BYU program provides free tax return assistance to the community

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A Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program volunteer helps a community member file a tax return. Starting Jan. 31, trained volunteers will begin helping eligible community members file tax returns for this upcoming tax season. (Photo courtesy of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Jared Stark)

The BYU Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offers free tax return assistance to eligible individuals during tax season. Starting Jan. 31, the program’s volunteers will begin assisting all eligible locals.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance partners with the IRS to award free income tax return guidance and electronic filing. The program exclusively caters to those with disabilities, limited English-speaking skills, the elderly and those who make $57,000 or less annually.

Staff members of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program highly encourage BYU students to utilize the program because of their specific understanding of students’ tax return needs.

“We focus on helping students get the full amount of the American opportunity credit, which is something that I think sets our VITA lab apart from other ones,” site coordinator May Harrington said.

Located in the Tanner Building on the BYU campus, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has various IRS-qualified student volunteers. “We have lots of certified volunteers with a lot of enthusiasm, so we are excited to start,” Harrington said.

According to the group’s website, the lab is open Monday through Thursday by walk-in appointments only. Assistance is also offered on Saturdays but is limited to scheduled appointments with no option of walk-in services.

The lab waiting room includes activities for children to help cater to the needs of parents seeking tax assistance. Another amenity volunteers provide is the option to view a live online waiting list, which can be accessed on the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance website.

Mother of four, Kimberly Fountain, made use of the program for the past seven years and plans to return to the lab this tax season.

“It is a great program. The student volunteers are very thorough and I have always had a good experience,” Fountain said.

Because the program is solely volunteer-operated, their highly esteemed tax return services are provided free of charge, Harrington said. Fountain said she was initially intrigued by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance because of its cost but was then pleasantly impressed with the quality of the service.

“VITA is an amazing resource. It is free, it is simple. It is overall a great experience and a great tool to take advantage of,” BYU senior Rachel Lunt said.

Appointments with the volunteers are typically about an hour in length, not including the wait time. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance coordinators encourage those requesting assistance to come prepared with the appropriate personal information for a swift filing experience.

The program aids in filing 1,000–1,500 returns on average per tax season, assistant site coordinator Jared Stark said. Because of the high demand, the group’s volunteers invite those interested to act now.

“We encourage people to come earlier in the tax season before our office gets crazy, ” Harrington said. “Filing tax returns is definitely not something you want to procrastinate.”

For more information about the program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance volunteers urge students and community members to visit their site and take advantage of the free tax return assistance.

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