WILMINGTON — As tax season approaches, 20 Wilmington College students are looking forward to assisting area residents in preparing their annual tax returns.
Last year, the students secured a 100 percent IRS rating in completing 205 tax returns — free of charge — as a community service that gives the accounting and business majors, and other students involved, a valuable hands-on learning opportunity.
Allen Beatty, CPA, assistant professor of accounting and IRS Enrolled Agent/Site Manager, will again supervise the group, which includes 13 tax preparers and seven student greeters. Beatty noted how impressed both he and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been with the local program’s first three years.
“This has far exceeded what I thought we could do,” he said, noting the 150 completed returns in 2018 eclipsed 82 in the inaugural year 2017, and last year’s 205 returns reflected an operation running at peak efficiency. “This goes beyond professor and students. I look at them as co-workers, like when I was back in the corporate world.”.
The IRS-certified, volunteer tax preparers will again offer this service as part of the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). Wilmington College hosts a VITA site that offers tax help to persons of low and moderate income who, generally, make less than $55,000, as well as taxpayers with disabilities or with limited English-speaking skills.
The students will provide basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. This service generally includes basic returns of wage earners (W-2) and retirees (1099-R and Social Security), who might also have such additional forms of income as interest, dividends (1099-INT, DIV) and unemployment (1099-G).
Preparation of a limited amount of itemized returns (Schedule A with home mortgage, interest, charitable contributions, medical expenses, etc.) will also be available, along with those featuring such popular credits as Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Retirement Savers Credit, etc. Also, the students will be able to work with taxpayers claiming capital gains and losses, and those with self-employment income, in addition to being able to do limited small business returns. This year’s preparers will possess additional expertise in dealing with Health Savings Accounts and one is a certified translator of Spanish to English.
On the heels of last year’s increase in the standard deduction, the VITA site will review receipts and documents to determine whether their clients should itemize deductions. Also, there is no longer a personal or dependent exemption, however the child tax credit has been
All student volunteer preparers have passed at least three levels of IRS certification and some also have taken Beatty’s tax accounting course. Those students designated as greeters, while having completed a lesser level of certification, will assist in keeping the process as efficient as possible.
Senior Shelbi Long, a veteran VITA site preparer, will again serve as student site supervisor and assist Beatty in managing the College’s VITA site.
Hours of operation will be Monday and Thursday evenings, from 5 to 8 p.m., between Jan. 27 and April 9, and on Saturdays, Feb. 8 and March 21 from 9 a.m. to noon. No sessions are scheduled during the College’s Spring Break, March 9 through 13. Sessions will be held in WC’s Center for the Sciences and Agriculture, corner of College and Elm streets.
More information is available by contacting Beatty at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-481-2390, while appointments can be scheduled through Long at 567-217-1008 or via email at email@example.com. Clients are reminded to bring photo identification and their social security card, along with the prior year’s tax return, if available.
Beatty said the IRS wants VITA sites to prepare a minimum 100 returns, so WC’s output has been more than exemplary. Indeed, his goal is no longer increasing the number of prepared tax returns compared to the previous year, but rather for the College’s VITA site to continue its hallmark for providing both a top-quality service and a great learning experience for his students.
“The goal is not to break the record. I’m thrilled if all we do is approach the 200-return level we exceeded last year,” he said. “I just want to continue offering this community service and providing students with this powerful hands-on learning experience.”
He added that the seniors from previous years have been placed successfully in their fields-of-choice since graduation, and their experience with the tax preparation program was likely an appealing attribute to employers and graduate schools. Long engaged in an accounting internship based upon her VITA expertise and leadership, and she has had at least two job offers for when she graduates this May.
“This experience can make a huge difference on a student’s resume,” Beatty said. “It sets you so much apart from other job applicants. Our track record is pretty good that participants will have job offers before graduation.”