Cameron Business School brings tax assistance opportunity to campus
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Whether it be preparing to face student loan payments or searching for a low-level job in their aspiring field, graduating from college and entering the “real world” can be daunting for many college students. One task that baffles many new graduates who have yet to tackle this feat: taxes. UNC Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business hopes to help students and the surrounding community better understand taxes and how fill them out with no cost to the individuals.
The program is called the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. It is an Internal Revenue Service program designed to help low and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost. This program is a nationwide program where IRS-certified volunteers assist millions of taxpayers with their tax filings each year. For 2016 returns, anyone making less than $64,000 qualifies for free tax-filing assistance with UNCW, according to Victoria Hansen, associate professor of accounting in the Cameron Business School.
“These sites provide a terrific service to the community, tax filing assistance at no charge,” Hansen said, “while also providing a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students who certify to volunteer at the site.”
This means that the UNCW community as and members of the Wilmington community at large can partake in this program, as long as they meet the requirements.
The business school will be holding tax assistance sessions in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship building at 803-G S. College Road on a few dates: Wednesday, March 15 from 5 to 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Saturday, March 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Wednesday, March 29 from 5 to 8 p.m.; Wednesday, April 5 from 5 to 8 p.m.; and Saturday, April 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Anyone who earns less than $64,000 can come in during these times to receive free assistance and electronically file their federal and up to three state income tax returns for free. Taxpayers who come to the program are provided with access to software to prepare and electronically file their own tax return. Taxpayers enter their own information into the software, and only the taxpayer has access to their information.
“Our IRS certified volunteers are on hand to answer any questions the taxpayer may have as they prepare their own returns,” Hansen said.
Taxpayers seeking assistance should bring their social security card, photo identification, tax documents, and – if possible – a copy of their 2015 returns. Students can bring their own laptop if they choose.
“The taxpayer is entering their own information into the software, volunteers do not have access to their information,” Hansen said. “The software provider submits the taxpayer’s tax return information to the IRS and 50 states.”
The IRS certified volunteers assisting individuals and answering tax-related questions will be undergraduate Accounting students and Masters in Accounting students who have previously taken an Individual Income Tax course, received IRS training and have passed IRS certification exams in order to assist taxpayers.
“This program is both a terrific experiential learning experience for our accounting students and a tremendous benefit to the general community at large,” Hansen said. For accounting students, Hansen hopes this program reinforces what they have learned in the classroom, and helps to develop their communication skills and a sense of community. For the greater community, she hopes the program provides them a valuable service and also increases their awareness of the resources available at UNCW.
VITA was created in 1971 at California State University Northridge. UNCW has participated in this program annually since 2000. Many of the sites which offer VITA services are universities like UNCW.