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Free tax preparation provided by WITC

For the 2011 tax year, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) student and alumni tax preparers at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College-New Richmond prepared more than 130 tax returns for people in the area at no cost and returned in excess of $185,000 in refunds.

The service provides an option for those who cannot afford a paid tax preparer and/or don't feel comfortable preparing their own return.

This year marks two decades of free tax preparation at WITC. The project started strictly with volunteers, but about 10 years ago a two-credit course was developed, which trains students in a service-learning environment.

"Participation has continued to grow over the years, but particularly in the last few," said WITC accounting/finance instructor Tom Pedersen.

He credits this success to the enthusiastic participation by WITC income tax preparation students who receive course credit for their efforts, as well as the generous volunteer efforts of WITC Accounting alumni.

VITA provides free tax preparation for low income taxpayers on a walk-in basis during the weeks before Tax Day. This year the preparers were available Monday evenings from mid-February until the second week in April.

WITC New Richmond offers more than 35 programs and awards two-year associate degrees, one- and two-year technical diplomas and a variety of short-term certificates. In addition, WITC provides customized training and technical assistance to the business and industrial community. The college has four campuses, including Ashland, New Richmond, Rice Lake and Superior. The website is: