The Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax preparation service to lower-income individuals, disabled persons, the elderly and limited English speakers across the country. In southeastern South Dakota, the service is offered in Sioux Falls and at the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library in downtown Vermillion.
Rachelle Langdon, programming director at the library, said the library’s main role is in providing a physical location for the program to take place.
The past year has been a challenge for the program due to the library placing restrictions on in-person programming after the start of the pandemic. Last year, the library did not host in-person tax assistance at all, which Langdon said made it more difficult for members of the community who relied on it.
“It really, it kind of hurt people last year when we had to cancel it,” Langdon said. “The people who come here to get this help are people who want to be able to meet in person and interact with people in person. A lot of the people who come in are people who are not comfortable with technology, they’re not comfortable filing their taxes online.”
This year, VITA is the only in-person programming the library is hosting, with socially distanced tables, partitions and extra sanitization.
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Shelby Ann Webb, a USD law student who volunteers with the program, said volunteers use a software program called TaxSlayer, which streamlines the process of inputting filer’s information, which is helpful considering the changes to the tax code implemented in the recent federal stimulus bill.
“A lot of those tax legislation things that have come in the past year automatically get inputted into the system especially with the most recent one that just happened like a week or two ago,” Webb said. “So luckily the system for us does it automatically as tax preparers though we are also trained so we know what it should be doing.”
The program helps filers below an income threshold of $57,000 per year, in addition to the elderly and those who speak English as a second language. Webb said the program has volunteers who speak multiple languages in addition to a service called Language Link, which helps provide services in over 100 languages.
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Webb said the program is on track to help as many people as in previous years, which was a concern considering the extension of the filing deadline. The program is not able to be extended to accommodate the new federal deadline.
“We are all law students, for us it starts to get into finals,” Webb said. “So we unfortunately cannot extend our end date of the VITA program, but we have been here since February.”
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Webb encourages those who haven’t filed taxes and meet the requirements for VITA to use the service before April 6. Information is available on the Vermillion Public Library website.