For most of us, at this time of year, thinking about filing our 2012 income tax return is not high on the to do list.
But for those who plan on volunteering their time as tax preparers and coordinators, it's time to start thinking about taking classes and tests for certification as a tax preparer.
Tax Help New Mexico is seeking tax preparers for its Carlsbad location at St. Peter Lutheran Church on West Pierce Street and will offer classes and training starting in January.
LaVelta Jenkins, local Tax Help New Mexico coordinator, said the program was started by Central New Mexico Community College after the state of New Mexico abolished its free tax preparation service.
"When the economic crisis hit, that (free tax preparation) went away," she said. "Central New Mexico Community College teamed with United Way. The free tax preparation service has been offered at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Carlsbad for the past seven years."
Jenkins said while having a tax background is helpful, no experience is necessary. Individuals who sign up for the volunteer program will be given the training. However, they will have to sit for a test at the end of the three-week course.
Starting in January, potential volunteer tax preparers will have to attend classes for the first three weeks on Tuesday and Thursday. A test will also have to be taken, and the test taker will have to score an 80 or higher on the test in order to become a certified tax preparer.
Jenkins said volunteers will start preparing income tax returns on the last Saturday in January.
"Students in college and high school can serve as tax prepares," Jenkins explained. "We had a high school senior a couple of years ago who volunteered and did a good job. Now, that student is attending Kent State University. College and high school students who serve as volunteer tax preparers gain good work experience."
Jenkins said Tax Help New Mexico offers qualified high schools students the opportunity to earn college credit for their volunteer work.
According to the college, some students who served as volunteer tax preparers have gone on to work for the IRS and the New Mexico Taxation and Revenue Department.
Jenkins said the IRS provides the tax software and the college provides the computers.
She stressed that every tax return prepared by a volunteer is reviewed and double-checked by seasoned preparers before it is sent off electronically.
The only change this year from last is that Tax Help New Mexico's scope is a little more limited. Tax preparers will not prepare multiple Schedule Cs with more than $5,000 in expenses and returns with rental income.
The free tax service is available to low-income and elderly residents.
For more information about the program and to become a volunteer tax preparer, contact Jenkins at (575) 636-4751.