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VITA grows again, reaches milestone

Barry McNamara
There appear to be three certainties in life – death, taxes and a year-to-year increase in the number of returns prepared by Monmouth College’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

What began with a humble total of 188 returns prepared in its first year of existence in 2000 has grown to more than 1,000 – a milestone the VITA program reached for the first time this year. The 1,008 returns prepared (497 federal, 511 state) represent a 7 percent growth from last year. An increase has been seen each year during VITA’s 11 years on campus.

“If conservative estimates are made on the cost to the taxpayer to have their returns done professionally, the savings to those in the community can be estimated to be more than $95,000,” said Judy Peterson, an accounting professor at Monmouth who coordinates the program along with faculty colleague Patrick Montgomery. “That allows those dollars to be used for endeavors other than tax preparation, such as food, clothing, shelter and education.”

Peterson also noted that VITA-assisted filings returned more than $700,000 to the community this year through federal and state refunds.

Growth in the number of student volunteers, the addition four years ago of a satellite site in Galesburg and this year’s switch to an online version of TaxWise software are three of the key reasons that Monmouth’s VITA program has been able to sustain its growth. In its first year, 20 students assisted with VITA, compared to the 37 students who took part during the recent tax season.

“The accounting department has worked hard for more than a decade to improve and deliver this opportunity for students and our community,” said vice president for academic affairs Jane Jakoubek. “The people who come to VITA for help give high marks to the service they receive.”