When Paul Tieskoetter moved to Rochester 42 years ago, he didn’t expect to stay long. That plan changed, though, as he got a good job, met his future wife, settled down, and had a couple of children. “It's a great place to live,” he concluded, “a great place to work.”
Paul’s background is in finance. He began his career in public accounting, moved on to work for the Kahler Corporation, and wound up in banking, but “throughout the years, I've always been involved in some form of community service,” he said. This dedication to his community has included seats on the boards of local organizations, including United Way of Olmsted County’s Board of Directors.
Fast facts about VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance):
To schedule an appointment, call United Way’s 211 resource line by simply dialing 2-1-1
Entirely volunteer-led program
Volunteer tax preparers go through 60-80 hours of training and receive certification from the IRS
Program sponsors are Salvation Army and 125 LIVE
VITA served around 3,000 taxpayers in Southeast Minnesota last year at sites around the region
Paul had friends who retired before he did who got involved with VITA and spoke highly of it. He had also heard about the program around town and had participated in a similar program as an accounting major in college. “So then when I retired, I thought it was just a good way for me to give back,” Paul shared. “And now I'm in my third year of doing it.”
“So then when I retired, I thought it was just a good way for me to give back, and now I'm in my third year of doing it.”
When we spoke, Paul was just finishing this year’s tax preparer training and getting set to start appointments on February 1. It’s been a very good experience, a tangible way for Paul to use his skillset to give back to the community, and specifically to neighbors who earn $80,000 or less per year.
“The people are very, very appreciative of how we can help them,” Paul said. “I have been the recipient of a few hugs from some participants that come in, which makes you feel good that you're there and you're really helping them, and providing a really, really needed service.”
“As you know, when you live in this country, if you have a certain level of income, you're required to file a tax return,” Paul continued. “And if you're not familiar with it, [it can] scare you to death.” Getting help with filing a return can be a costly endeavor, but VITA helps individuals “meet that obligation to get their taxes done, and it also helps them to secure tax credits that are available through the federal government and through the state of Minnesota ... and get an additional refund related to it” – all for free. Plus, volunteers are “careful not to give them unnecessary advice, but ... we can give them some options that will help them for going forward,” Paul said.
“The 211 program makes it easy to schedule an appointment.”
VITA volunteer tax preparers like Paul file participants’ returns electronically, which typically takes an hour or two – “and by electronically filing, if they're getting a refund, they'll usually get that within a week to 10 days. Who can't use a little extra money?”
“The 211 program makes it easy to schedule an appointment,” Paul advises taxpayers. “We also have a fantastic website, so if you're not quite sure how it works, you can go to the website ... get that obligation taken care of and get some peace of mind.”
About United Way of Olmsted County
United Way of Olmsted County (UWOC) is a community change organization with the mission to unite people and resources to improve lives in our community. We fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community in a variety of ways: we collaborate with local organizations, businesses, and community leaders to mobilize their expertise and resources; we accelerate impact by strengthening systems and cultivating leaders to build a community where all people can thrive, regardless of race or place; and we participate in a collective effort that empowers local residents to create lasting transformations in their own communities through our focus on community-driven change.
United Way of Olmsted County