Fritz Schwindt who coordinates the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program​ for North Dakota was in Devils Lake last week meeting with some of the staff from Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency.

Fritz Schwindt who coordinates the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program​ for North Dakota was in Devils Lake last week meeting with some of the staff from Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency.

Schwindt hopes to revive the tax assistance program formerly offered to the residents of the Lake Region that has been closed down for the past two years. The program closed, not because people stopped needing the assistance, but because of the lack of volunteers to adequately offer the program to the community and a consistent location in which to operate.

Janet Hannesson and Perry Lundon both from Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency have stepped up and offered to allow the program to be headquartered in their offices at 223 4th Street NE in Devils Lake. That’s a good first step.

Both Hannesson and Lundon also are considering becoming volunteers, themselves, to help the program get going again. Trudy and Gary Ertmann were also present at the meeting. They both have many years of first-hand experience with this tax service and are gladly willing to help get it going once again.

Volunteers needed                                                                                                                           That’s where YOU come in. They are asking for volunteers from the community. Ideally, according to Schwindt, they need ​at least three but could use as many as six volunteers to get the site up and running. They are hoping for enough people so they can provide the volunteers with a schedule of two to three shifts per week that are four to five hours in length during the peak tax season: Feb. 1 through April 15.

AARP Tax-Aide                                                                                                                                   What do they do? This program simply provides a free tax service to the community. First, t​axpayers make an appointment to meet with a tax aide​ counselor. Then they bring all their tax papers to the appointment at the designated ​time and the tax-aide ​counselor completes the tax forms and submits them electronically to the IRS using specific tax preparation software. Each submission is double checked ​during a quality review to make sure it has been done correctly before it is sent off. The taxpayers are given a printed copy of the returns before leaving the site.

Training                                                                                                                                       Facilitators and counselors are both needed and all training for those positions is provided. Training for a counselor requires four to five days training​ ​and you may have to travel to one of the training sites to get that training: Fargo, Bismarck, Minot or Grand Forks. That training normally takes place the second or third week in January. Schwindt says there is a chance that training could be held locally, if they get a number of volunteers from Devils Lake and the area.

No experience necessary                                                                                                                      No previous experience in tax preparation is necessary. They will do all the training you need. Schwindt explained that his background was in engineering, he had no previous experience with the IRS or tax preparation. If you might be interested in volunteering, or if you have any questions about this program or want to learn more about it, contact the Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency at 701-662-6500 or Schwindt at the AARP Foundation 701-471-9899.