Since 2006, White Earth Investment Initiative has hosted a free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site at the Shooting Star Casino where taxpayers can have their returns prepared at no charge by trained community volunteers. In 2021, WEII’s VITA sites prepared more than 500 federal returns and facilitated the return of more than $1 million to the community by way of federal tax refunds in addition to collectively saving taxpayers more than $130,000 in tax preparation fees. In addition to operating its site at the Shooting Star Casino, WEII also operated tax sites in Pine Point and at Boys & Girls Club in Detroit Lakes.
Community volunteers are key to the success of the VITA program. Volunteers help low- and moderate-income community members meet their tax obligations quickly and easily. Many VITA clients qualify for important tax credits – such as the federal Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit – as well as the Minnesota Working Family Tax Credit and K-12 Education Subtraction and Credit. Tax filers may also be eligible for federal educational tax credits like the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. VITA volunteers strive to ensure taxpayers receive all the credits they are eligible for.
We expect demand for tax services to be higher than normal during the 2022 tax season. Changes to the Child Tax Credit for tax year 2021 mean that more people are likely to need to file a tax return, including people without earned income who are raising dependents that are 17 years old or younger. Volunteers are needed more than ever. — Paul Haarstick, WEII’s VITA Coordinator
White Earth Investment Initiative is seeking new community members to assist with tax preparation in 2022 at its locations in Mahnomen, Pine Point, and Detroit Lakes. After receiving specialized tax training, volunteers work directly with community members to complete tax returns accurately and confidentially. All training is provided by WEII. In addition, tax volunteers receive reimbursement for mileage to training and the tax sites.
“The tax returns prepared at our sites are not complex, so volunteers do not need to have any prior tax knowledge or training. Our staff provides thorough training and is always present at the tax sites to offer support when volunteers have questions. Our volunteers have a lot of fun and have an enormous impact in our communities,” said Sue Trnka, Community Services Coordinator for WEII.
Training dates have not yet been scheduled, but WEII anticipates offering in-person and virtual training beginning in early December. Anyone interested in volunteering at WEII’s tax sites should contact Paul Haarstick at 218-844-7057 or [email protected].
The tax site is a service of the White Earth Investment Initiative and is made possible by Shooting Star Casino, Hotel & Event Center, Pine Point Community Council, Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation, the Internal Revenue Service, Minnesota Department of Revenue, Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition, and Wells Fargo. WEII is an equal opportunity provider and employer.