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I've been an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer for several years, Lorenzo. I too started out with a cheat sheet for myself so I wouldn't overlook any credits that a client might be due. After doing a few returns I gained a lot of confidence, and began to be able to look over the information a client brought in to figure out pretty well just what to pay attention to.

This year the little reference guide that the IRS provides is really helpful, and you may soon be able to rely on that rather than a cheat sheet. Also, I find that the 1040 instructions, where at the front an illustration of the form shows what page to look at for information needed for each line, is a very handy reference.

One of the biggest problems you'll find is a client who has sold stock, or (worse) mutual funds, and doesn't have a clue as to what the cost basis is. Brokerages and fund families have greatly improved their reporting in the last year or two, fortunately.

TaxWise is fairly simple to use, but has some major gotchas. One blind alley that's all too easy to get into is linking to the proper subordinate form, worksheet, or scratch sheet. If you're not careful, you may wind up using multiple sheets that will drop out the data on all but one of the sheets.

Good luck! There is a pretty good reward in being able to help seniors minimize their taxes and save money they would otherwise have to pay to a CPA or tax agency. And the cookies, etc. some bring in are pretty good too!

Karl Pearson
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