As America collectively groans over it being income tax time, there is hope for those among us who are flummoxed by the innards of the tax code.
Across the state are numerous sites where residents can get help with common forms that might be too confusing for them. And the people behind those sites are expecting even more calls for help.
The United Way-affiliated Central Kentucky Economic Empowerment Project is staffing 22 assistance sites this year, up from 16 in 2011. Those sites filed nearly 3,000 returns with about $5.3 million in refunds coming back to the area, said CKEEP coordinator Cate Mart.
The additional sites have made training volunteers "one of the more challenging things," said Mart, who also serves as manager of financial stability with United Way of the Bluegrass.
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Each volunteer goes through eight hours of training followed by studying of materials and taking competency tests.
Mart anticipates the cadre of volunteers will help file at least 3,500 returns this year.
Back to assist again will be Rodney Jackson, director of finance for Fayette County Public Schools.
Jackson has been volunteering to help others with their taxes for eight years, having first joined through the young professionals group affiliated with the Urban League of Lexington-Fayette County.
"When I was brought up, I was taught that when you have talents, ... the joy is to give them to others by helping them out," said Jackson, who is a UK graduate.
He said he enjoys seeing some of the same clients year after year.
"I get to give them some help in becoming sound managers of their money," he said.
CKEEP's sites are affiliated with the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The IRS provides training for the volunteers and also awards grants to the organizations to assist with overhead costs.
"It not just helps individuals with good accurate tax help that's free, but it also helps bring in money to the local community," said IRS spokesman Luis D. Garcia, emphasizing the frequency with which the Earned Income Tax Credit can be claimed and refunds received.
"The EITC can be a game changer for people who are working but not making that much," he said.
Among those also offering assistance are workers who know the ins and outs of the tax code: employees of the state Department of Revenue.
Each spring, the workers take appointments at the state's 10 Taxpayer Service Centers across the commonwealth. The closest to Lexington is in Frankfort.
"When people come in and are frustrated, we can assist them," said Barbara Barnes, executive director of the department's Office of Field Operations. "We tell them what they need to bring and then walk them through the actual filing.
"For a lot of taxpayers, they come in anxious because they're not sure if they're getting a refund or having to pay. Knowing that they're talking to someone who is aware of the right thing to do is comforting and there's some relief in knowing they've at least got it done."
In 2011, the Taxpayer Service Centers filed more than 10,000 individual income tax returns on behalf of those seeking help, Barnes said. That amount has steadily increased over recent years, she said, emphasizing, too, that assistance is available year-round.