Business & Society

USU Extension Agent's Tax Preparation Method Promoted by IRS

The Internal Revenue Service recently paid a visit to Provo to see Utah State University Cooperative Extension agent Dean Miner. In most cases, no one wants a visit from the IRS. However, in this case it was welcomed.

Miner is the lead in the development of a new procedure called Remote File which will make the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program more accessible to rural taxpayers. The IRS sent a film crew to interview Miner for an informational DVD to be distributed to IRS partners and VITA coalitions nationwide. Remote File was one of only two new rural tax preparation methods the IRS chose to promote. Remote File takes advantage of online technologies to compensate for the lack of certified volunteers in rural counties while still meeting strict IRS tax preparation guidelines.

“The Internal Revenue Service is promoting the idea because it can be adopted by coalitions nationwide,” said Ben Hennick, IRS stakeholder, partnerships, education and communication (SPEC) partner to the Mountainland VITA Coalition. “It provides a way to overcome the lack of certified volunteers in rural areas.”

 
Miner said that the VITA program provides free income tax preparation for low and moderate income individuals and families. Standard VITA guidelines require taxpayers to meet directly with an IRS certified volunteer at a VITA tax site. But three years ago, the IRS determined that while a greater proportion of rural residents qualified for VITA help, the availability of the program is much lower in rural areas, mainly due to the difficulty of recruiting certified volunteers.

To address this issue, the IRS established a rural initiative to find solutions to support rural taxpayers. Because of Miner’s initial work with Remote File, the IRS changed its VITA guidelines to allow for non-face-to-face tax preparation assistance in rural communities.

“We are pleased that Dean has taken the lead in this valuable project and the IRS is promoting Remote File,” said Diane Reese, USU Cooperative Extension’s northern region director. “Through his work, we have a procedure that maintains the integrity and accuracy of the filing process while saving time and money for taxpayers living in our rural counties.”

For the past four years, Miner has worked with the Mountainland VITA Coalition and USU Extension agents in Nephi, Moab, Coalville and Heber City to refine the Remote File procedure.

“The Extension offices in these communities have been the host for the Remote File tax sites since their offices have the necessary technology, flexible office environments and are a familiar venue to the rural community,” Miner said. “Accounting students from the Beta Alpha Psi chapter at BYU have been key in the initiation and development of Remote File. These students have done a majority of the actual tax return preparation from the beginning stages.”

Miner said the procedure for Remote File tax preparation is quite simple. The taxpayer makes an appointment through his or her local USU Extension office or via a statewide 2-1-1 referral number. Once there, he or she meets with a non-certified volunteer and completes an intake form that is scanned and uploaded along with all tax documents to a secure document management website. The taxpayer is then connected via the Internet to a certified tax preparer in Provo and watches the return preparation from the rural site. When the return is complete, it is reviewed by a second certified volunteer at the preparation site in Provo. Once completed, the volunteer at the rural site prints a copy of the return for the taxpayer and obtains the needed authorization signatures to have the return e-filed from the preparation site.

Marcee Young of Utah County United Way is coordinator for the Mountainland VITA Coalition and served as a tax preparer for the rural sites last year. She said the process works well.
 
“I was able to prepare returns for people in Nephi or Kamas while sitting at my desk in Provo, which saves travel time and money. The taxpayers were comfortable working with me, even though we were miles apart. With Remote File, we have been able to reach hundreds of taxpayers we otherwise could not have helped.”

For more information on Remote File, contact Miner at 801-851-8469 or dean.miner@usu.edu.
 
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Writer: Julene Reese, 435-797-0810, julene.reese@usu.edu
Contact: Dean Miner, 801-851-8469, dean.miner@usu.edu
Dean Miner

Utah State University Cooperative Extension agent Dean Miner

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