The following information can be found at the IRS website,
“The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.”
The Oneonta VITA site is the product of the combined efforts of the CA$H (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope) Coalition and Mr. William (“Jeff”) Weinell with students from the School of Economics and Business at SUNY Oneonta. The Coalition is led by the United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties in full collaboration with the following: Catholic Charities of Delaware and Otsego Counties, CDO Workforce, Fidelis Care, SEFCU, Delaware Opportunities, New York State Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, New York State Taxation & Finance and the Internal Revenue Service. The United way is the lead agency, Catholic Charities handles the scheduling, the Methodist Church provides the facilities, but it is the students of SUNY Oneonta who provide the income tax services.
Last year, 28 students signed up to take part in the program and 16 completed the on-line training and certification process from the Internal Revenue Service. At the beginning of the tax season, our IRS representative expressed the hope that we would complete 30 tax returns in our first year in operation. We completed 45 tax returns at our site for our students and the residents of Oneonta.
So far his year, more than 40 students have asked to be part of the VITA program. The training materials have been ordered and we are gearing up for another tax season beginning in January 2015. We are pursuing a variety of sources for funding for the purchase of equipment for our site. Our IRS rep has told us that the number of returns that VITA sites complete in their second year, on average, doubles over the first year. Many sites around upstate New York, however, see the number of returns completed quadruple in the second year over the first. We are looking forward to a very busy tax season!
Participation in the VITA program is very rewarding in a variety of ways. How those rewards are ranked varies with each participant, of course. Students who volunteer their time receive:
- experience completing tax returns, an experience that can be used to earn an income in the future;
- potential internship credit for the hours served;
- experience dealing with the public;
- a chance to put their education to work;
- the satisfaction of helping a group of people who need and appreciate the help.
This tax season is going to bring with it, a whole new set of challenges. But the students of SUNY Oneonta will rise to meet those challenges. Setting up the site was not easy. But right from the start, to every objection that was raised and every concern that was voiced, our response has been simple. To all who expressed reservations we replied, “Hey, we’re SUNY Oneonta! We’ve got this!” That is our motto.
All of the organizations involved provide a positive contribution to the program
but it is our students who make it work.