By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — There’s plenty to be concerned about when it comes to tax season, but the duo running a free tax preparation service at the Senior Citizens Center on West Avenue find it easy to smile.
IRS certified tax preparers Peter Lindemann and Dan Gawlak have led the center’s volunteer Tax Counseling for the Elderly service since 2006, and during that time they’ve developed a rapport with each others and the hundreds of residents who benefit from the service.
Thursday, the duo chatted and joked with long-time customers while e-filing their state and federal tax paperwork at the center’s back office. Dave and Karen Shutt of Shelby bantered with the preparers over events in their lives and concerns about their taxes.
”I like the comedy,” Dave, who runs a food vending business, said with a smile.
For the Lindemann and Gawlak, it’s the people that make their work important. They saw more than 800 people last year through the free, thrice-weekly service.
”It’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun,” Gawlak, a retired professional tax preparer, said after Thursday’s session ended.
”It’s like a family,” added Lindemann, the pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church. “We know them when they come in because so many have come for a long time.”
That’s true for the Shutts, who have used the service for more than a dozen years, starting after Lindemann presided over their backyard wedding — on crutches.
”We’ve been coming ever since,” said Karen, who works at the county nursing home. “They do everything they can to get you what you deserve.”
The Senior Citizen’s Center’s IRS and AARP-funded service, which is scheduled by appointment-only, began in January and continues through the tax season. Sessions are available on Monday mornings and afternoons, Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons.
The 45-minute sessions often go much quicker, which helps those bringing in the small amount of tax paperwork for elderly relatives.
”It’s a blessing,” said Brenda Dunn of Medina, who has brought in her mother’s taxes to the center for the past few years. “It wasn’t complicated ... this is great, it was only five minutes today.”
The program is tailored to the tax concerns common among retirees, from uncertainty over Obamacare’s implementation to questions about pensions.
”People are scared about next year,” Lindemann said. “There’s a lot of stuff the pension companies aren’t telling people.”
Then there’s the more personal issues. Gawlak has seen the good — one senior noted their success at Batavia Downs — and the bad — another found out she that the car she purchases increased her tax burden by an unexpected amount.
”We get a cross-section of everything and anything,” Gawlak said.
Priority is given to those over 60 years old, but anyone can participate. Lindemann said he’s already assisted a 16-year-old this year.LOCAL FREE TAX ASSISTANCE • Tax Counseling for the Elderly WHAT: Program offering free tax help, with a specialization in questions unique to senior citizens and retired persons WHERE: Senior Citizens Center, 615 West Avenue, Medina WHEN: By appointment through April 15 CONTACT: 798-4544 • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance WHAT: Program offering free tax help for people meeting certain income qualifications and need assistance in preparing their own returns WHERE: Orleans County Job Development, 14016 Route 31, Albion WHEN: By appointment through April 15 CONTACT: 589-2820