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Published January 29, 2020
As the forms and documents arrive in mailboxes across the country, University of Wyoming College of Business accounting students are again preparing to help people tackle their income taxes.
In the coming weeks, UW accounting students will volunteer to prepare free electronic filing of federal and state income tax returns for taxpayers earning less than $60,000 per year as part of an IRS-supported Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
VITA volunteers will prepare and e-file tax returns; those individuals with unusual or especially complex tax issues may require assistance beyond this free service.
VITA program services are offered at the Laramie Plains Civic Center, located at 710 E. Garfield St., each Wednesday starting Wednesday, Feb. 5, from 4-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
The service will be available through April 15; tax day is Wednesday, April 15. No services will be provided March 13-22, when the university is closed for spring break. VITA services are provided on a first-come, first-served basis. No appointment is necessary.
VITA is a partnership between Albany County United Way and UW, with each providing a service in order to make the tax assistance program function.
UW undergraduate and graduate accounting students and Amber Mercil, assistant lecturer in accounting and VITA site coordinator, are vital contributors in serving the community, says Nicole Choi, chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance.
“They promote this opportunity to the students and community and are the collective lifeblood to the project, as they provide the feet-on-the-ground volunteers who prepare and file the returns with the taxpayers,” Choi adds.
According to Mercil, about 20-25 UW students -- mostly those studying accounting -- volunteer each year. The volunteers receive training online to provide tax assistance and must pass several tests to ensure accreditation.
The goals of the program are two-fold, says David Sprott, UW College of Business dean.
“First, the program works to find tax credits for those eligible community members; second, the program provides students an invaluable learning experience in their field of study,” Sprott says. “Having the opportunity to apply training while working with real customers is something they will remember and benefit from for years to come.”
The Albany County VITA program has been in existence since 2005, and the partnership between the United Way and the UW College of Business Department of Accounting and Finance has been in existence for a decade.
Last year, volunteers prepared more than 700 returns and, since its start in 2005, volunteers have prepared more than 8,500 returns and generated more than $9 million in refunds for Albany County residents, according to Paul Heimer, executive director of the United Way of Albany County.
“I have seen students become more confident in their knowledge and accounting skills with regard to tax preparation,” Mercil says. “I also believe this experience makes a true impact on the students and the community.”
Taxpayers seeking assistance must bring the following information: photo ID; Social Security cards for taxpayer and all dependents; earnings statements; copy of last year’s tax return; child care provider information; rent certificates from landlord or property tax statement; financial institution’s routing and account numbers for direct deposit; forms 1095-A, B or C; and Affordable Care Act statements.
To file taxes electronically on a married-filing jointly tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. VITA volunteers cannot file married-filing separately tax returns.
For more information, email Mercil at firstname.lastname@example.org.