The students are participating in the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program beginning Monday, Feb. 10, in Room 125 of the law school, 211 S. Indiana Ave. in Bloomington. The walk-in clinic will run from 6 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays through March 25. (No sessions will be held March 17 or 18.) Saturday sessions will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 8 and 29 in Rooms 200 and 202 of the undergraduate building of the Kelley School of Business, 1309 E. 10th St. All program volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS.
Those with an annual income of $51,000 or less are eligible for the free tax preparation help, provided they have not received income from the sale of stocks, mutual funds or homes and do not own businesses. Student assistants can help qualifying taxpayers navigate the often complex task of filing state and federal tax returns, said Charles Gray, an IU Maurer School of Law student and one of the school's VITA program coordinators.
"The VITA program helps low- to moderate-income taxpayers avoid the fees charged by commercial tax preparers while ensuring that they receive any tax benefits for which they qualify, particularly the Earned Income Tax Credit," Gray said. "In addition, VITA offers free e-filing, which promptly sends any refund to the taxpayer without need of a high-interest tax anticipation loan."
Taxpayers wanting to participate in the VITA program are encouraged to bring relevant tax documents to the walk-in clinic: a W-2, photo identification, Social Security card and documents from other income sources. Filers must also bring the Social Security cards for any dependents they want to claim. If taxpayers are filing jointly, both husband and wife must be present. Copies of last year's tax returns aren't required but are helpful to tax preparers. Non-U.S. citizens should bring their passports and immigration paperwork.
Ajay Mehrotra, associate dean for research, professor of law and the Louis F. Niezer Faculty Fellow at the Maurer School, said the VITA program benefits both residents and students.
"The VITA program is an excellent opportunity for our students to give back to the Bloomington community by using their knowledge to assist low-income taxpayers," Mehrotra said. "It is also a good way for students to learn more about the federal income tax system and how it touches so many aspects of everyday life."