More taxpayers are seeking out free income-tax filing help from Minot's tax assistance centers this year.
The Volunteer Tax Assistance Center at Community Action Partnership and the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program report interest is up slightly this year.
Last year, the AARP program dealt with about 380 returns, local coordinator Gary Ellingson said.
Terry Wheeling, a volunteer with the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program, assists Vivian and Kenneth Keyes to sign up at the tax assistance center in the Red Cross building in Minot Tuesday.
Bruce Brooks, right, a voluntary tax aide for AARP, goes over tax return information with the tax assistance program’s local coordinator, Gary Ellingson, left.
"Right now, we are probably going to do maybe a few more than last year," he said. "We are going to hit 400 or a little more."
Both types of tax-assistance programs have support from the Internal Revenue Service and North Dakota Tax Department. The IRS provides training materials and certifies the volunteers.
The nationwide VITA program offers basic tax help for people who generally make $52,000 or less, people with disabilities, the elderly and limited English-speaking taxpayers. AARP's tax assistance is part of the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program and is geared toward the low- to moderate-income taxpayer older than 60, although it is open to any taxpayer and has no defined income limits.
Both types of programs require that tax filings be uncomplicated.
However, Ellingson said the AARP center has volunteers trained to work with cash rents, the Conservation Reserve Program and simple stock transactions that often are part of retirees' income.
In addition to trained volunteers, he said, the Tax-Aide center offers quality assurance through its policy of having two staff review each tax return before it is considered complete. The review maintains accuracy and ensures that taxpayers receive all the tax benefits to which they are entitled, he said.
The assistance center has helped people who weren't aware that they were eligible for the Earned Income Tax credit or educational credits for tuition expenses.
"A lot of people don't realize that until they get here," Ellingson said. "Even if you don't have to pay, you may be able to get a few dollars of credit back."
Karissa Hoff, a program specialist at Community Action, said many people aren't aware that they can claim child and dependent care credits for their daycare expenses. They need to obtain their providers' federal identification or Social Security numbers and know the amounts they paid in the previous year, but the tax assistance center can help them to claim the credit on their returns.
Ellingson said it can be financially worth someone's while to seek out help if they are uncertain whether they may qualify for a tax break or if they want to ensure that they don't overlook a possible credit.
The VITA site at Community Action will be open next Wednesday from 1 to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday, April 10, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. before closing for the season. Taxpayers can call 839-7221 to determine eligibility and arrange for an appointment.
Through April 15, AARP Tax-Aide will be open Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. by appointment. People can call 509-1446 for an appointment or 839-9632 for help with general tax questions or to find out if their returns are eligible for help.