According to Legal Services in North Dakota, one reason for low-income households to free income tax preparation helps them avoid paying high fees for a business to get the job done and negating any tax refunds. (Adobe Stock)
February 25, 2021
BELCOURT, ND – Despite the recent explosion in the Arctic and the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, a North Dakota group is advocating low-income residents in tribal areas to fill out their tax returns.
Legal Services of North Dakota is working again with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide free assistance.
Each weekday during tax season, a volunteer is available by appointment at either the Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation or the Spirit Lake Reservation.
North Dakota tribal lawyer Rhonda Belgarde-Baker said there were traditional barriers to filing some of these returns, including internet access, and this year she’ll need to get creative to respect security.
“Customers have to wait in their vehicles while their return is prepared,” said Belgarde-Baker. “And then I have to go to your vehicle and walk back line by line.”
She added that some parts of the winter the volunteer work was done in sub-zero temperatures.
But Belgarde-Baker, who has been doing this for more than 15 years, noted that she is making an effort to keep going not only for tribal members but also for the remote communities that surround the reservations.
No walk-ins will be accepted due to legal advice identified due to the pandemic.
Belgrade-Baker stressed that tax law changes and the elimination of confusion are another important element of the service. This includes determining whether the customer is still waiting for a federal incentive payment.
“They may have received payment number one, but for some reason they did not receive payment number two,” Belgrade-Baker clarified.
Because of its partnership with the IRS, Legal Services has the software to look up important details.
She stressed that determining if a person is still eligible for a payment is crucial as it can affect what they might receive or owe on this year’s taxes.
Customers must meet income requirements to receive assistance. Appointments can be made by calling 800-634-5263.
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