Student Volunteers to Prepare Tax Returns
Posted on January 28, 2022 by Lance Crawford
University of South Alabama upper division accounting students will be a part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program providing free basic tax preparation for individuals and families with household incomes of less than $58,000, or persons with disabilities.
The program, also known as VITA, is a nationwide initiative by the Internal Revenue Service and has operated for more than 50 years. South has provided a partner site for the last six years.
“The student’s role is to run all aspects of the VITA site as if it were a professional tax preparation office, similar to what they may experience after graduation and entering the workforce as a staff accountant in a public accounting firm,” said James Rich, assistant professor of accounting in the Mitchell College of Business.
The student volunteers will interview clients, prepare tax returns from client provided documentation, and review the tax returns prepared by their peer VITA volunteers. They receive internship credit that satisfies the experiential learning requirement toward a bachelor's degree.
“All South Alabama student volunteers have taken and passed IRS-sponsored training in Advanced Tax Preparation as well as Ethical Codes of Conduct,” Rich said. “These students have the knowledge and ability to accurately prepare and file basic tax returns.”
As an alternative to in-person tax preparation assistance, individuals or families with a household income less than $73,000 may receive free tax filing software by obtaining a link to the software from the VITA site coordinator for self-preparation. Limited assistance from the South VITA volunteers may also be provided over the telephone for those who choose this option.
The VITA program can save tax filers a substantial amount of money, Rich says.
“On average, national tax preparation fees range from $220 for basic federal tax preparation to well over $300 once state returns and supplemental schedules are added. Alabama has a state income tax, which the South Alabama VITA site will file as well,” he said.
The tax returns will be prepared at the Mitchell College of Business, Room 147. Appointments are required and can be made at their VITA website.
Filers must bring the following documents before their returns can be prepared.
- All w-2s, 1099s, or other proof of income
- Proof of any deductions to be claimed
- Proof of tuition payment for students
- A copy of all 2020 Tax Forms
- A valid driver's license
- Social Security cards of the taxpayer and spouse and any other dependents you plan to claim on your 2020 tax return
- A completed IRS Intake Form, which may be found at Form 13614-C.
If you have any questions, contact the VITA site coordinator prior to your visit.
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