VITA program offer low-to-middle income families free tax service

Graphic by Casey French

Morgan Kulzer
Assistant Editor

Accounting majors at Briar Cliff University are given the opportunity to do taxes for low-to-middle income families through a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). 

The program is through the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and gives students actual accounting experience says Susan Udey, adjunct professor of accounting. 

“It is a good community service these students are doing; it is a free tax preparation. So it gives them both a volunteer aspect and a real world working aspect,” says Udey. 

Through this program the students submit over 100 federal tax returns. 

“I could not tell you how many state tax returns [we submit] because some people do not have a state income tax, such as [those living in] South Dakota,” says Udey. “And some people are submitting in both the state they live in and the state they work in, like Iowa and Nebraska.”

Going between two states is something junior Jessica Geer knows all too well. 

“The first year [in college] I had to do taxes from Michigan to Kansas and then I had to do from Kansas to Iowa,” says Geer. 

Geer has held jobs in all three states and therefore had to file taxes for all three states. These jobs include everything from working at American Eagle Outfitters to being a certified nursing assistant. To avoid any stress Geer says she has her dad to help her through the taxes process. 

“Generally my dad does them for me,” says Geer. “He made me walk through it last year so I saw all the questions and I answered everything, but he was there with me. I had never really been prepared to do that in high school, it was just a dreaded thing you made your dad do. He generally handles it no problem but I hate math.”

Udey understands that most students do not have the means to pay for someone to do their taxes so her advice: go online. 

“Go out online and pretty much do any federal tax, free,” says Udey. “You can go to each state’s department of revenue and usually get the forms to do the state tax. You can do those yourself, free also. There are some states that do not have state income tax like Texas, Florida, and Washington. We can do their federal tax because they do not have a state return.” 

Students working the VITA program are required to take Federal Tax I, which is the course that covers individual taxes. They then go through a three day training period in which a representative from the AARP Internal Revenue Service (IRS) walks them through the program they are currently using. 

“All programs have their little [quirks],” says Udey, “and so they had to learn that program in order to do the taxes. They could be skilled to do taxes, but it takes a while for them to start understanding what they have to do for a particular program.”

While Geer says that the VITA program is a great opportunity for students, she personally would not use the service. 

“My dad and I communicate so closely when we do taxes, it just is a little bit easier on me and he knows everything that I need to have,” says Geer. 

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Submitted by braunschweigc on Wed, 02/13/2013 - 16:31

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