up to their appointments holding shoe boxes or bags full of receipts.

"Receipts don't tell us anything. They bring in a receipt from Goodwill, but we don't have the value of items in the bag that were donated, so we don't know," he said. "We need to know that."

The stories haven't changed either.

Confused clients have arrived for their appointments not knowing the financial information their deceased spouse knew.

"We have people come in here saying their husband or wife has Alzheimer's (disease) and has always handled the income taxes. Now, they're not capable, and the spouse doesn't know where to start."

Simplicity is always best when it comes to income taxes, he said. The volunteer preparers are only able to file simple returns that do not include stocks and bonds sales, income from rental properties and trust funds income.

Complicated returns should be handled by professional advisers.

What to bring

When seniors arrive for appointments they should bring with them:

• A photo identification card, such as a driver's license,

• A Social Security card,

• All W-2 forms,

• All 1099 forms,

• A property tax bill,

• A checkbook for the direct deposit if a return is expected,

• A date of spouse's death if it occurred within the last year,

• Copies of medical, dental and prescription bills.

"I would prefer they leave the shoe boxes at home," Nore said.

For information about the income tax service, call Senior Services at (847) 741-0404.

  Volunteer Gil Nore helps seniors prepare their income taxes at Senior Services Associates in downtown Elgin. The service is available by appointment on Mondays and Tuesdays through April 10. Rick West/
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