Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: The News of Greater Falls Church

Benjamin Franklin, in a 1789 letter to a friend, wrote that “in this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes.” With apologies to Mr. Franklin, I think we need to add “weather,” at least in Virginia! With winter upon us, and tax season about to begin, perhaps the following information will be helpful.

Each year, injuries occur in winter due to exposure to the cold, vehicle accidents, and dangerous use of heaters. Hypothermia and frostbite also can lead to dangerous results. Fairfax County and the American Red Cross have some safety tips worth a few minutes of preparation. If you are going to be outside, dress appropriately. Dress in layers to adjust to changing conditions. Wear a hat, preferably one covering your ears, because most body heat is lost through your head. Mittens provide more warmth than gloves. Waterproof, insulated boots can help you avoid frostbite or hypothermia, and also help maintain your footing in ice and snow. Here’s a tip from personal experience: dress for the weather even though you usually just dash from the house to the car to the office. Imagine how you would cope if your car broke down and you had to hike a distance for help. That light jacket and cute sandals won’t provide much help in an emergency situation!

Shoveling snow is hard on your body. Do a few warm up exercises before starting to shovel, wear a hat and gloves, and try to push the snow shovel rather than lifting it, if possible. If you do have to lift a snow-laden shovel, bend your knees and avoid strain on your back and shoulders. Remove snow and debris from storm drain openings and never pile snow in front of a drain opening. When the snow melts, the runoff needs to find an open drain! More information about winter emergency safety is available on-line at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/emergency, or call the 24-hour recorded Emergency Information line at 703/817-7771, TTY 711.

That’s weather. Now to taxes: The very popular AARP Tax-Aide service will begin on Friday, February 1, and continue through Tuesday, April 15, at the Mason District Governmental Center, 6507 Columbia Pike in Annandale. The free tax help will be available on a first come, first served walk-in basis on Mondays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 8 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. The free tax help, provided by trained volunteers, is geared for taxpayers with low and middle incomes, with special attention to taxpayers age 60 and older. Documents to bring with you include last year’s tax return, photo ID, Social Security card, current year tax forms, all income and 1099 forms you have received, and receipts or cancelled checks if itemizing deductions. All returns are filed electronically. For more information, log onto www.aarp.org/taxaide. AARP Tax-Aide is a program of the AARP Foundation, offered in conjunction with the Internal Revenue Service.