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Murray State and United Way's VITA Program to Offer Free Tax Return Services

Murray State University's accounting department and United Way will present five, free tax return service sessions before tax day on Wednesday, April 15th.

Murray State University and Murray, Kentucky's United Way are joining forces to provide free tax return services to the local community and beyond. Executive Director of United Way, Dr. Gerald Washington, professor of accounting, Dr. Denise O'Shaughnessy, and accounting students, Hannah Tucker and Niles Shimwell, visit Sounds Good to discuss.

The VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Center was started 44 years ago in 1976. "It's a program sponsored by the IRS who have graced us with the opportunity to provide a service for our community," Shimwell, a senior accounting student at Murray State, explains. "We've actually had the privilege of partnering with United Way. We get to help you all right after the Christmas holidays. It's a real busy time with tax season coming up. We want to provide this service to you all for free. Lift a weight off your shoulders." 

"We've been around 32 years, and I don't recall ever not being in the VITA program," Washington says. "We go to daycares, senior citizen centers, retirement homes, and make sure they're aware [of the program]. This is an outreach program that's part of United Way values in it is for financial literacy."

This program is as beneficial to the community as it is the students. "We learn a lot of the laws and how to apply them to an extent in the classroom, but when we have an opportunity to do legitimate tax returns, it really does make you pull on that information you learned in the class and apply it," Tucker says. "It really helps you memorize it and understand it to a fuller extent."

Students working in the VITA program participate in a two-day training course and must pass an IRS-certified tax law exam. They are then split into groups of two and work specifically with basic, advanced, or foreign tax returns. 

"I'm always there answering any and all questions," O'Shaughnessy adds. "There's always something different and weird that comes up, but we know where to search that out. I personally review every single return before we e-file."

"We e-file at the state level and the federal level. We've had returns that have had eight different states," O'Shaughnessy continues. "We're very capable of that. The IRS sponsors the programs, so we have access to their tax software. It's free to the public. We get to practice our skills, and I get to help students have real-life their resumes...[have] them experience what it's going to be in the real world."

"I'm so proud of our students. They've done such a good job that we have grown the program. When I first started, we were doing about 95 returns. We did close to 500 last year. We're working on the wait time. We don't like our clients to have to wait a long time, so we're working on that this year. People are so appreciative and so grateful to have someone explain it to explain the tax laws. The laws changed. They changed the forms in 2018. They changed them again for this year. We're able to explain that to them in great detail."

Those eligible for VITA tax services include:

  • Murray State students, including international students
  • Murray State faculty and employees
  • Any community member or individual willing to travel to Murray State's main campus whose income level is under $60,000

If attending a VITA session, make sure to bring:

  • Photo ID 
  • Student ID (if applicable)
  • Social security card (or copy)
  • 2019 W2s, 1099s, and other related documents 
  • Bank routing and account numbers (if looking to use direct deposit for refunds)
  • License plate number (if parking on campus without a pass)
  • Optional: 2018 tax returns 

VITA tax sessions will take place in the business building in room 353. Signs will be posted on campus to assist those unfamiliar with the area.  Sessions will be held on Friday, February 21st, and Friday, February 28th, from 12 noon to 4 p.m.  Sessions will be held from 12 noon to 6 p.m. on March 6thMarch 27th; and April 3rd

For more information on the VITA tax return services, call the accounting department at 270-809-4193.

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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