SHERIDAN — The IRS and AARP Foundation tax aide volunteers are encouraging everyone to file a tax return for 2015 regardless if they don’tmeet the filing requirements.

Why?

“It’s part of the IRS campaign to try to protect us from fraud,” said Janet Dill. Dill has been preparing tax forms for AARP Foundation’s Tax Aid program for nine years and is the Sheridan area coordinator.

So how does filing a tax return protect your identity from fraud?

“If someone has used your identity number — such as your Social Security number — to claim a refund, the IRS is then alerted. The IRS will then contact both parties who have filed under the same identification number by mail,” said Dill. “Most likely the party who filed fraudulently will not respond. Once they work through the situation, the innocent party will be fine.”

You won’t know if your social security number is being used until you file. If someone has your Social Security number, your credit history and other financial profile could be compromised.

“I’ve personally seen two returns in Sheridan where fraud was involved,” Dill said.

The IRS has sent out letters to individuals in Sheridan who have been victims of the misuse of their Social Security number.  These letters will provide victims with a new identifier number for them to use on future tax filings.

“Note that the letter is incorrectly dated 2014 but it is legitimate,” said Dill at a community presentation at the local AARP Chapter meeting on Jan. 8.

The AARP Foundation Tax Aide program prepares tax returns for individuals at no charge.  The program is staffed by volunteers. Free tax preparation through this program is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Sheridan Senior Center located at 211 Smith St. Advance appointment is required by calling the Senior Center.

Another tip to ward off fraud? File as early as you can.  Appointments are being taken now for free tax preparation beginning Feb. 2 at the Sheridan Senior Center. You can call 672-2240 Mondays through Fridays to make an appointment.