VITA program provides free tax assistance to students

Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor

As of Jan. 29, it is officially tax season in America. Tax Day is coming up, meaning for all taxpayers living in states aside from Maine and Massachusetts, April 15th is the final day to file income tax returns to the federal government. For newbies to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the adult world, tax season can be a stressful few months. With W-2’s and 1098T’s and the like, filing taxes can be confusing, scary, and difficult.

Berry’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistant (VITA) provides students with free and simple tax assistance. From now through the end of tax season, VITA will be hosting free tax preparation for students on Fridays from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. With appointments available in Green 110, the program aims to give students help with filing tax returns.

The VITA program is a national tax aid program established through IRS. As explained on the IRS website, certified volunteers aid people making less than $55,000 a year, those with disabilities, or those with little English speaking ability. Berry’s program aids students, staff members and other residents of the Rome community.

Senior Matthew Coklan is the site coordinator for Berry’s VITA program. Coklan is responsible for organizing staff, filling out IRS forms and reviewing final tax returns. This is Coklan’s second year working with the program; all VITA aids are Berry students. Last year, they helped with 98 returns. For this tax season, Coklan expects higher turnout.

“This year I feel like it’s going to be a lot higher because the program has been a lot more advertised,” said Coklan.

According to Coklan, appointments last about 30 minutes. Appointments can be made ahead of time by calling 706-236-5093. Walk-in appointments are also accepted, but appointments will be given priority.

When coming to an appointment, Coklan explained, students must bring a few items to aid in the process.

“The most important thing is to bring your ID and your Social Security number, because otherwise, we’ll turn you away,” Coklan said. “Otherwise we can’t legally file the taxes.”

Social Security cards are given to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents, listing their nine-digit Social Security numbers. Social Security numbers are necessary mechanisms that allow the IRS to identify and verify tax forms. In order to utilize the Berry VITA program, students must bring their Social Security card or a picture of their social security card.

W-2 forms are given to employees by the employer, for anyone paid more than $600 in a year from which income, Social Security or Medicare tax was withheld. W-2 forms are key to receiving tax refunds, which are proportional to the amount of money you pay in taxes during the year. Berry distributed W-2 forms Jan. 31 through P.O. boxes.

Although the VITA program runs through Tax Day, Coklan recommends scheduling an appointment early. Not only will that ensure students receive tax refunds sooner, but it will keep the office from becoming too busy.

“Everyone waits until the last minute, that’s what humans do,” Coklan said. “The last two or three weeks is going to be packed. I would recommend coming in February.”

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