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ETSU business students offering free tax preparation assistance

Contributed • Feb 8, 2019 at 3:52 PM

A group of East Tennessee State University business student volunteers, under the guidance of accountancy faculty member Dr. Michelle Freeman, will offer free tax preparation assistance again this year through the Internal Revenue Service Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

As an approved VITA location, the ETSU group, with financial support from Eastman Credit Union, will assist taxpayers whose total household income was $55,000 or less during tax year 2018.

Volunteers will be available to offer tax-preparation services on the following Saturdays – Feb. 16, March 2, 16 and 30, from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sam Wilson Hall, Room 318, on ETSU’s main campus.

Taxpayers must have an appointment. No walk-ins will be accepted. Those with an appointment should arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in and fill out a questionnaire used to complete the tax return.

“The tax assistance program provided by ETSU is a great opportunity for the community and the students at ETSU. ECU’s contribution provides for basic office expenses and supplies. Partnerships in programs like this one is a win-win for all involved,” said Olan O. Jones, CEO and president of ECU.

Last year, about 25 graduate and undergraduate students successfully completed IRS certification requirements in order to volunteer. Those volunteers were able to prepare and assist members of the public with over 150 tax returns.

In addition to free basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing, volunteers will inform taxpayers about special tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.

Taxpayers are required to remain on site as the return is completed (for married filing joint returns, both spouses must be present). While every effort is made to complete the return in a timely and efficient manner, taxpayers should be advised the average wait to have a return completed is an hour. More complex matters may take longer, so patience and understanding are greatly appreciated.

Those who wish to have their tax return prepared at the ETSU VITA site must have the following items in order to complete the tax return:

• Proof of identification – state- or federal- government-issued picture ID.

• Social Security Cards for the taxpayer, spouse and any dependents on the tax return.

• Individual Taxpayer Identification Number assignment letter for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents if you do not have a Social Security number.

• Birth dates for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents on the tax return.

• Wage and earning statement(s) from all employers, including any W-2, W-2G 1099-R and 1099-Misc.

• Information regarding other income sources, if applicable.

• Information for all deductions / credits, if applicable.

• Interest and dividend statements from banks (forms 1099)

• Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received

• Forms 1095-A, B and C, Health Coverage Statements, if applicable

• A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available

• Copies of income transcripts from IRS and state, if applicable

• Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit, such as a blank check

• Total amounts paid to daycare provider(s) and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or business Employer Identification Number), if appropriate

• Copies of 1099-T for tuition and fees paid by the taxpayer, spouse and any dependents if applicable; and

• To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

Some of the more complex tax items are outside the scope of the ETSU VITA program. If your tax return includes any of the following items, ETSU VITA will not be able prepare your tax return:

• Taxpayers who cannot substantiate their identity with a method mentioned above.

• Household income greater than $55,000.

• Health savings accounts.

• Rental income.

• Cancellation of debt.

This list is not comprehensive. Other tax items may fall beyond the scope of the ETSU VITA program.

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