Free AARP Program Helped 1,000+ People in Marathon County Get Tax Refunds

Written by Karyn Powers

In 2017, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation Tax-Aide program secured nearly 1 million dollars in Federal tax refunds (average refund was $643) for 1,695 Marathon County seniors and low-income workers.

Although the state return data isn’t available for this past tax season, as of March 23, 2018, 1,336 Federal and 1,338 Wisconsin tax returns were filed through the Tax-Aide program.

Orientation 2017 ppt

According to Sheryl Morris, local coordinator for the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, this year they had:

  • 31 volunteer counselors preparing returns
  • 20 volunteers at the United Way of Marathon County’s 211 Call Center scheduling appointments
  • Approximately 40 retired teachers serving as volunteer greeters at the tax-preparation sites
Volunteer tax preparers. (Photo courtesy of Sheryl Morris.)

Morris shared:

“This group of volunteers help make the program a success. The counselors come from varied backgrounds which include business, teaching, and health fields. Our training consists of 24 hours of IRS Tax Law and AARP policies. By the end of the…training, all volunteer [preparers] must pass the IRS-Advanced test to be certified.”

A number of volunteers also passed the IRS-Health Savings Account Certification. In addition to the direct training, tax aides had access to 12 hours of open lab to familiarize themselves with new tax software.

While their primary location was in a Marathon County University of Wisconsin–Extension office at 212 River Drive in Wausau, they also took their services on the road to:

  • Kannenberg Plaza (Wausau)
  • Riverview Towers (Wausau)
  • Mosinee Methodist Church
  • Merrill Enrichment Center
Volunteer tax preparers. (Photo courtesy of Sheryl Morris.)

When asked why she participates as a tax aide, Mary*, a retired teacher, said:

“Of all the volunteer work I do, this is the thing that is the most immediately rewarding.”

She became a volunteer when a friend suggested she might like it and was “enticed” into joining the program:

“I like it because it’s intellectually challenging. We have such a great group of volunteers. When I look around, there isn’t a single person out of 30 volunteers that I don’t like to work with. There are no egos here. It’s not a competition; it’s about cooperation.”

Another tax aide, Gary Kurtzweil, said:

“I used to get paid to do this for a living, and I LOVE doing it for nothing. There’s a great deal of satisfaction helping people who really need it. At the end of the day, it’s about how grateful you are to make a difference.”

According to Mariann Muzzi, Associate State Director for Community Outreach for AARP-Wisconsin:

“Nearly a thousand volunteers served at 120 locations in communities large and small across the state of Wisconsin — 47,000 Wisconsinites were helped.”** 

What’s more… Muzzi reported that Wisconsinites using the Tax-Aide program recovered more than $31 million in federal tax refunds alone.

* * *

The Tax Aide program is always looking for more people to join their efforts to help seniors and low-income workers in Marathon County.

To find out more about this volunteer program, watch this video or contact local coordinator Sheryl Morris at

As a side note…

Last year, the Marathon County Public Library gave out approximately 12,000 paper tax forms. In addition to the six main tax forms given out (Federal 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ and State 1, 1A, WI-Z), people picked up thousands of instruction booklets to go with the forms. MCPL staff also printed dozens — if not hundreds — of other forms the IRS did not supply to them (Schedule A, payment vouchers, filing extensions, etc.).

MCPLIt should be noted that MCPL is the only place in Marathon County that still offers the main Federal and State tax forms free of charge. They have to charge 10 cents per page to print any unsupplied forms, but it greatly benefits many people who don’t have their own computer or printer.

*Asked that we not use her last name.

**As cited in Tim Morrissey’s Public News Service–Wisconsin article AARP’s Tax-Aide: 50 Years of Helping WI Taxpayers

karyn_powersKaryn Powers

Recreation Superintendent  |  Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department 

Karyn Powers joined the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department in 1991. Prior to settling in Marathon County, she spent 5 years working for the Department of Defense in Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Services for the U.S. Navy in Iceland and the U.S. Army in South Korea. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Park and Recreation Administration and a master’s degree in Education. In addition to being the city/county Recreation Superintendent, she is a published poet and author. Karyn fell in love with Marathon County as a college senior when she interned here in 1979, then traveled halfway around the world to get back here as soon as was possible.  Email Karyn Powers.

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