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SU offers Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Stetson students are offering free assistance preparing tax returns.

Stetson will once again offer tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Services will be offered Feb. 5 – April 16 in the Lynn Business Center, 345 N. Woodland Blvd., by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For the fifth consecutive year, Stetson will co-sponsor the program with the United Way of Volusia/Flagler County, the IRS, the Campaign for Working families and community partners (Bank of America, Center for Business Excellence, Community Foundation of East Central Florida, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Fifth Third Bank, SunTrust, VyStar Credit Union, Wells Fargo Bank, BB&T Bank and TD Bank,) to provide tax assistance for the DeLand community.

The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. Volunteers will provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. The volunteers have been trained to seek out tax credits that low-income families did not know they were eligible for or had previously overlooked. In addition, clients save approximately 25% of their refund checks by not depending on paid tax preparers which allows more money to be available for future needs.

Stetson economic students, along with the international financial and accounting Honor Society and Beta Alpha Psi-Stetson, have been IRS-certified to offer free tax services to Stetson’s students, staff, and other members of the Volusia County community. Student volunteers have completed 25 hours of training and certification by an IRS-certified professional. They must pass with at least an 80 percent to serve as a tax preparer but this semester the students scored at least 90 percent on the test. After passing the test, students work at one of the DeLand tax sites each week for three to four hours a week for 10 weeks during tax season to gain experience.

Since its inception in 2004, a total of 12,405 electronic returns were filed; total tax refunds amounted to $16.35 million; Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) returns have reached a value of $6.4 million, and child credit refunds are valued at $2.55 million. Stetson University has been a small, but significant, part of this economically empowering program, once again affirming our core values, according to Associate Professor and Chair of Economics, Ranjini Thaver.

Stetson’s involvement in the program stems largely from Thaver’s “commitment to execute Stetson’s mission and carry out its core values of developing students’ humanity to become agents of social justice and compassion through personal growth, intellectual development, and global citizenship.” She has incorporated service-learning activities into the curriculum in efforts to provide assistance for those who, she says, survive outside the realm of the American dream.

To make an appointment call (386) 366-9066.

by Shelby Scraper, SUM student assistant