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Lake Area Tech Offers Free Income Tax Preparation
South Dakota Ag Connection - 01/12/2018

For more than 25 years, second-year students in Lake Area Technical Institute's Financial Services Advanced Tax class have participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that offers free basic income tax filing services to the public who meet program guidelines.

The program will be held on the Lake Area Tech campus Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays beginning Tuesday, January 30 and lasting through Saturday, March 3. Tuesday hours are noon to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.; Thursday hours are from noon to 3:00 p.m.; and Saturday hours are from 9:00 a.m. to noon. All services will be held at Lake Area Tech in room 205 (please use doors 2 or 2A off of 11th Street NE on the west side of LATI). The VITA service is free and is offered on a walk-in basis.

All taxpayers will need to bring:

- Photo ID for primary taxpayer (and spouse)--required by IRS

- Social Security cards for everyone on your return--required by IRS

- Tax forms and other tax information you have received

- Copy of last year's tax return (if possible)

- Checking/savings account information if you receive a refund and wish to use direct deposit (It's best to bring an actual check to verify the correct information.)

Taxpayers making less than $54,000 and whose tax return falls within the scope of the program for VITA tax preparers as set by the IRS who need assistance in preparing their tax returns are welcome to take part in the program. More checklist details can be found at https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Checklist-for-Free-Tax-Return-Preparation and www.irs.gov/individuals/free-tax-return-preparation-for-you-by-volunteers.

Lorna Hofer, LATI Financial Services Instructor, said the students are well-prepared through coursework, but they must also pass a rigorous national VITA certification examination prior to the filing season. "Studying for and taking the national exam not only educates the students on tax laws and filing procedures, but it addresses all aspects of working with the public including ethics and interview techniques." This year, 12 students are participating in the program, she said.

The service a win-win for everyone as students are introduced to the professional aspects of working with customers during this service-learning experience, and the customers are able to obtain tax filing assistance free of charge from VITA-certified students, Hofer said. Before filing occurs, a quality review process is completed on each return.

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