Volunteers help community with taxes

Michael+Meyer%2C+junior+accounting+and+finance+major%2C+prepares+a+tax+return+for+Britteny+Strup+Feb.+28.%0A

Michael Meyer, junior accounting and finance major, prepares a tax return for Britteny Strup Feb. 28.

Meagan Pietrzak

With the April 17 tax deadline quickly approaching, students can have VITA come to their rescue.

The tax-preparation assistance service is free to local community members. The service known as the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is located in between CarbonStar and St. John’s Quick Lab in the old main entrance of the Northpark Mall.

VITA has already served more than 1,500 people throughout the community. It is sponsored by the IRS and is composed of Missouri Southern students and other volunteers.

“It is a great opportunity for the students who are volunteering to get experience,” said Marie Dame, VITA coordinator.

Student volunteers have learned tax preparation through Southern courses including Income Tax I, or equivalent, and VITA training, including training on the TaxWise Software that is used to file. There are currently 12 students volunteering.

VITA offers a number of services. It will e-file federal and state personal tax returns.

“You don’t even have to have pay for a stamp to mail it in,” said Betty Harris, student advisor.

However, VITA cannot file business returns nor can they help students with the FAFSA.

If students are interested in VITA’s services, they should bring relevant tax information such as W-2s, bank interest statements, social security cards and children’s cards, if necessary. Bringing last year’s tax returns can also be useful.

“It really is easier for students to come here and have it done, than for them to do it online,” Dame said.

For the student volunteers, the experience provides knowledge and competence in tax preparation. Students also utilize communication skills through interviewing clients.

“It’s like a mini-internship with tax experience using real tax returns and real tax payers,” Harris said. “It’s an excellent opportunity for students to have experience with ‘clients’ and applying the tax law you’ve been exposed to while getting college credit. Plus, it helps you get a job after graduation.”

The hours of service are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Friday excluding Wednesdays through the month of March and with evening hours on Thursdays until 7 p.m.

The free service will be available until April 17. Appointments are not needed.

For more information, call Betty Harris at 625-9866 or VITA at 781-2337.