CARBONDALE, Ill. — Area residents can have their income tax preparation done for free this year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, courtesy of a group of trained student volunteers.
Beta Alpha Psi, an SIU College of Business honors accounting student organization, is once again sponsoring the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2019 to assist low-and moderate-income community members and fellow students in completing their tax returns.
Tax prep sessions start Feb. 9
The VITA program kicks off on Feb. 9 and virtually every Saturday thereafter, through April 6. Free tax preparation help will be available from 8 a.m. until noon in the computer lab on the lower level of Rehn Hall, located at 1025 Lincoln Drive. There will be no sessions on March 9 or 16 due to the university’s spring break.
Students are well-trained to provide this service
Jared Nicholas, a master of accountancy student, and Joshua Hill, a junior accounting major, are the program coordinators for 2019. They participated in advanced training to prepare for their leadership roles.
They will oversee a team of about 25 accounting and law students who will prepare the tax returns at no cost to qualifying community members and SIU students. The free tax preparation service also includes free electronic filing.
Each of the students participating in this community service project is an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer and has completed mandatory ethics and basic tax examination courses. The VITA coordinators will also be on hand to review all returns and assist with any questions.
Students get valuable experience while providing important community service
In addition, Benna Williams, a School of Accountancy lecturer and former tax practitioner who also serves as Beta Alpha Psi’s faculty adviser, along with other faculty, will be on hand to offer their expertise.
“I am so happy we are able to provide VITA services to our community,” Williams said. “The students love helping the taxpayers by providing this free service to them. It is also a valuable benefit for the students and they are learning early how important it is to give back to the community.”
Students have provided this valuable service to area residents for more than 25 years. Last year alone, volunteers completed more than 200 tax returns – all at no cost.
No appointments are required during the tax sessions but services are provided on a first-come, first served basis. Sessions end at noon so latecomers may be asked to return the following week. Most tax returns are completed in an hour or less.
VITA assistance is open to any U.S. citizen, whether single or married, as long as their income does not exceed $55,000 and they take the standard federal deduction. All American SIU students who meet the income guideline can also get help; organizers note that VITA is no longer able to serve international students so they will need to reach out to tax professionals for help.
Although a few tax situations may exceed the scope of the aid provided by VITA, the volunteers can assist with most typical tax situations, including those involving wages and earnings from self-employment, interest and unemployment income, Social Security benefits, dividends and returns that involve child tax, education or earned income credits.
Bring necessary documentation
To avail themselves of the VITA services, taxpayers need to bring to the session they are attending legal identification, such as a driver’s license or passport, as well as all other current tax documents. That includes W-2s, SSA-1099s, 1099-MISCs or 1098-Ts as well as any other relevant documentation. People should also bring their Form 1095-B or some other proof of insurance so as to avoid a penalty for not having health insurance, because the insurance requirement is still in place for 2018 tax returns.
For more information, email SIUVITA2019@gmail.com or call 618/453-2289.