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Tax clinic helps students prepare for tax season

As the time for taxes to be filed approaches, a resource for students and lower-income individuals has become available.  

A Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) tax clinic is held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays on the second floor of Kelce Hall, in the computer lab near room 223. 

The VITA clinic is part of a nationwide IRS program, and is primarily run by volunteers. 

“There’s really two main purposes,” said Mary Jo Goedeke, assistant professor in accounting and program coordinator for the VITA clinic. “First, it’s a service to the public. We prepare tax returns for basically everyone who comes in who qualifies, it’s geared towards Pitt State… and lower income folks because there is an income cap. So, it’s a service to the public.” 

The program can be found at universities across the U.S, and Pitt Sate previously had a VITA program before it stopped. When Goedeke was hired, she began the clinics again. 

“Having a VITA program is something many universities have,” she said. “There was a VITA program here many years ago… It kind of died, but there was a lot of interest in the department (of accounting). So, when I came on as a professor here in 2016, and when I was hired, they had mentioned to me that they’d really like to have a VITA program and I guess I was willing to put in the time to get it started and running.” 

The clinics provide a variety of services for those who attend. 

“We actually prepare tax returns that are federal and state, so any tax return that you need filed this year. We also file tax returns for international students, Goedeke said. 

The clinic was designed to not only benefit those who attend, but also the volunteers of whom many are PSU accounting students. 

“The second main purpose (is for)… folks that are volunteering in here are students in our accounting program, so it’s helping them to get experience preparing taxes,” Goedeke said. “In order to be a volunteer, you are required to pass a series of tests through the IRS to make sure you are competent to file the returns and prepare returns… primarily the people who actually do that are the people who are in the individual income and advanced taxation courses.”  

Haydn Dawson, senior in accounting, volunteers at the VITA clinic and said she has benefited greatly from volunteering.  

“… I just think it’s a good way to get better information about how to file a tax return and help get practice in filing tax returns because I may need to do this later on in life, so it’s really helpful,” Dawson said. I’ve definitely learned a lot because we see a bunch of different types of people, citizens and internationals, and just getting to do multiple returns, just practicing really helps learn what goes where and how to properly file a tax return. 

Before being able to volunteer, Dawson first had to become certified by the IRS. 

“We had to complete four different exams to get certified, and we just had to complete them online and it gives you things to study for and you just take the exam and you have to pass with… 80 percent to be certified,” she said. 

Dawson said the experience was helpful for her and hopes the clinics will also be beneficial for all those who attend. 

I just think it’s really good practice for filing tax returns and I like meeting different people that come in here and helping them file their returns,” Dawson said. I hope they will get their tax returns filed correctly and if they are having trouble I hope that we can help them complete it, because sometimes tax returns can be very confusing and complicated.” 

Tyler Webb, junior in computer information systems, attended the clinic for the first time because according to Webb, “U.S. taxes are not an easy to understand and I thought I might be able to learn something.” Webb said he heard about the clinic through CANVAS and found it very helpful and was able to learn something about his own taxes. 

Absolutely, yes. I learned the types of forms that you need and learning about credits and deductions,” Webb said. 

The clinics began on Feb. 22. and will continue through the tax season ending on April 12. 

“… We’ve been doing Friday’s from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Goedeke said. “You have a couple of days that are reserved for international students to make sure they get in. We’ll be running through the tax season, so our last day is April 12. 

Overall, Goedeke said she hopes everyone who attends the clinics will leave feeling they were provided  

“a quality service”. 

I hope they feel like we were able to help them get their taxes completed which for some people is actually a pretty difficult task,” she said. “And I hope they feel like they got educated service.”

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