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Accounting students offer free tax assistance

staff writer

Published: Monday, February 10, 2014

Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 23:02

USU’s international accounting society, Beta Alpha Psi, is hosting volunteer income tax assistance workshops Feb. 4 to April 1. The workshops will be held Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. in the George S. Eccles Business Building room B120.

This tax season has one big change for students, according to Beta Alpha Psi adviser Bonnie Villarreal. The American Opportunities Credit is a chance for students to file and get some financial reimbursement for education expenses.

Villarreal said this year’s scholarship and grant funding for Spring 2014 was applied in December 2013. She said this has added an extra semester of scholarships and grants for students while counting roughly three semesters of tuition on statements.

“A lot of students are eligible for the credit, but the statement may make it look like it’s not,” Villarreal said. “Without the help of a volunteer, students might miss out on something they could get.”

“VITA offers a variety of different benefits to students, but the most appealing of these benefits is the fact that it's free,” said Jesse Hamilton, VITA president.

Beta Alpha Psi’s workshop has trained volunteers who can help students match up their statements and make sure they know what they’re filing.

“We complete 600 returns a year and generate over $8,000 in tax returns for students,” Villarreal said.

VITA may be run by volunteers, but they still have ways to ensure quality.

“As a quality control mechanism, every return goes through the review process which entails an experienced tax preparer thoroughly reviewing the work of the previous preparer to ensure quality and accuracy,” Hamilton said.

There are also other options for students who can’t make it to a VITA workshop or who don’t want to wait in line. Students can gain access through Beta Alpha Psi to a website where they can file their federal and state taxes for free. To gain access, students would need to stop by the workshop or email Beta Alpha Psi.

International students can also receive help at the VITA workshop from volunteers trained for international taxes. Villarreal said they have helped more than 200 foreign students from more than 23 different countries in the past.

“Many accounting firms do not deal with foreign student returns enough to train their staff to be able to complete them,” Hamilton said. “Online tax preparation software is not an option for foreign students, so they are normally left with very limited options.”

“While foreign students must still paper-file their returns, we provide them the specific documents they need in order to send in their returns, including mailing envelopes with the correct addresses of where to send the returns,” said Andrew Loaiza, a VITA volunteer.

According to Villarreal, the volunteers are prepared to amend returns, fix them and do prior-year returns.

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