Story by Amanda Narverud
Published Feb. 11, 2016
For more than 10 years, volunteers at Mizzou and MU Extension have helped Missourians prepare their tax returns at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites. Students from MU’s School of Law and the personal financial planning department in the College of Human Environmental Sciences volunteer at sites around the state, including two at Mizzou.
VITA is an IRS-sponsored program that provides free tax-preparation assistance to households whose incomes are less than $54,000 a year. These could include households of MU students, staff and faculty. Last year, MU’s VITA sites served more than 9,000 Missouri families, with approximately 1,700 returns filed at the MU campus sites.
Andrew Zumwalt, an assistant professor of extension specializing in financial planning, says the VITA program not only helps participants file taxes but also offers MU students a great learning experience.
“Those who qualify can have their tax returns prepared free of charge, and students learn how to communicate with clients about money,” Zumwalt said. “Student volunteers have been through IRS training and certification. Through this experience, they put their training into real-world practice.”
An opportunity to help and learn
First-year volunteer Carlie Powers, a senior from Polo, Missouri, majoring in agriculture economics with an emphasis in personal financial planning, appreciates what VITA has given her.
“So much of college is studying theory and learning how to do something,” Powers said. “The opportunity to get hands-on experience and be one-on-one with real people, working with their real income tax returns, has been an invaluable experience. I love being around people and learning about their lives while I’m working.”
Through April 15, Mizzou’s VITA sites are open:
- 3:30-7 p.m. Mondays in Hulston Hall, Room 6
- 3:30-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays in Stanley Hall, Room 162
Find VITA sites nationwide at: http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.
Help for international Tigers
MU also offers tax services to individuals who are considered “non-resident aliens” for tax purposes. For example, this includes all international students who have lived in the U.S. for less than six years and all international scholars who have lived here less than three years. It is important that these non-U.S. residents use this service instead, because VITA sites are not set up to help those who are considered “non-resident aliens” by the Internal Revenue Service. This could lead to filing errors which are likely to result in thousands of dollars in liability they must pay back for credits they may get that are disallowed for non-residents. This program helps people not only from MU but from colleges and universities around mid-Missouri. For more information about this non-U.S. resident tax filing program, check the Human Resources site.