Eligible Taxpayers Receive Free Tax Help at Stetson’s Business School
Updated as of March 12: The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has been postponed until Tuesday, March 31. For the latest updates from Stetson University about COVID-19, visit the Stetson Coronavirus Communication page.
Stetson University School of Business Administration will be offering the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on the DeLand campus to eligible taxpayers again this year. Through Tuesday, April 14, taxpayers with income below $56,000 may make an appointment to have a free, basic income tax return completed and filed electronically by trained student volunteers.
Co-sponsored by the United Way of Volusia-Flagler Counties and Stetson’s M.E. Rinker, Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy and Center for Community Engagement, the VITA program students are specially trained and registered as certified VITA volunteers. Each tax return is reviewed for quality control by the VITA site coordinator, a student assistant site coordinator or a member of Stetson’s Accounting Advisory Board. Board members donate their time and expertise to serve as mentors to the student tax preparers.
Bonnie B. Holloway, MBA, visiting lecturer in accounting at Stetson, trains the volunteers and oversees the day-to-day operations as the VITA program’s site coordinator.
In 2019, the Stetson VITA program celebrated $2 million in tax refunds for 2,000 local families during the past 10 years.
“Stetson’s VITA program has provided low- to moderate-income taxpayers with free income tax preparation services instead of them paying $150-$300 to income tax preparers,” said Holloway, illustrating the value of the program to the Central Florida community. “VITA at Stetson is on target to achieve another milestone of $2.5 million in tax refunds for 2,500 local residents by the end of this tax season.”
In return, Stetson students are developing professional skills while making a difference during tax season.
“VITA volunteers are Stetson students from business and other academic programs on campus,” said Holloway. “The students learn to interact professionally with clients, dress appropriately, research tax issues with their resource materials, ask personal financial questions, explain complicated tax concepts in simple, understandable ways, and deliver good and bad news about receiving a tax refund or having a balance due. The program also provides students with an opportunity to develop a service mentality by helping others now and in the future.”
Taxpayers seeking assistance at the Stetson site must make an appointment and present valid photo identification and a social security card for each taxpayer and dependent on the tax return. Married taxpayers who are filing jointly must both be present during the VITA tax preparation appointment. Additional recommended documentation includes items such as a copy of their 2018 tax returns if available, W-2 forms and bank account information.
Appointments must be made prior to arrival by calling 211 and following the phone tree prompts or by calling United Way at 386-253-0564 and requesting a VITA appointment. Tax return preparation days at Stetson are scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and Fridays from 1-3 p.m. The tax preparation site is at the Lynn Business Center, 345 N. Woodland Blvd., DeLand, 32723, in room 318.
Taxpayers with disabilities and limited English skills who meet the income limit may also make an appointment. In addition to the income limit, VITA does not prepare returns involving rental properties, small businesses with depreciation, military combat pay, foreign-earned income or international students. Stetson’s international students receive assistance at the World Outreach, Research, Learning and Development (W.O.R.L.D.) office. Other limitations may also apply.