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LATI Receives IRS Honors; Offers Free Tax Filing Services

Posted on: January 29, 2014   |   Category: News

In recognition of its contributions during the 2013 tax filing season, Lake Area Technical College has been named the South Dakota VITA Site of the Year by the Internal Revenue Service.

For more than 20 years, second-year students in LATI’s Financial Services program have participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program that offers free basic income tax filing services to members of the public who meet program guidelines. The VITA Site of the Year Award is awarded to a South Dakota VITA site that demonstrates filing accuracy in addition to the number of completed returns. VITA sites include community centers, libraries, schools, malls, and other convenient locations.  Last year, there were 65 VITA sites in South Dakota including LATI. The IRS also named LATI the SD Site of the Year, which recognizes the top performing site in all categories.

Sally Solum, LATI Financial Services Department Supervisor, said the students are well-prepared through coursework, but they must also pass a rigorous national VITA certification examination prior to the filing season. “Studying for and taking the national exam not only educates the students on tax laws and filing procedures, but it addresses all aspects of working with the public including ethics and interview techniques.”

Solum said approximately 200 customers a year come to LATI for the tax service. She said it’s a win-win situation for everyone as students are introduced to the professional aspects of working with customers during this service-learning experience, and the customers are able to obtain tax filing assistance free of charge from VITA-certified students.  Before filing occurs, a quality review process is completed on each return.

“As an instructor, I couldn’t begin to write out all of the different tax situations that our students face when our customers walk through the door,” Solum said. “It’s a great experience for everyone.”

The Financial Services program students will begin taking VITA customers on February 4. Walk-ins are welcome from noon until 3 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays in room 203on campus through March 6. Customers who make less than $52,000 and need assistance in preparing their tax returns are welcome to take part in the program.