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National tax return program once again coming to Perham, other cities [UPDATED]

Published 9:57am Tuesday, January 7, 2014 Updated 12:00pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

When program organizers asked Jamie Robertson and the New York Mills Cultural Center to play a leading role in this year’s regional tax-return program, he did not hesitate.

“We see it as part of the role we have as community servants basically,” Robertson said.

That role will extend to serving as the fiscal host and financial manager of a free income tax assistance program in Otter Tail and Wadena counties. The city of Perham serves as one of the sites for the program, along with New York Mills and Wadena.

The program allows for low and moderate income and senior citizen taxpayers to receive free assistance with their tax returns. The returns are handled electronically and participants are given a paper receipt after their returns are filed.

This program relies on volunteers such as Robertson and there will be no shortage of them this year.

Lynette Henderson, a coordinator of the program in both counties, said there are six people signed up to work the program in Perham.

These volunteers are asked to spend a minimum of four hours a week at the site, but Henderson said they will often ask to work more. They also have to go through a month of training before they can be cleared to assist people.

These sacrifices are not overlooked or forgotten by program organizers.

“It’s really nice to be able to provide free taxes to those who can’t afford them,” she said.

Many who take advantage of the program are older, according to Robertson. He also said that the program is meant to help people who have less complex tax returns; those with more advanced returns should seek professional help.

In the past, the program has been responsible for 500-600 returns in the three cities, Henderson said.

Perham tends to be the busiest of the three sites, which is why it has the most volunteers each year as well.

The program runs for 11-12 weeks, during which there are a few busier periods, according to Henderson.

“It’s really busy to start out with … and then the procrastinators will come in those last two weeks,” she said.

But Robertson and the other volunteers will be more than happy to help anyone who comes for help during tax season.

Volunteer training begins today for those in Perham, New York Mills and Wadena.

Perham’s program begins Feb. 5 and runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Wednesday until tax day at the In Their Own Words Veterans Museum.

New York Mills volunteers will be based at The Creamery and will work from 12:15 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday beginning Feb. 4. Wadena volunteers will work from 1 to 4 p.m. each Thursday beginning Feb. 6 at the Wadena Senior Center.

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