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Free tax prep vital to area

Debi Mager, WITC accounting student and campus ambassador, sits down with Sam Deal of River Falls to work on Deal’s 2011 tax return.

(4/11/12): For the 2011 tax year, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) student and alumni tax preparers at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College prepared more than 130 tax returns for people in the area at no cost and returned in excess of $185,000 in refunds. The service provides an option for those who cannot afford a paid tax preparer and/or don’t feel comfortable preparing their own return.

This year marks two decades of free tax preparation at WITC. The project started strictly with volunteers, but about 10 years ago, a two-credit course was developed, which trains student in a service-learning environment.

WITC accounting/finance instructor Tom Pedersen says, “Participation has continued to grow over the years, but particularly in the last few.” He accredits this success to the enthusiastic participation by WITC income tax preparation students who receive course credit for their efforts, as well as the generous volunteer efforts of WITC accounting alumni.

VITA provides free tax preparation for low income taxpayers on a walk-in basis during the weeks before Tax Day. This year the preparers were available Monday evenings from mid-February until the second week in April.