Tax season is right around the corner, and for a lot of people, that’s a stressful thought.
Filing taxes can be confusing and if they aren’t filed carefully, making a mistake can be very easy. Some avoid the stress of filing taxes altogether by hiring someone to file their taxes for them, but this option can be very expensive.
The average college student, then, has an impossible dilemma: doing it on one’s own may lead to mistakes, but getting help is unaffordable – this is where VITA aims to help.
According to Dr. Mark Williams, a professor in the business department, Olivet’s new program, VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), “is designed to provide tax assistance to tax payers with low or moderate incomes,” Williams said. “Those folks who couldn’t otherwise go and afford to have somebody professionally prepare their returns.”
The VITA program is sponsored by the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and was brought to Olivet through the efforts of the Enactus program. A group of students from the program wanted to use their skills as accounting and business majors to serve the community.
Senior Tyler Ellis, a member of Enactus, said, “Dr. Williams brought it up and a bunch of us thought that [VITA] would be a cool project to start on campus here. It’s great for the community, great for students. It’s kind of a win-win for everybody.”
For right now, the VITA site is only going to operate on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., except for breaks, in Weber Center, room 103. “As things progress, if we need to be open additional hours and we can find people to staff the times, then we’ll be open more hours as well,” Williams said.
There are flyers around campus with a list of the things that people need to bring with them to the VITA site in order to get their taxes done. There is an income limit of $54,000.
Anyone is encouraged to come to get help with their taxes or to have their taxes filed for them. “VITA is not limited to students,” Williams said. “It is available to faculty, staff, and members of the community. We are hoping to be able to serve the community with this free service.”
“It’s a way of giving back,” Ellis said. “It looks great on our resumes, but at the end of the day the real reason that we’re doing it is to use what we’re gifted at to help people in the community, to help students. I think Dr. Williams and all of us kind of view it as a ministry opportunity, not just a tax return that you can go get anywhere else.”
Filing taxes and serving the community, according to Williams, “is what the VITA program is all about.”
–Kelli Poole, staff writer