Volunteers help ND residents have successful 2021 filing season

Special to Devils Lake Daily Journal

NORTH DAKOTA − Today the Internal Revenue Service is thanking North Dakota Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) volunteers for a successful 2021 tax filing season in North Dakota.

Every year, hundreds of people volunteer their time to help other taxpayers file their taxes, learn about available tax credits, and other important tax assistance. The 2021 filing season looked a little different than past years due to the pandemic and last-minute tax law changes, but the VITA and TCE volunteers still successfully helped thousands of North Dakotans.

The volunteers prepared 3,612 electronic filed returns resulting in an average $1,490 refund to North Dakota residents. There were $1,015,963 in earned income tax credit refunds to many underserved residents of North Dakota.

These long-standing programs offer valuable help to America's taxpayers:

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offers free tax return preparation to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $57,000 or less, people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly is mainly for people age 60 or older. Although the program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors, most taxpayers can usually get free assistance. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.

IRS volunteers provide free tax preparation in communities across the nation. While it may seem like the distant future, people who want to volunteer in 2022 can start acting now. The IRS encourages anyone interested in becoming an IRS-certified tax volunteer to visit the sign up page or contact Claudia Diaz, IRS relationship manager for North Dakota at Claudia.Diaz@irs.gov.    

There are many available volunteer roles:

Greeters to help screen taxpayers to determine the type of assistance they need.

Interpreters to provide language services.

Tax preparers to use electronic filing software to complete tax returns.

Tax coaches, at some sites, to encourage taxpayers to prepare their own tax returns and help them through the process.

Here are reasons people become an IRS-certified VITA or TCE tax volunteer:

Flexible hours. Volunteers serve an average of three to five hours per week. The programs are usually open from mid-to-late-January through the tax filing deadline in April. Some sites are even open all year.

VITA and TCE sites are often nearby. Each year there are thousands of sites set up in neighborhoods all over the country. These free tax help sites are in places like community centers, libraries, schools and shopping malls.

No prior experience needed. Volunteers receive special training and often serve in a variety of roles. VITA and TCE programs want volunteers of all backgrounds and ages. They also want people who are fluent in other languages.

Free tax law training and materials. Volunteers receive training materials at no charge. The tax law training covers how to prepare basic federal tax returns electronically. The training also covers tax topics like deductions and credits.

Continuing education credits for tax pros. Enrolled agents and non-credentialed tax return preparers can earn continuing education credits PDF when volunteering as a VITA/TCE instructor, quality reviewer, or tax return preparer.