For the 20th consecutive year, Clayton State University’s accounting students have provided free volunteer tax preparation assistance during February and March.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is hosted each year by the Clayton State School of Business. A national program that provides tax support to low-to-moderate income taxpayers, this program, which has been in existence for 37 years in all, provides volunteers with extensive IRS training to ensure that taxpayers receive the tax credits for which they qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Students also benefit from this program as preparers are trained in the recent changes to the credits available for tuition and other school-related expenses. The VITA program also prepares state income tax returns and provides free e-filing options to ensure clients receive their refunds as soon as possible.
Clayton State University is proud to be the only university in the state of Georgia that has successfully participated in the VITA program for 20 years running. On average, the student volunteers provide assistance to at least 100 people each year. However, 2010 proved to be VITA’s biggest year at Clayton State, helping 195 taxpayers total.
“The program will be receiving a grant from the Atlanta Prosperity Campaign due to the number of returns filed,” notes Dr. Judith Ogden, assistant professor of Business Law. “Even more might have been helped, but a sixth Saturday was cancelled due to snow. Sixty-two of the taxpayers identified themselves as students or employees of Clayton State. At least 20 said they had come last year. The other taxpayers said they had learned about the program in a variety of ways; newspapers, through friends, at work, and even on TV.
“It gives our students hands-on experience, and provides a valuable service to the public.”
Ogden also notes that many of the taxpayers VITA served in 2010 reported that last year they had paid preparers to have simple returns done. However, the economy drove many to a free service this year. Among the services Clayton State students were able to provide included; the first-time homebuyer credit, the making work pay credit, education credits, filing returns electronically, and having refunds quickly deposited in their bank accounts.
“Taxpayers repeatedly praised the students for their expertise, enthusiasm, and patience,” she adds. “Although at times the wait was long, the School of Business provided refreshments for the waiting taxpayers, and there were books and toys to keep the children entertained.”
Clayton State students may participate in the VITA program as part of a for-credit course. After the tax season ends they must write a memorandum addressing an ethical issue faced by tax preparers. Students taking the VITA class this year included: Richard Armstrong, Tamela Brewer, James Caggiano, Danielle Chapman Joshua Clark, Jimmy Dihn, Marshall Hall, Velrica Jn Louis, Sandra Lohnes, John Maimo, Dana Martin, Crystal Murphy, Au Nguyen, Ebenezer Oppong-Peprah, Benita Perkins, Trieu Trong, and Victoria Williams.
Also, Michael Draize, Carly Hutchinson, Kristal Leverette, Martin Sanz (a Clayton State graduate), Gigie Thrower (another Clayton State graduate), and Marcia Blane (an IRS employee who lives in Clayton County) volunteered their time. Clayton State Accounting Club members and students from the Legal Environment of Business class served as greeters. Rose Schultze (a Clayton State graduate) volunteered as co-coordinator, and attended all coordinator meetings, and helped with training volunteers at other VITA sites. Several VITA students have indicated that they want to return next year as volunteers.