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Daily Archives: February 1, 2019

AARP Foundation’s Tax-Aide Helps Thousands File in PA

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By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – April 15 is coming up fast and there are a lot of changes in federal tax laws this year, but free help getting income-tax returns filed is available now.

AARP has offered free, in-person tax assistance and preparation since 1968. Last year, more than 1,500 volunteers helped 114,000 low- and moderate-income taxpayers at 290 sites across Pennsylvania.

The service focuses on people over age 50, but anyone is welcome to get help filing their tax returns. And according to Bill Johnston-Walsh, state director of AARP Pennsylvania, the volunteers are well prepared to help out.

“We’re very proud at AARP that our Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and IRS-certified each year to ensure that they know about and understand the latest changes in the U.S. Tax Code,” he says.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers will offer their free tax assistance through April 15. But you need an appointment. To find a location near you, call 888-227-7669.

Johnston-Walsh points out that in 2018, getting tax help through the Tax-Aide program really paid off.

“People throughout the United States received $1.3 billion in income-tax refunds last year,” he says, “and $213 million in the Earned Income Tax Credits.”

He adds those tax filers also avoided the fees associated with commercial tax preparation services.

Johnston-Walsh notes that what began in 1968 with just four volunteers helping people with their income taxes has now grown into the nation’s largest volunteer-run, free tax preparation service.

“Today we have nearly 35,000 volunteers throughout the United States, at 5,000 locations around the country,” says Johnston-Walsh. “Neighborhood libraries, malls, banks, community centers, senior centers.”

More information is online at ‘’

Civil Liberties Group Questions Need for Victims’ Rights Amendment

Published by:

By: Andrea Sears

HARRISBURG, Pa. – A proposed amendment to Pennsylvania’s state Constitution claims to protect the rights of crime victims, but civil-liberties groups say existing state laws are much better suited to the task.

The amendment known as Marsy’s Law aims to grant crime victims enforceable rights equal to those of the accused. It passed the state Legislature last year and is likely to come up for a second vote by midsummer.

According to Andy Hoover, communications director with the ACLU of Pennsylvania, similar laws in other states have had serious, unintended consequences. And in Pennsylvania, he says the rights of crime victims already are protected.

“The Crime Victims Act that passed in 2007 does have some guarantees for victims, but it’s much easier to change and alter a statute that it is a constitutional amendment,” says Hoover.

Supporters of the measure say Marsy’s Law would bring balance to the criminal justice system by ensuring that crime victims are not revictimized.

But Hoover contends that Marsy’s Law would put the rights of victims and the rights of the accused in direct conflict. He points to one provision that gives alleged crime victims the right to deny the accused access to evidence they may need to prove their innocence.

“That undermines a person’s right to a fair trial,” says Hoover. “If one person can simply deny key information, it’s going to be harder for that person to put on their case.”

He adds the amendment would also increase criminal justice costs to the state, and to counties – that bear 100 percent of the cost of indigent defense in Pennsylvania.

Hoover believes those who support the measure have a fundamental misunderstanding of why the rights of the accused, who are presumed innocent under law, are protected in the Constitution.

“The state is trying to deprive that person of liberty and maybe even their life,” she says. “And that’s why their rights – the right to due process, right to counsel, right to a speedy trial – are guaranteed by the Constitution.”

Marsy’s Law must pass a second vote in the Legislature, and then be approved by voters in a general election, before it could become part of the state Constitution.

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