IRS-Certified Students Again to Provide Free Tax Preparation Assistance

January 7, 2019
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VITA Is a Signature Hands-On Learning Experience

As tax season approaches, 19 Wilmington College students are looking forward to assisting persons in Clinton and surrounding counties in preparing their annual tax returns.

PICTURED: Last spring, seniors Tara Karnes (RIGHT) and Tabby Williamson look over a tax return before approving it for filing. Tara served as the student site coordinator and graduated in May with an accounting job in her pocket.

Last year, the students secured a 100 percent IRS rating in completing 150 tax returns — free of charge — as a community service that gives the accounting and business majors a valuable hands-on learning opportunity.

Allen Beatty, CPA, assistant professor of accounting and IRS Enrolled Agent/Site Manager, will again supervise the group, which includes more student workers than last year. Beatty noted how impressed both he and the IRS were with their tax preparation work in 2018.

“Last year far exceeded what I thought we could do,” he said, noting the 150 completed returns eclipsed 82 in 2017, which, at the time, was notable. “This goes beyond professor and students. I look at them as co-workers, like when I was back in the corporate world.”

He added that the seniors from last year have been placed successfully in their fields-of-choice since graduation, and their experience with the tax preparation program was likely an appealing attribute to employers and graduate schools.

The IRS-certified, volunteer tax preparers will offer this service as part of the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). Wilmington College hosts a VITA site that offers tax help to persons of low and moderate income who, generally, make less than $55,000, as well as taxpayers with disabilities or with limited English-speaking skills.

The students will provide basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. This service generally includes basic returns of wage earners (W-2) and retirees (1099-R and Social Security), who might also have such additional forms of income as interest, dividends (1099-INT, DIV) and unemployment (1099-G).

Preparation of a limited amount of itemized returns (Schedule A with home mortgage, interest, charitable contributions, medical expenses, etc.) will also be available, along with those featuring such popular credits as Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Retirement Savers Credit, etc. Also, this year, the students will be able to work with taxpayers claiming capital gains and losses, and those with self-employment income, in addition to being able to do limited small business returns and assist the College’s international students with their tax returns.

Beatty mentioned 2018 featured the greatest tax law changes in his career. including an increase in the standard deduction, so they will review receipts and documents to determine whether their clients should itemize deductions. Also, there is no longer a personal or dependent exemption, however the child tax credit has been doubled and a family member credit has been implemented.

All student volunteer preparers have passed at least three levels of IRS certification and some also have taken Beatty’s tax accounting course. New this year are students designated as “greeters,” who, while having completed a lesser level of certification, will be able to assist in keeping the process as efficient as possible.

Junior Shelbi Long, a veteran VITA site preparer, will serve as student site supervisor and assist Beatty in managing the College’s VITA site.

Hours of operation will be Tuesday and Thursday evenings, from 5 to 8 p.m., between Jan. 29 and April 11, and on Saturdays, Feb. 9, March 2 and April 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. Sessions will be held in WC’s Center for the Sciences and Agriculture, corner of College and Elm streets.

More information is available by contacting Beatty at al_beatty@wilmington.edu or (937) 481-2390, while appointments can be scheduled with Long at 567.217.1008 or via email at shelbi.i.long@wilmington.edu.

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