Free income tax help for volunteers – The Courier


Are you taking advantage of the campus opportunity to get a free refund through the Free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program?

Receiving free money sounds like a dream for any broke college student – even the free money you have technically already won. Filing a tax return, regardless of dependent or taxpayer status, can potentially provide this opportunity. College of DuPage is currently offering a free, volunteer-based tax service in the Seaton Computing Center from now until April 16, and that’s where I found myself early Saturday morning.

The school’s explanation of the service is hidden in the Accounting Program sub-category of the main website. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, VITA, is run in partnership with the IRS and can prepare federal and state income tax returns as early as 2018.

The VITA web page provides a link to schedule an appointment with a volunteer on the College of DuPage main campus for every Saturday until tax due. The page offers a comprehensive checklist of required documents ranging from proof of identity to items of income to tuition payment receipts. The college has also included a PDF of the crucial intake form 13614-C for consumers to complete before their appointments, although it is also available on site.

Students enrolled in the ACCOU-2200 Income Tax Return Preparation course obtain at least three IRS certificates during the first four weeks of the course: the admission certificate, the volunteer certificate and the basic certificate. Many students are pursuing an additional advanced certificate, including Carrie Doyle, from whom I received help completing my tax return.

Doyle, a former paralegal and Bachelor of Commerce graduate, found that the COVID-19 pandemic had left her “unsatisfied” with her career, and she decided to take the plunge by pursuing her passion for accounting. The versatility of the class provides him with a plethora of opportunities, including the possibility of becoming an accountant or obtaining his CPA.

She explained that the difference between basic return and advanced return depends on the complexity of a consumer’s return; myself and probably most COD students who are unmarried, work part-time, and are declared dependents are basic yield, while more complex situations that include marriage and real estate ownership fall under yield advanced.

For the rest of the course, Doyle further explains that she and her classmates act as VITA volunteers to “get their feet wet” by filing tax returns. Additionally, she notes that 64 hours of practice through VITA is required for course credit.

However, since she and the other volunteers are students, the services are overseen by a COD accounting faculty member who is also IRS certified. These supervisors circle around the computer lab in which the service is performed, and once a volunteer completes a declaration, the volunteer raises their hand for the supervisor to check their work and submit the declaration themselves.

In addition, consumers must complete two consent forms. The first is a VITA tax preparation release form prior to obtaining the service which reiterates that the service is based on student volunteerism and releases the program from any liability for errors or omissions. A consent form 8879 at the end of the service is also required. It should be noted that the release form also provides a section for the consumer’s contact details in the event of an error.

Doyle started the service by collecting my documents, then verifying my identity through my social security card. W-2 forms that arrive in the mail come with three punched copies, and she explained that VITA keeps one of those copies for its own records. She then entered the W-2 information into the online program and reviewed my completed admission form.

Doyle emphasized the importance of the intake form at this stage of the process. This is a comprehensive guide for volunteers asking consumers the right questions to ensure they get the most meaningful and accurate feedback possible.

“Based on the admission form, I can ask you how you deposit this year [married vs. dependent],” she said. “I know how to ask if you own a home, and if so, I can get you a credit with the corresponding tax forms.”

Also, Doyle checked that I had health insurance. Those who receive their health care through the Affordable Care Act, rather than private insurance from a parent or guardian, require a different procedure in the filing process. She said those who don’t know the meaning of their many tax forms can also provide them at this stage of the service, and the volunteer can apply them correctly or completely to a consumer’s tax return.

The supervisor, Rob Budney, verified Doyle’s work and submitted my tax return. This is where the Form W-2 and Consumer Intake Form are collected and, in exchange, the consumer receives a large envelope containing a printed summary of the filed tax return. This package includes a summary of the service, a reiteration of W-2 information, a copy of consent form 8879, a copy of personal income tax form 1040, and an appendix of the personal income tax withholding form. ‘Illinois.

Consumers can provide direct deposit details for their tax return if they wish. When filing my 2021 income taxes, I received a $100 tax return to my own surprise.

Sitting in the CSC lobby with nearly 50 middle-aged and professional people waiting for their VITA appointments, it was hard not to notice that I was probably the only person in my age group there. This illustrates the popularity of the service among older generations and the fact that many people are taking advantage of its value. Nevertheless, I received money as a young, single, dependent student and part-time employee. So why aren’t other students taking advantage of it?

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