Tahlequah Daily Press

February 27, 2013

Taxpayers get VITA help from students

By ROB W. ANDERSON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — For over 20 years, the Northeastern State University accounting department has offered free tax preparation through a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA.

The program usually serves anywhere from 400 to 500 people every tax season, and NSU accounting students use it to gain valuable hands-on experience, said NSU Associate Professor of Accounting Dr. John Yeutter.

“They take what we’ve taught them in the income tax class and this experience puts a live person in front of them so they’re actually practicing what they’ve learned,” Yeutter said. “This is like an unpaid internship.”

The free service is open to NSU employees, students and members of the community who grossed less than $60,000 in 2012. Interested individuals need only bring the necessary paperwork – including a valid ID and Social Security cards for the filer, spouse and dependents – to Room 121 on the first floor of the Business and Technology Building, or 700 N. Grand, Monday or Tuesday, 3 to 6 p.m. Those interested in receiving direct deposit are urged to bring bank routing and account information.

Taxes are prepared on a first-come, first-served basis. Yeutter said those who opt for the NSU service will have their taxes prepared by students who have experienced Internal Revenue Service training and certification.

“We’ll do some fairly complicated stuff. It’s good practice for the students to see something other than the single student with an EZ return,” he said.

Senior NSU accounting student Kelli Cackler is VITA-certified, and said the experience the campus tax prep program offers is priceless.

“This is invaluable. Every person we do has something different,” she said. “[It exposes you to] all the possible forms and different scenarios. Some itemize, while some don’t. Everyone has had one little thing different.”

The computer program software used in the tax prep has been provided by the IRS, and it is as accurate as any paid tax service, said Yeutter. Students are certified for basic and intermediate tax situations, which include retirement income and itemized deductions.  

Yeutter said the tax prep service will be available until April 15. “They come and sign in, and we handle them in order,” he said.

Senior NSU student Autumn Barnett used the service and noted a positive experience.

“It’s easy and convenient. There’s a little bit of a wait, but it’s free,” she said. “I had a pretty easy one. I just had two W2s. She did a pretty good job. She got me a little money back.”

What you said

According to the Daily Press’ online poll inquiring about reader tax status, 27 percent of the 255 who participated, or 68 respondents, said they have not filed their taxes yet, but when doing so would seek help. Sixty-three respondents, or 25 percent, said they have already filed their taxes and completed the process without help, while 22 percent, or 56 people, said they have already filed their taxes and had help with the process. Forty-four taxpayers, or 17 percent, said they will do their taxes soon and without help, while 9 percent, or 24 respondents, said they would not be filing taxes this year.