Local/state briefs

Free tax preparation sites now open across Minnesota

With income tax season recently opening, the Minnesota Department of Revenue announced the opening of more than 220 sites offering free tax assistance for those filing income tax and property tax refund returns. Most sites are open now through April 17.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and AARP Tax-Aide programs are two free tax preparation options where volunteers help taxpayers prepare their federal and state income and property tax returns.

All volunteers from both programs are certified by the Internal Revenue Service to prepare basic tax returns in communities throughout Minnesota.

In general, you can get help at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site if any of the following are true:

You are age 60 or older

You are a person with a disability

You speak limited or no English

Your annual income is less than $54,000

The AARP Tax-Aide program offers free tax preparation for all taxpayers, particularly those who are age 50 or older. AARP Tax-Aide sites do not have income restrictions.

“These free tax preparations sites are available across the state and feature hundreds of certified volunteers who offer their time to ensure taxpayers are able to file accurately and on time,” said Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly. “We encourage qualifying taxpayers to take advantage of these sites before the April 17 tax filing deadline.”

You can search for a site near you on the department’s website using an advanced search feature and an interactive map. The feature has search options by zip code or county, as well as sites with interpreters and volunteers certified to complete military returns. The interactive map has search options by city, county, or ZIP code.

Be sure to print off the list of items to bring with you when visiting a site.

You can also call 651-297-3724 or 1-800-657-3989 (toll-free) to search for a site by phone.

Learn more about free tax preparation sites available in Minnesota by viewing this short video.

Follow the department on Facebook and Twitter or sign up for their email subscription list to get their latest news and updates.

United Way of Southwest Minnesota Community Impact grants open

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. In southwest Minnesota, the focus is on health, education, financial stability, hunger and safety & well-being. The 2018 Community Impact Grants are now open and must address at least one of United Way of Southwest Minnesota’s (UWSWMN) priorities. Programs must be delivered in Lincoln, Lyon, Murray, Yellow Medicine and/or portions of Cottonwood, Lac qui Parle, Nobles and Redwood counties. To see the detailed list of communities and zip codes covered by UWSWMN, determine eligibility and access the online grant platform; please visit www.unitedwayswmn.org (Our Impact tab — Community Impact Grants section).

The grant application deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, April 2. All applications must be submitted online and extensions will not be granted. Applications that do not align, are late and/or incomplete will not be considered for UWSWMN funding. All grant applications will be reviewed by a team of trained community volunteers who will make recommendations on funding to the UWSWMN board of directors. Grant funding comes from donations given to UWSWMN during its recent fundraising campaign.

United Way of Southwest Minnesota will hold grant workshops and demo the new online grant platform (no paper submissions will be accepted) on Thursday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, March 6. RSVPs are required for planning purposes by emailing unitedway@unitedwayswmn.org or by calling 507-929-2273. Workshops are free and will be held at the Marshall-Lyon County Library from 9-10:30 a.m. Sessions are not mandatory, but are intended to be helpful for applicants.

Charges upgraded in boy’s death on Chisago Lake

CHISAGO CITY (AP) — A man accused of operating his snowmobile while drunk and striking an 8-year-old boy on a Chisago County lake is facing new charges because the child has died.

Forty-five-year-old Eric Coleman is now facing criminal vehicular homicide, criminal vehicular operation and drunken driving. Alan Geisenkoetter Jr., of Wyoming, died Wednesday night at the hospital. The second-grader was critically injured a week ago when he was struck and dragged by a snowmobile on Chisago Lake where he was going ice fishing with his family.

Coleman also faced drunken driving charges in Anoka County filed in November.