BARSTOW Even though tax season is still three weeks away, a local representative for the AARP is getting ready to train volunteers to help seniors and low income residents file their forms.

This will be the 10th year volunteer Donna Munday has taught volunteers how to fill out state and federal tax forms, she said. Classes start next week. Volunteers will begin helping seniors and low income residents fill out their tax forms Feb. 1.

"At this point all the returns are done electronically. We no longer write any (forms) out by hand," she said. "We take the data and then we go to work."

People who enroll in the class will learn how to navigate through the Internal Revenue Service's Web site. They'll use a program called Link and Learn and Munday will teach them how to fill out make-believe returns, she said. Volunteers will be able to help folks download the appropriate tax forms off the Internet, learn what tax-preparation manuals are available and familiarize themselves with tax software provided by the AARP.

The classes are open to anyone. New volunteers should be able to communicate and work well with people. Many seniors who seek tax help through the AARP are widows or widowers, many of whom have never had to deal with filling out tax returns.

"The process, especially for widows, can be rather daunting," Munday said. "If the husband has always taken care of this kind of thing and it's been thrust on her, she sometimes doesn't know where to start or what to do or that it even has to be done."

In addition to helping seniors and low income residents fill out their tax returns, Munday said volunteers at the senior center will likely help folks who had gone to tax preparation comapanies such as H&R Block but can't afford it now. People who seek help from volunteers at the senior center need to bring their W-2 forms and social security cards for any children they plan to claim as dependents.

Classes will be held at the Barstow Senior Center from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. from Monday to Jan. 14. For more information, call Munday at 760-252-5057. Tax season starts Feb. 1 and lasts until April 18.

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