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Trained Student Volunteers Offer Free Tax Preparation Assistance

February 02, 2017, Christi Mathis

${image-alt} Student helping an individual with income tax preparation.

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Free income tax preparation help is available at Southern Illinois University Carbondale thanks to a group of student volunteers.

Beta Alpha Psi, a College of Business honors accounting organization, is again sponsoring the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to assist fellow students and low- and moderate-income people from the community.

Beginning Saturday, Feb. 4., and continuing each Saturday through April 8, free tax preparation assistance is available from 8 a.m. until noon in the computer labs on the lower level of Rehn Hall, located at 1025 Lincoln Drive on the SIU campus. There won’t be sessions on March 11 and 18 due to the university’s spring break.

Chen “Cindy” Li, of Shangqiu City, China, and Sam Humphrey, of Round Lake Park, are the coordinators of the VITA program this year. Both are senior accounting majors. They participated in advanced training to prepare for their leadership roles. They will assist with more complicated questions and supervise a team of nearly 40 accounting students who will prepare the tax returns. Humphrey and Li will also review all returns prepared by student volunteers. The group has acquired the Taxslayer Pro Online software to use this year in helping prepare the returns, Li said.

Each of the IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers completed mandatory ethics and basic tax exams. Beta Alpha Psi Faculty Adviser Marcus Odom, professor of accountancy and Deloitte & Touch Faculty Fellow, is also available, usually in person but always by telephone or email, to offer his expertise when needed.

Returns are typically completed in an hour or less and on average, the waiting time is no more than 15-30 minutes. Appointments are not necessary. The service has been provided annually at SIU for more than 25 years. Last year, the VITA program student volunteers completed nearly 200 tax returns. The service includes free electronic filing as well.

Any United States citizen, whether single or married, can utilize the tax return assistance if they have an income of no more than $53,000 and take the standard federal deduction.

Although a few specific tax situations may be beyond the scope covered by VITA, the volunteers can assist with a number of common tax situations involving wages and earnings from self-employment income, interest and unemployment income, Social Security benefits, and dividends as well as returns that involve child tax, education or earned income credits.

For more information, email Li at cindyli@siu.edu or Humphrey at shumphrey300@siu.edu