Business students in the George Dean Johnson, Jr. College of Business and Economics at the University of South Carolina Upstate will begin providing volunteer income tax assistance on Friday, Feb. 6. To qualify for this free service, filers must have a total household income of $53,000 or below. The students have completed the United Way of the Piedmont VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) training program, which means they are IRS certified tax preparers.
In addition to providing this service free-of-charge, the students are often able to obtain larger refunds than local tax preparation offices and can prepare amended returns that had previously been filed incorrectly by a paid preparer.
“The students are offering a valuable service and making a significant economic impact,” said Michael Wooten ’13, an adjunct instructor at the Johnson College of Business and Economics who is the founder and faculty advisor to the VITA site at The George. “Each tax return the students prepare is a $300-$400 savings for the taxpayer.”
In 2013, 222 tax returns were filed with $277,649 being refunded from the government. In 2012, 148 tax returns were filed with $185,000 being refunded from the government.
“The USC Upstate VITA Program is producing amazing results,” said Kam Chaudhary, USC Upstate student and 2015 VITA Site Coordinator. “The University nominated the VITA Program for the 2014 South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) Service Learning Award and the VITA Program received the Outstanding University Program Award at the 2014 USC Upstate Student Affairs Awards Night.”
About 30 students are working with the VITA program this year, some to obtain course-credit, while others hope to gain some valuable hands-on experience.
“This is the first time I’ve ever prepared taxes, but I have taken a tax class,” said Kiersten James of Gaffney, a junior accounting major. “This is a great way to help the community and to earn class credit at the same time.”
Marthies Nunoo, a junior accounting major from London, said he signed up to help with the VITA program to gain experience.
“Many of us are getting ready to get out in the real world and we need to have some hands-on experience working in the real world,” Nunoo said. “I’m excited to be able to help people, whether it’s correcting a return that was prepared by someone else or in helping a client file their taxes for the first time.”
To schedule a tax preparation appointment, call (864) 582-2975. For more information, contact Michael Wooten, adjunct instructor, at (864) 503-5581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.