By Natalie Payan and Li Cohen
As the April 18 deadline to report taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) approaches, many students are trying to find out how and where to complete their tax returns.
To help students complete their income taxes, the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) is providing free tax return assistance until April 17 in the Alvin Sherman Library, room 1048, on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
According to irs.gov, through VITA, IRS-certified volunteers provide income tax return preparation and electronic filing assistance to those making $54,000 a year or less, people with disabilities, limited English-speaking people and the elderly.
Some students believe learning how to file taxes is important, including sophomore biology major Angelica Castillo.
“I have no idea how to do taxes,” Castillo said. “Students should [utilize the program] if it will benefit them in the end.”
Individuals or businesses who receive an income during the year must file their taxes yearly. If that individual or business paid excess taxes in the filed year, they will receive a tax refund.
To prepare taxes at a VITA session, students must bring a photo ID, social security cards for themselves and their dependents, wage and earning statements from employers, interest and dividend statements from banks, health insurance statements, routing and account numbers for their bank, and, if applicable, a copy of last year’s federal and state returns, health insurance exemption certificate, and copies of income transcripts from the IRS.
Individuals filing returns use Form 1040. Students filing also use Form 1098-T, which qualifies them for educational expenses that usually count for tax deductions and translates into more money received in tax refunds. Form 1098-T can be accessed on each student’s account at webstar.nova.edu under the “Student” tab. Student employees can also access their W-4 information and W-2 forms under the “Employee” tab on the site.
In previous years, NSU’s Accounting Club provided free tax assistance. This is the first year that VITA is preparing taxes on campus. Appointments are not required to attend.
Jenna Kopec, first year in secondary English education student, said tax assistance will greatly benefit students.
“It would be nice to do my own taxes because my parents are doing them right now,” she said. “I like to not have to depend on other people.”
Students will also need their tax forms to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2016-2017 academic year.
The VITA program also offers income tax certification classes from September through December, providing everything from books to free parking passes. Once the person passes the exam, he or she becomes income tax-certified and can volunteer with VITA and help others file their taxes. The certification lasts for one year.
Sonya Gopalani, master’s in accounting student and historian of the Accounting Club, has taken part in the VITA program and believes learning to file taxes is important.
“VITA teaches people why numbers matter and the importance of doing tax returns,” she said.
For those who want to volunteer with VITA, visit research.net/r/vitatcesignup, and you will be directed to a local VITA organization. In Davie, the program is run through Hispanic Unity of Florida, an organization that strives to empower people to be “self-sufficient, productive and civically engaged.”
Jodie Neufville, sophomore management major and treasurer of the accounting club, believes students will learn a great deal from the program.
“I think students should give the program a try and see how they like it,” Neufville said. “They can also ask the professor to break the material down for them, and there are peers they can talk to there.”
The IRS reported that, last year, more than 90,000 people became volunteer tax preparers through the program and helped prepare over 3.7 million tax returns.
Gopalani said the program is beneficial to anyone who wants to get involved.
“It’s a great program for anyone, especially accounting students,” she said. “It helped me get a job, and it looks great on your resume.”
Gopalani said the VITA program will help students grow in the long run.
“It’s so good to volunteer for something that’s real life and that you benefit from,” she said. “You learn more about finances and how to organize your income taxes. As a student, it’s really good for networking. I recommend it to everyone.”
For questions regarding tax return assistance times, contact the Alvin Sherman Library Circulation Desk at 954-262-4601. To learn more about filing taxes and VITA, visit irs.gov.