Published January 24, 2017

Free tax preparation

College to once again offer free service, beginning Feb. 4

Monmouth College will offer computerized tax preparation and e-filing at no cost to the taxpayer, beginning Feb. 4.

The service – which covers both state and federal individual income tax returns – is provided in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  Accounting Professor Judy Peterson, coordinator of Monmouth’s program, said VITA has a two-fold purpose: service and education for the community, and citizenship and education for the students.      

Because the focus of the IRS program is to help low-income taxpayers, the program will serve individuals who earn $54,000 or less during its first two weeks (Feb. 4-15). Individuals with higher incomes may begin coming Feb. 18 as long as their return falls within the IRS parameters of the VITA program.

Peterson said VITA is a great learning experience for students.

“Students learn more when presented with a wider variety of tax situations than what may be seen on a typical 1040EZ or 1040A,” she said. “They have been studying and will be certified to prepare returns for a number of tax issues that would be prepared using the long 1040 form.”

All returns are quality reviewed for accuracy. Students are only certified for the 2016 federal return and the 2016 state of Illinois return.

Peterson noted there are two issues particular to the 2016 tax return that taxpayers need to be aware of:

* The IRS will not issue refunds before Feb. 15 for tax returns with claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. This applies to the entire refund and not just the credit amounts. All Social Security numbers used to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit must be issued on or before the due date of the return (including extensions). Taxpayers may not later claim the credit on a late original return or an amended return (an identity theft feature).

* The IRS has contracted with a new commercial software provider, TaxSlayer. Because this will be the first year using TaxSlayer in the program, the software will not carry forward information from taxpayers who previously used VITA. Therefore, all personal information must be re-entered, which could increase time needed to prepare returns.

Taxpayers must bring Social Security cards for each person listed on the tax return, and the taxpayer and spouse must have photo identification. Taxpayers should also bring last year’s return to the VITA site. 

To comply with the Affordable Care Act, taxpayers need to have had minimum essential health insurance coverage for each month of 2016. Taxpayers will need to bring evidence of the insurance. Three forms are being issued that taxpayers need to bring with them:  1095A (from the marketplace), B (from the insurance carrier) or C (from the employer).  The 1095A form is especially critical as that form is entered directly onto the return to determine the correct amount of premium tax credit.

All ages of taxpayers are served, from students through retirees. Taxpayers are strongly encouraged to e-file, as they can expect quicker response to their filings, and the IRS can reduce its processing costs.

Assistant Professor of Accounting Connie Mersch will join Peterson in operating the program this year.  Mersch, who joined Monmouth’s faculty in 2011, previously worked in the tax departments of several major companies.

Beginning Feb. 4, the tax service will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Center for Science and Business, 720 E. Broadway. Guests should enter through the south doors on Broadway. The building is handicap accessible. Once taxpayers enter the building, signs will direct them to the interview room to sign up.

Weekday sessions will be held 4-7 p.m. Monday and Wednesday through April 12 – except on March 6 and March 8 during the College’s spring break. Saturday sessions will be held 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. through April 8 – except on March 4 and March 11 during the College’s spring break.

“We stop calling names at 6:45 p.m. on weekdays and 3:45 p.m. on Saturdays,” Peterson said.      

More information, including what to bring to a VITA session in addition to photo identification and Social Security cards, is available at: monmouthcollege.edu/academics/accounting/vita/                                                                        

Questions can be emailed to the program at vita@monmouthcollege.edu

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