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Free Tax Help for Low-Income North Dakotans Available

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program received $18 million in funding in fiscal year 2019. (alfexe/Adobe Stock)
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program received $18 million in funding in fiscal year 2019. (alfexe/Adobe Stock)
January 27, 2020

BELCOURT, N.D. -- It's tax season, and a nationwide program is helping low-income North Dakotans prepare their returns for free.

Legal Services of North Dakota is working with the Internal Revenue Service to provide the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program.

It's available to folks who are income eligible, which is based on household size and age but is generally open to folks who make $56,000 a year or less.

Rhonda Belgarde-Baker, a paralegal tribal advocate with Legal Services of North Dakota says her organization is targeting the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation and Spirit Lake Indian Reservation for assistance, noting that VITA is an important resource for tribal communities.

"Specifically because a lot individuals are low income, and our whole purpose is to provide services for those who are low income so that they don't have to pay triple-digit interest on having a paid preparer prepare their return," she states.

The VITA program is offered at locations in Belcourt and Fort Totten. Anyone who is income eligible and sets up an appointment can receive assistance.

Belgarde-Baker says her organization can also offer help on state tax returns.

She says volunteers offer line-by-line assistance and financial literacy during appointments, which typically take about 30 minutes. They e-file the returns for free and filers can use direct deposit for refunds.

Belgarde-Baker says volunteers screen folks to make sure they have everything they need before coming into the office.

"Especially in rural communities, you know, you're traveling 30 minutes to a store!" she states. "So if you're going to come into the tax office, we want to make sure that you're not having to go back and forth, that it's a one trip type of a situation."

The VITA program received $18 million in fiscal year 2019 to help people prepare their taxes this year.

Disclosure: Legal Services of North Dakota contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues, Native American Issues, Poverty Issues, Senior Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND