Free help with taxes will come to you

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2011 - 5:39 PM

For years, free tax preparation help has been available to low- and middle-income people who come to about 250 sites around Minnesota.

Now help also is available for some Minnesotans confined to nursing homes and others who can't make it to a tax-prep site.

Most of these good neighbors are AARP volunteers, who make up the bulk of the trained workers at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites coordinated by the Minnesota Department of Revenue, which helps train volunteers. Similar help is offered by Accountability Minnesota, a nonprofit offering free tax preparation and other services.

"We probably can't get to everybody, but we do pretty well," said Mert Lassonde of Lakeville, Twin Cities area coordinator for AARP's Tax Aide program. He helps out at some tax-preparation sites and at some nursing homes, including the Minneapolis Veterans Home.

Last year, AARP says, its 1,238 volunteers helped 112,793 Minnesota clients collect about $50.1 million in state and federal tax refunds and $14.7 million in earned income tax credits.

Individuals or officials at nursing homes can talk to the coordinator at a nearby volunteer site or call Accountability Minnesota to find out if volunteers are available for a visit.

VITA offers free tax help to those 65 or older, people with disabilities and individuals with incomes of $35,000 or less ($45,000 or less for families). Many sites offer help in languages other than English.

To find a nearby site, go to www.startribune.com/a231 or call 651-297-3724 or 1-800-657-3989 outstate.

The website suggests that clients should have a number of documents, including Social Security numbers, Social Security income statements, W-2 forms and a Certificate of Rent Paid form from a landlord.

"It just feels good to be able to help people," said Don Hoium of Rochester, AARP's Tax Aide coordinator for southern Minnesota, which includes the Twin Cities. "This tax stuff can get kind of overwhelming if you're not familiar with it."

wolfe@startribune.com • 612-267-4607

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