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Free Aid on Federal Taxes Available in North Dakota

The government shutdown could slow down the tax-filing process this year. (przemekklos/Twenty20)
The government shutdown could slow down the tax-filing process this year. (przemekklos/Twenty20)
January 8, 2019

BELCOURT, N.D. — Tax season is approaching, and some North Dakotans qualify for free assistance with preparing their federal income returns.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program offers tax aid to people who generally make $54,000 a year or less, have disabilities or limited English-language skills. Rhonda Belgarde-Baker, tribal advocate paralegal with Legal Services of North Dakota, which is partnering with the IRS to provide this program, said people seek assistance for many reasons.

She said for some clients it's their first time filing. Others owe a debt and are afraid to file.

"We come across many different examples of why, perhaps, they haven't filed or why they need to file,” Belgarde-Baker said. “So that's one thing that we work really hard on is to educate them and to make sure that the IRS isn't scary."

Belgarde-Baker said Legal Services is providing VITA sites on Native American reservations in the state, where there's a big need for free aid. VITA locations, as well as Tax Counseling for the Elderly program sites generally operated by AARP, can be found on the IRS's website.

Belgarde-Baker noted the government shutdown could slow down filings this year.

She said her organization's goal isn't just to help with returns, but to educate people on their taxes. VITA clinics are certified through the IRS each year on tax laws and changes to the tax code.

Belgarde-Baker also noted Legal Services is looking for volunteers. She said volunteers make a real difference in people’s lives when they help out.

"We're educating you - you will get trained like we do and get certified - but you're also helping build a better community and volunteering and being able to provide such a wonderful service,” she said.

She added that North Dakotans claiming children under the Earned Income Tax Credit should expect a delay in getting their refunds back.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND