By Angelica Diaz
There is still time for tax filers to get their taxes done for free. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistant Program is a free electronic tax preparation service for anyone who makes less than $60,000 a year.
Trina Benson, director of Community Impact from United Way, said there are 13 sites that are a part of the VITA Program, and the program is underwritten by a grant from the federal government.
She said that United Way has partnered with a variety of agencies in the community to facilitate the program.
“Our program really targets low-income to moderate-income citizens, and it helps them keep those extra dollars in their pockets,” Benson said.
Benson said the YSU VITA location has been a part of the program for some time with YSU accounting students also taking part.
“[The YSU accounting students] go through training and receive a certification,” Benson said. “They actually receive credit for their class.”
VITA will be at Williamson Hall March 30 and April 6 between 10 a.m and 3 p.m.
Benson said there also will be a free Financial Literacy Fair at Williamson Hall April 6. Local banks and community organizations will provide different workshops. There will also be refreshments and a chance to win gift cards.
Raymon J. Shaffer, an accounting and finance professor, said YSU students and community members are welcome to use the tax preparation program.
“Generally anybody can come,” he said. “We literally prepared thousands of tax returns for people in the Valley.”
Shaffer said participants need a Social Security card, a valid photo ID, W2 forms and anything that may relate to their taxes, including their previous year’s tax forms. They can make an appointment or just walk-in. He added YSU is the only VITA location site that does accept walk-ins.
He also said personal information provided by the participant is secure.
“The software is password protected at two different levels and in addition to that every tax return is reviewed at two different levels,” Shafer said.
Shafer said YSU business students who are participating in the VITA Program also benefit from it.
“It’s a win-win-win situation for everybody,” Shaffer said. “The people in the community get their taxes done for free. The students get real experience. They’re doing real taxes for real people, something they can not get in a textbook or in a class. They learn so much. It’s not just the taxes but they learn interviewing skills, social interaction and how to work with real people.”
Allie Slavin, a senior accounting student, said her favorite part of working with the VITA Program has been meeting different people and getting to know them on a personal level.
“The training process has been great,” Slaven said. “You learn more everyday. It’s definitely given me a ton of experience that I will be able to use in my future years.”
Samantha Marcio, a Howland resident, said she has been coming to the YSU VITA location for the past five years.
“It’s close and easy and you can just walk in,” Marcio said.
Constance Tanner, a Youngstown resident, said she enjoys coming to this location and the best part is that it is free.
For more information on the VITA Program or to schedule an appointment at any VITA site, call 330-540-1947 or 330-272-8388.