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Murray State's VITA Program Offers Income Tax Assistance to the Community

VITA tax preparation
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Murray State's VITA program will be offered on Friday, February 25th, March 4th, March 11th, April 1st, April 8th.

Murray State University's Accounting Department and the Epsilon Nu chapter of Beta Alpha Psi have partnered with the United Way of Murray-Calloway County to offer the 46th year of the VITA, or volunteer income tax assistance, program to the local community.

The VITA program allows local community members to have their income taxes completed, reviewed, and submitted by a team of trained student volunteers. Tax assistance is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. The program is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service and is available to individuals who earn up to $70,000 per year—though O'Shaughnessy said they will still help clients who are slightly over this limit. "We try to help anyone and everyone we can," she says.

Student tax preparers undergo extensive training before interacting with clients. In addition to tax preparation training, they also participate in an ethics course. Many of these students go on to prepare taxes professionally, and O'Shaughnessy says many employers in the area "seek out our students because they are so well prepared and have been exposed to working with clients, working with physical returns."

"A lot of universities, they don't even get to see the forms," O'Shaughnessy continues. "Whereas here, they actually meet with clients, prepare the returns, explain them to the clients. So, it's a great experience for them."

Last year, the VITA program switched to a remote format due to COVID-19. This year, the program returns to its original format. "[Clients] will go into a room, they'll be greeted, they'll fill out an application that's required by the IRS. We'll make sure they have all their documents, and then we will prepare the return right then and there. So, when they leave, their return will be e-filed. They're going to bring their documents; they're going to leave with their documents. We can protect their identity as well."

Necessary documents include a photo ID; Social Security cards for you, your spouse, and any dependents; 2021 W2s, 1099s, and any other relevant tax records; bank account and routing number for direct deposit; and a copy of your 2020 completed federal and state tax returns if available.

O'Shaughnessy says that while online tax services can be useful, "the software is only as good as the people inputting the information." She stresses that the VITA program is particularly helpful following last year's new tax laws and credits, including the child advanced tax credit and the earned income credit.

"Our tax laws have a lot of changes that a normal person wouldn't know about. Luckily, we're sponsored by the IRS, so we're up to date with all those changes," O'Shaughnessy continues. "I know people are more than capable, but with all the changes in all the tax laws, they might miss something and not give themselves the size of refund they could possibly get if someone else assisted them."

The VITA program is also offering tax preparation services to the Mayfield community. "We would like anyone to know that we're available to help them any way we could. And if they lost their documents [in December's tornados], we could possibly help them get their IRS transcript, so we can help them prepare their return from that as well," O'Shaugnessy concludes.

The Murray State VITA program will be offered on Fridays from 11 am to 5 pm on February 25, March 4, March 11, April 1, and April 8. It is located in Business Building South, Room 353, on Murray State's main campus. The College of Business building can be accessed from N. 16th Street between Main and Chestnut Streets or from the quad off of 15th and Olive.

For more information on the VITA program, visit its website.

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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