VITA Offers Free Tax Assistance

February 6, 2013
Dr. David Smith
(417) 625-3012
JOPLIN, MO (SNS) – Do you go into crisis mode each year when income tax time rolls around?

If you're in need of assistance and make less than $51,000 as an individual or family, free help is just around the corner.

Dr. David Smith, head of the Accounting & Finance Department at Missouri Southern State University, says a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) team from MSSU will be available on Saturdays from Feb. 16 to April 13 to help Joplin area residents fill out their tax forms. 

The VITA team will not be offering assistance on one date, Saturday, March 16, which falls during Spring Break at Missouri Southern.
The forms will be prepared from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays in the computer labs on the third floor of  Plaster Hall at Missouri Southern.
Another group is partnering with the VITA team to make the experience as helpful as possible. The Missouri Southern Spanish Club will provide Spanish language interpreters.

"If you make up to $51,000, we can complete your federal 1040 or 1040A return and file it electronically, including Schedules A and B (interest income and itemized deductions), child credit, child care credit, education credits, and EIC (Earned Income Credit)," Smith says. "We can also prepare and file your Missouri, Kansas and/or Oklahoma tax forms electronically," he adds.

Smith says it has been nearly ten years since VITA was offered by MSSU students in Joplin.
"There was huge demand for it," Smith says. "We wanted our students and community to know we are here to help."

Twenty junior and senior accounting majors have enrolled to participate in the VITA program. All have passed three required Internal Revenue Service tests.

Ann Wolfe, senior Accounting and Computer Science major, who has led the revival of VITA at MSSU, was a VITA site coordinator at University of Missouri-Kansas City.
She will be the site coordinator at MSSU and will be in charge of the assistance center each weekend. 

Wolfe says the volunteer aspect of VITA is a valuable experience for students.

"I volunteered at a homeless shelter while attending another school several years ago," she says. "I love how it feels to do good for others.  It makes me like who I am."
Smith says the VITA service will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. The team will be able to complete approximately 50 income tax returns each Saturday.
"We will be able to do about 50 returns each day," Smith says.  "Everything will be handled on a first come-first serve basis."
The VITA program cannot file Schedule C (Business Income) or Schedule D (capital gains and losses, including sale of real estate), certain types of self-employment income, or the Foreign Income Tax Credit
Forms will be filled out online and submitted electronically for the convenience of the clients.

Smith says those wanting to utilize the VITA service will need to bring tax paperwork, Social Security cards for everyone in their family, Drivers' Licenses and a cancelled check or routing number.
He says the goal is to assist those who might feel overwhelmed at tax time.
"We want to help people," he says. "We have very talented students who want to use their skills and education to make this time of year a little easier."