Washington seniors should be aware of risks involved with free tax preparation programs

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Newport residents who seek tax preparation assistance may want to be aware of potential issues with the free preparation services that pop up this time of year. 

The Walla Walla Union Bulletin reported on the AARP Tax-Aide program's availability in the area on Feb. 6. That’s the message that the 60 Plus Association wants Walla Walla area residents to be aware of as the AARP Tax-Aide program and others like it offer assistance. On Feb. 10, the organization issued a news release warning of potential issues that exist in the AARP Tax-Aide program.

“There are some very serious red flags regarding the AARP’s tax program, and America’s seniors should be extremely cautious when considering whether or not to participate,” James Martin, founder and chairman of the American Association of Senior Citizens, told Washington Business Daily. 

Volunteers who have left the Tax-Aide program have raised concerns that the AARP Foundation could sell taxpayer information to outside organizations and advertisers without the explicit consent of the individuals who use the service. They’ve said that new policies from the AARP could mean that 2.5 million taxpayers disclose private data to the AARP Foundation without adequate protection of their personal data.  

“Volunteers within the program itself have raised significant data and privacy concerns and seniors should be aware of these issues as they make decisions regarding their tax filings," Martin said.

Tax-Aide’s policies give AARP access to full tax returns and other sensitive information, like Social Security numbers, phone numbers and more.

The 60 Plus Association reports that AARP earns nearly a billion dollars in corporate royalties from different organizations, including $700 million from UnitedHealth, for which AARP sells Medigap plans to seniors.

Senior citizens should be aware of these issues before they choose to engage with AAPR or other groups that provide these kinds of services, in order to ensure that their personal data will be safe and will not be sold or compromised as part of their participation in the tax preparation program.

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