Free tax assistance program sees high demand this year

AARP volunteers giving free tax help in Minot say interest in the annual program has been strong this year.

To handle the high demand with a limited number of volunteers, AARP is asking people to make appointments by calling 509-1446 between 5 and 7 p.m. on weekends. Last year, Minot’s AARP center assisted in filing 349 tax returns, and officials expect to exceed that number this year.

AARP, in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, is providing tax assistance Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the office of the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the American Red Cross at 2021-4th Ave. NW.

Cory Fong, state tax commissioner, visited the center Tuesday to meet with staff and with media to help get the word out about the program.

“What we are really trying to get across out there is you don’t have to be an AARP member. You don’t have to meet age requirements. There are no specific income requirements,” he said.

Fong said the service is open to any taxpayer who needs help with a basic wage and income return. For some taxpayers, the cost of hiring a professional tax preparer can exceed the expected refund, so the free service is a beneficial option, he said.

The volunteers with AARP are trained and certified to assist the elderly and other taxpayers who have less complicated returns.

The AARP site in Minot will be open through April 15.

People should bring with them a form of photo identification, Social Security cards and birth dates for the taxpayers and dependents and a copy of last year’s federal and state returns. They also should bring any documents showing income from all sources, federal income taxes paid, bank account routing numbers, original purchase price of sold assets such stocks and bonds, purchase of “energy efficient” home improvements and amount paid for child care, along with the child-care provider’s tax identifying number. If itemizing, they should bring summarized receipts or canceled checks. Married couples filing jointly must both be present to sign electronic returns.

A full list of items to bring, along with locations of all state tax assistance sites, can be found on the N.D. Tax Commission website at (www.nd.gov/tax).

Fong added that free filing is available on the department website, which is offering new fillable forms this year.

Fong said the number of state tax returns already filed is running about a week behind last year’s count for the same period due to delays in the start of the federal tax season. The state expects to receive about 410,000 returns. About 98 percent of taxpayers file electronically.