What Is The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program?

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance ProgramThe Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is a free program designed for American citizens who need help preparing and filing their taxes. Americans must file their state and federal taxes in April of each year for the money they made the previous year or pay a high fine. Though some people work one job, have no deductions and can file their taxes on their own, others have problems completing the forms and filing their taxes. This program lets citizens skip the long lines and high costs associated with working with a tax preparation specialist.

Who Qualifies for the Program?

The main criteria for qualifying for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program is your income. As long as you made $52,000 or less in the previous year, you qualify for help. The federal government instituted Earned Income Credits to help those who fall below the poverty line and those who make slightly more qualify for higher refunds. Anyone who is eligible for those credits also qualifies for the program. Though most people who seek help are individuals, the program is also open for married and separated couples.

Who Does the Taxes?

VITA, which started in California in the 1970s, originally featured a small group of accounting students from a nearby campus helping local residents. As the program grew, it added a number of locations all across the country. The men and women working in the program are accounting majors who need more experience before they graduate. Professional accountants and college professors remain on hand to handle issues that students are unfamiliar with and to ensure that those students complete each form. Those seeking help from the program can also request that a professional or professor stand by throughout the process.

VITA Grant Program

The VITA Grant Program is a program available through the Internal Revenue System. Designed to provide rural areas and smaller communities with tax preparation help, the program lets applicants apply for a grant that will cover the cost of instituting a VITA program in their area. As a college student, you can apply for a grant that will cover the salaries of the professionals working for your program, to rent space for the program and to pay for any advertising fees to let locals know about the program. According to the IRS, these grants are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Applying for the Program

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program begins in January of each year and runs through the middle or end of April. Most programs meet in central locations in communities, including in libraries, on college campuses and in local schools. You do not need to apply for a spot in the program, but you will need to come during one of the days that the program operates. Tax filers need to bring all their tax documents from the previous year, any receipts for donations they made or supplies they bought and anything else that applies to their taxes.

Related Resource: Non-Profit Accounting

As long as you have your financial documents on hand and can wait in line, you qualify for VITA. Designed to help those who need assistance filing their federal or state income taxes, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program gives accounting students hands on experience working with clients and preparing tax documents for others.