Barry McNamara  |   Published January 19, 2021

Tax-Assistance Program Returns – with COVID Protocols in Place

Taxpayers can drop off tax documents beginning Feb. 1; VITA volunteers will begin preparing returns Feb. 13.

For the last two decades, Monmouth students have served more than 7,000 area residents through th... For the last two decades, Monmouth students have served more than 7,000 area residents through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. It gets underway in February this year. This year's VITA will include numerous COVID-19 protocols. (File photo)MONMOUTH, Ill. – A year ago, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs around the country came to a screeching halt about one month prior to the traditional April 15 tax deadline because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the nationwide VITA program is returning in 2021, and Monmouth College will once again be a participant, as it has for the last two decades.

JUDY PETERSON: VITA is back. ?It's going to be a very different process due to the pandemic, ... JUDY PETERSON: VITA is back. “It's going to be a very different process due to the pandemic, but a very secure process.”“We want to assure local residents that VITA going away last year is not a permanent thing – we’re back,” said accounting professor Judy Peterson, who oversees the Monmouth students who help prepare the returns, which gives them valuable real-world experience. “It’s going to be a very different process due to the pandemic, but a very secure process.”

The free service for tax preparation and e-filing for 2020 federal and Illinois tax returns is once again asking for what Peterson calls “simple tax returns only.” Among the parameters for returns are that single individuals have an income of $66,000 or less, and those filing joint/married have an income of $105,000 or less.

“A VITA volunteer will let taxpayers know if their tax return meets the parameters of the VITA program,” said Peterson.

While that aspect of the program remains the same, the pandemic has forced several changes, including:

  • drop off information at the campus site, which is in the Center for Science and Business;
  • interview via telephone call or online video conferencing (such as Zoom), as opposed to in-person;
  • preparation of tax return without the taxpayer present;
  • in-person appointment in which the identity of the taxpayer is authenticated, the tax return is reviewed with the taxpayer, the tax return or e-file authorization is signed, and documents are returned to the taxpayer.

“COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place that require volunteers and taxpayers to wear masks at all times in the building,” said Peterson. “There will also be plexiglass barriers between the volunteers and taxpayers at the in-person appointment.”

Among the parameters for returns are that single individuals have an income of $66,000 or less, and those filing joint/married have an income of $105,000 or less.

Drop-off of tax documents will begin Feb. 1 and end April 7. Volunteers will begin preparing returns Feb. 13.

The drop-off site – the Center for Science and Business – is located in the 700 block of East Broadway Avenue and is handicap accessible. Documents must be in a sealed envelope and dropped into a secure box that is under video surveillance. Upon entering the building, signs will direct taxpayers to the secure drop box. VITA program coordinators will retrieve envelopes throughout the day.

Documents can be dropped off after 9 a.m. Monday-Saturday. Drop-offs can be made until 7 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesday; until 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and until 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The College is closed for Easter on April 2-3.

“Taxpayers may obtain instructions for our new process in two ways: through our website or by obtaining materials available at the drop-off site,” said Peterson.

Parking is available in the Center for Science and Business lot and on Broadway on evenings and Saturdays. Before 5 p.m. on weekdays, taxpayers are asked to park only on Broadway if they do not have a Monmouth College faculty/staff parking permit.

More Information …

The VITA website: monmouthcollege.edu/vita

For more information: vita@monmouthcollege.edu

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