VITA a helpful service
Jan 27, 2013 | 461 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CLAUDIUS PRATT, a Lee University accounting student, assists Michelle Biller, a Georgetown resident who works as a courier for FedEx, with her federal income taxes as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  Banner Photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
CLAUDIUS PRATT, a Lee University accounting student, assists Michelle Biller, a Georgetown resident who works as a courier for FedEx, with her federal income taxes as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Banner Photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
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Except for those anticipating a refund, few people eagerly anticipate filing their tax returns once W-2 forms begin arriving in mailboxes or are hand-delivered by employers.

Such dread, however, is not always about the money. Sometimes it’s about the complicated paperwork, understanding the wording of the questions and often it’s a matter for some busy income earners of just having the time to sit still at home long enough to complete the necessary documents, whether electronically or paper.

It is with good reason then that tax-return specialists and professional firms compete for business by offering the best deals on tax-return services. Most, although not all, are offered at a price depending on the complexity of the tax return and accompanying paperwork.

One whose tax preparation service is free is the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program which is operated locally in a partnership between IRS and the Lee University Department of Business. The service is available for any taxpayer whose maximum gross annual income does not exceed $50,000.

Now in its seventh year, Lee’s VITA program is becoming more and more popular among those who qualify for its assistance. The VITA service is now available every Friday and Saturday through April 13. Friday hours are 2:30 to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The assistance is being provided at the Walker Memorial Building in Room 107.

IRS-certified students at Lee University — just juniors and seniors — are serving as the tax return specialists who will sit down with area residents in need of their assistance.

The unique program comes with dual benefits.

First, eligible residents who meet the income guidelines and who are not comfortable completing their own tax returns are the primary beneficiaries. Working through VITA, they are receiving a trusted service thanks to the talents of business students who are being made available by the university that is preparing them for their future careers.

Second, the students themselves are benefiting because they are receiving a rare opportunity at providing a hands-on service to real people who have real needs using real forms and whose end product involves real money. These business students are getting the chance to work one-on-one with clients, and in many cases this is the very type of career they will be entering upon graduation.

Greg Della Franco, assistant professor of accounting at Lee University and who coordinates the VITA program on campus, points out Lee is especially proud to offer the service because it is a needed outreach to the college’s surrounding community.

“This free tax preparation service is to the advantage of many of our neighbors,” he said.

His assessment is accurate. The growing Lee campus is bordered on all sides by area households who qualify for this type of help. Some are elderly residents. Some are low- to lower-middle income. Some are average families, and individuals, who simply aren’t comfortable dealing with government forms and tax returns.

All are legitimate customers. Each has a viable need for such services.

The VITA program will file all tax returns to the IRS electronically which means refunds will be generated more quickly as opposed to paper returns. As would most tax services, VITA encourages area residents to file their returns as quickly as possible.

For additional information about VITA, or the program’s process, contact Franco at 423-614-8667, or send him an email at gdellafranco@leeuniversity.edu.

VITA is a proven, time-tested and community-friendly initiative. We encourage those who are eligible to consider its service.