Student volunteers give free tax assistance
The IU IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program helps hundreds of local taxpayers file state and federal tax returns every year.
The program is run by students from IU’s Maurer School of Law and the Kelley School of Business, according to an IU press release, and clinics have been running three times per week in various locations on campus since Feb. 9. This year’s clinics end March 26.
Assistance is aimed at helping local taxpayers whose annual income is less than $54,000 or if they are elderly, have a disability or limited English proficiency. IU students and Bloomington residents alike have attended these sessions and received their free assistance during the past two months, according to the press release.
Jeremy Munza currently serves as a VITA student coordinator after previously being a quality reviewer and regular volunteer. He is one of many volunteers which he said come from Maurer, Kelley and a variety of undergraduate majors.
As a second-year law student, Munza said he has always been interested in doing tax law and this program was a great opportunity to start practicing.
After participating in the program last year, Munza says he is impressed with this year’s turnout.
“We’ve been really busy,” Munza said. “We have had some really great support from our quality reviewers, had really great volunteers and we’ve gotten a lot accomplished. With 589 paper returns and 120 e-files we have, in total, completed 89 more returns than last year.”
Munza said the schools collaborate with United Way to provide promotional materials to encourage volunteers to participate and also resources for the program such as instruction manuals, printer ink and paper.
To volunteer, Munza said students are required to take four official exams provided by the IRS. Two regard ethics and how to converse appropriately with taxpayers during the help sessions, one is a basic exam that tests knowledge on tax topics and a final exam tests knowledge of tax forms for international students.
Once these tests and trainings are complete, Munza said volunteers may begin working and receiving volunteer hours toward their degree.
When a taxpayer arrives at the session, they are met by a reviewer who talks through their documents with them and discusses their tax returns while filling out forms.
Next, they meet with a quality reviewer who goes through any errors that were made and checks to make sure all of the information is correct.
Then the returns are printed, filed and mailed if doing paper returnsor filed online if completing an e-filer.
The entire process can take anywhere from an hour to three hours, depending on the complexity of a taxpayer’s forms and the level of attendance, Munza said.
Munza said he is excited for the program to keep continuing and bring in new volunteers and leadership.
“We are really, really thankful to have the resources and volunteers that we have,” he said. “We’re really happy to have such great participation and we’re thankful for a lot of the taxpayers that really seem happy with our services. We hope that we can continue doing a great job for them.”