Oakland Public Library Offers Free Tax Preparation Service Through April 17

Oakland Public Library Offers Free Tax Preparation Service Through April 17
Photos: Cirrus Wood/Hoodline
By Cirrus Wood - Published on March 15, 2017.

If you live in Oakland and haven't filed your taxes yet, don't worry; in partnership with AARP, Oakland Public Library is offering free tax filing assistance at its Main, Eastmont, Golden Gate and Cesar Chavez branches.

Trained volunteers will be available to help residents prepare federal and state tax returns and offer free consultation through April 17. Hours vary based on location.

“The IRS has a mission to provide for low-income earners,” said Tom Vargo. A retired accountant, Vargo has volunteered with the tax assistance program for seven years.

About 800 people each year file their taxes at the Main branch, Vargo said, adding that about 200 more come in just for a consultation.

AARP tax aide volunteer Tom Vargo.

He said the number of people he assists each year has grown, as have the number of clients who have gig economy jobs like driving for ride-hailing services. “We’ve seen a lot more self-employed people."

While the tax-prep program has helped many residents, Vargo said there's a pressing need for additional translators, since bilingual assistance for Spanish speakers is available only at the Cesar Chavez branch.

“It depends on who volunteers,” he said, adding that it's hard to retain bilingual accountants when managing an all-volunteer service.

The AARP/OPL tax assistance program prioritizes service to seniors and low-income individuals and cannot assist businesses or individuals who receive income from renting property. Because many low-income Oakland homeowners rent out living space to supplement their incomes, Vargo noted that the issue could be a potential complication.

If you're an Oakland resident in need of free tax filing assistance, check the Oakland Public Library website for branches and available hours. Clients will be assisted on a first-come, first-served basis with priority given to seniors. To ensure service, participants are advised to arrive early.

What you'll need:

  • All materials pertaining to your 2016 income
  • Photo ID
  • 2015 federal and state tax returns
  • Social Security card (if new to the AARP tax-aide program)