Free tax help available to students

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With tax season looming over the heads of every citizen, college students may start to realize how much they didn’t learn in high school.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program will be in the Ernö and Etel Udvar-Hazy School of Business at Dixie State University to help students conquer tax season. The free service will be offered from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. The program will provide aid to individuals on campus through April 11 but will not be available during spring break, March 13 through 17. Interested students are able to start checking in as soon as 3:30 p.m.

Samantha Josey, a senior accounting major from Apple Valley, volunteers for the VITA program. All accounting majors are required to work as volunteers for the program before graduation.

“After you take [Accounting 3400] or are concurrently enrolled, you sign up for the VITA program, and we meet once a week,” Josey said.

Josey said the most difficult part of becoming a volunteer is the IRS sanctioned-training and classes. She said most students rely on their parents to do their taxes because the tax code is difficult to understand.

“It is hard if you don’t know it,” Josey said. “It’s very confusing, but we’ve been trained, and we’ve taken the certifications. We have professors there to help us, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Josey said one of her professors called the program one of the biggest service projects on campus.

“It’s free tax prep,” Josey said. “The average accountant would charge you an average of $250 per return. We actually went through and saw that we saved taxpayers $48,000 in one week.”

Individuals eligible for the service include those making less than $53,000 a year, those with disabilities, the elderly, those with limited English-linguistic skills and students. Faculty who make over the $53,000 limit can also receive help from the program at no cost.

Those wishing to take advantage of the program are required to bring a photo ID, a social security card, any W-2 forms, Affordable Care Act documents, a copy of tax returns from the previous year, and information regarding bank accounts.

Married individuals or individuals with children should also bring a copy of their spouse’s photo ID and social security card as well as the social security card of anyone they will be claiming as a dependent.

Those who also own property should bring the form 1098 to document mortgage interest, mortgage insurance payments, and property tax payments.

Individuals with children are asked to find suitable child care before going to the Udvar-Hazy building in an effort to speed up the process.

The IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and the Five-County Association of Governments sponsor the VITA program to help low-income to medium-income citizens with their taxes and different scenarios that might occur.

“I encourage everyone to pay attention to their taxes,” said Jeron Fullmer, an accountant at Savage Esplin & Radmall, CPAs. “Know where you stand, and it’s a great idea to hire a professional, whether a [certified public accountant] or others. Never assume that taxes don’t need to be filed.”

Fullmer said taxes are necessary for the government to perform certain functions citizens ask for, but in order to perform those services,  the citizens are required to lend the government money.

“Some of the benefits of filing taxes are possible tax credits that are refundable,” Fullmer said. “If you file them correctly, you might have benefits funded back to you from the government. You could also have penalties or fines for not paying earlier in the year or making too much.”

Overall, Fullmer said, the government has certain rights and obligations that restrict it from “going after” citizens for.

Amber Gentry, a freshman general studies major from Riverside, said the program is a great way for students to learn skills they will use for the rest of their lives.

“I think it’s a great idea to have a free tax help open,” Gentry said. “It’s something a lot of college students don’t necessarily know a lot about.”

Gentry said she’s spoken with a lot of people who have their parents do their taxes for them.

“It’s nice to be able to do them by yourself because you’re going to have to be doing them for the rest of your life,” Gentry said.

Gentry talked about a time which her employers told her she didn’t have to file taxes and how she was unaware of the return available.

“I think the best incentive is the refund,” Gentry said. “It’s like getting another paycheck, no matter how small.”