Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Amid Rising Tax Preparation Fees, Programs Provide Low-Income Minnesotans with Free Filing Assistance

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Amid Rising Tax Preparation Fees, Programs Provide Low-Income Minnesotans with Free Filing Assistance

Article excerpt

On a recent afternoon, Mary Zweber and other volunteer tax preparers formed a circle in a small room inside the St. Paul headquarters of Prepare + Prosper, a nonprofit that helps provide free tax preparation services for low-income Minnesotans.

Matt Dorwart, a manager with the organization, told the volunteers how many people the organization has helped file their taxes since January: More than 10,000.

That was thanks in part to people like Zweber and 500 other certified tax preparers who help out at Prepare + Prosper, the state’s largest organization of its kind, operating eight different tax-prep clinics around the Twin Cities.

Zweber, a retired pharmacist from Stillwater, has been part of the program for the past five years, working eight hours each week. On that afternoon, Zweber showed up at the center for her last shift of the year. “I’m here dealing with people with many, many challenges,” said Zweber of the customers as she waited for her first client of the day. “I find that I can make a difference.”

Free tax prep service

To receive assistance from Prepare + Prosper, filers must meet certain eligibilities: Individual filers must make an annual income of $35,000 or less; families and self-employment people are required to earn $55,000 a year or less.

Prepare + Prosper is just one of several programs providing tax-prep services to low- and moderate-income communities throughout the state, thanks to the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The Minnesota Department of Revenue also provides tax-filing assistance at 230 sites across the state, said Sarah Bjorklund, a lead outreach program with the department. The department has five sites in St. Paul that offer the service to eligible people during the tax season — and funds nonprofit organizations that also provide the services.

“There are people that can’t afford to go to H&R Block and spend $180 to have a simple return done,” Bjorklund said. …

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