April may still seem like a long way off, but it’s not too soon for many Americans to begin thinking about filing their tax returns. Tax preparation can be a complex business, and not everyone can afford to hire the services of a CPA to help them with the process. The good news is that help is available for those who cannot afford professional assistance, and it may be as close as your neighborhood community college. By enlisting the help of a college student who is majoring in the accounting field, you can get expert advice without paying a fortune for the service.
Tax assistance at the local community college is generally offered through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, also known as VITA. According to the IRS website, this program is available to anyone who earns $50,000 or less and requires assistance filing their tax returns. The volunteers that work with VITA are trained in IRS guidelines and are IRS certified to offer tax advice on issues such as earned income tax credit, child tax credits, and other tax deductions.
Those that work on the community college campus are often accounting students from the school, but other volunteers may be working in that particular office as well. Many of this year’s VITA programs are already up and running, allowing many who qualify for the services a head start on this year’s tax return. Many offices provide free electronic filing, so those that use their services can receive potential refunds as quickly as possible.
This video explains the VITA tax preparation program.
Edmonds Community College
According to the Edmonds Patch, Edmonds Community College offered tax assistance to more than 400 Washington residents last year. This year, the volunteer team sponsored by VITA is planning to help many more who qualify for free tax advice in the Edmonds community. Residents can begin dropping into the office at Edmonds Community College on February 7, and services will continue until March 16. The ECC office will be closed between March 17 and April 2, since that is the scheduled spring break for the school. Services will resume on April 3 and continue right up to tax day. Assistance will be offered in many languages, including Spanish, Albanian, Chinese, Korean, and Russian.
Pueblo Community College
Students at Pueblo Community College will be offering their tax services at a number of locations throughout the city of Pueblo during tax season this year. According to The Chieftain, tax help sessions began this week, and run weekly on Saturdays and Thursday evenings until tax day. The program is offered through VITA but is locally sponsored by the United Way of Pueblo County in Colorado. No appointments are necessary to use the services, which will run through April 13.
Front Range Community College
Front Range Community College has offered its facilities to VITA to provide tax assistance to Northern Colorado residents for the eighth straight year. This service is available on a walk-in basis for four hours every Saturday. The office will be closed on March 17 and March 24, when the college is on spring break. Students and instructors from the Front Range, as well as members of the community, will be available to answer questions and provide tax filing assistance.
“Last year, we helped more than 250 people electronically file their tax returns,” Deb Craven, chair of the school’s business department, stated in a press release at the Front Range Community College website. “We processed about $435,000 of federal and state income tax refunds to people through electronic filing. This is a lot of money for people who really need it.”
This video offers another explanation of the VITA program.
Moultrie Technical College
In the past, Colquitt County residents have found VITA services to be very helpful indeed, with more than $200,000 returned through the services last year, according to the Moultrie Observer. This year, the majority of VITA’s tax help will be provided on the campus of Moultrie Technical College, although other offices will also be open throughout the area.
“A Community of Opportunity grant from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs matched by funds from the city and the county allowed VITA to get a foothold in Colquitt County,” Lori Glenn, director of Colquitt County Family Connection, told the Moultrie Observer. “With the commitment from a few dedicated entities, particularly Moultrie Tech, UGA Extension, and the Y, we’re able to carry on. The coalition strives to help low- and middle-income families understand their finances and what tax credits they qualify for, especially earned income and child tax credits.”
Bunker Hill Community College
Bunker Hill Community College is another VITA location for residents of Bean Town. According to the Bunker Hill Community College website, this school is offering free tax services Tuesdays through Saturdays, from January 31 to April 17. The college is closed on Saturday, March 17, so no services will be provided on that day. Appointments are available, but walk-in assistance is also provided.
Those interested in taking advantage of the free tax services at a community college in their area should bring the following with them:
- A copy of last year’s tax return
- A photo ID
- Social security cards for every person included on the tax return
- Earning statements, including a W-2 or 1099 from each employer
- Interest and dividend statements
- Receipts for child care expenses
- Bank routing and account numbers
- Retirement income forms
By preparing for your appointment, you can ensure the tax preparation process goes as quickly as possible. Now is the time to take advantage of free tax services at a community college near you!
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