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‘Serving our community:’ University of North Georgia students offering free tax preparation
Scott Graham, Unsplash

Undergraduate and graduate students in accounting and finance majors at the University of North Georgia are offering free tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program sponsored by the IRS. 

The VITA program allows accounting and finance students to gain work experience as they provide community members free income tax preparation.
According to a press release, the service is available by appointment from 5-8 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays from Feb. 1 to March 1. 

Under the guidance of Lisa Nash, a certified public accountant and lecturer of accounting in the Mike Cottrell College of Business, students prepare tax forms with schedules A, B, C-EZ or D and Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Education Credits and Dependent Care tax credits as part of the VITA program. VITA offers free tax services to people who generally make $57,000 or less.

“The IRS-sponsored program offers UNG students a wonderful hands-on experience serving our community,” said Dr. Ellen Best, department head of accounting and law. “The students gain many new skills while taking part in the VITA program, which includes growing their technical skills through preparing tax returns, learning how to interact with clients, and being able to receive feedback on reviewed work.”

This year Bachelor of Business Administration students in accounting and finance are preparing returns and Master of Accountancy students are helping with preparation and review, Best said.

Seniors Millie Burger, Abigail Duncan and JoAn Jean-Baptiste completed an individual tax class, so they are knowledgeable about tax law, Nash said. 

“I’m excited about the opportunity,” Burger said. “In addition to helping people, it gives me experience because I haven’t had an internship yet.”

There are some notable changes regarding taxes this year. Nash said taxpayers must report the amount of federal stimulus money they received to ensure they obtained the full amount. The stimulus funds are not taxable.

Also, the child tax credit and dependent care credit were fully refundable and increased in 2021, Nash added. Families were able to receive some of these funds as advanced payments during the year, and the tax return will help them receive the remainder of the credits.

This is the sixth year Nash is leading the program. She said the program serves 100-115 taxpayers per year. 

The VITA grant program is an IRS initiative designed to support free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations. This service helps low- to moderate-income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers file their taxes each year. 

Taxpayers can email or call 706-867-3082 to set up a time. Residents should bring the documents listed by the IRS to Newton Oakes Room 015 on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus at the time of their appointment. Returns are filed electronically with direct deposit, if appropriate.