UST Marks 30 Years Offering Free Income Tax Filing Help

There are just two weekends left until the deadline to file a 2012 federal tax return. The University of St. Thomas is marking thirty years of providing free help to file a simple return.

UST's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program is targeted at people who earn up to $50,000 a year, are intimidated by the idea of filling out returns, and can't afford to hire help.

Ramon Fernandez is a UST accounting professor who has been with the program since it began.  He says accounting student volunteers are trained and equipped to handle "simple" returns — those that involve ordinary wage income, interest and dividends, modest capital gains, and basic self-employment income.

"But, for example, we wouldn't do a client with rental property, or oil royalty income, or very complicated self-employment with a lot of deductions that haven't been added up for us."

Fernandez says the top concern of the VITA clients is pretty much the same as other taxpayers.

"What's my refund, and how quickly can I get it?  Now that we use electronic filing and direct deposit, they can get it in about two weeks — which is a lot better than when they had to wait about 6 to 8 weeks to get their refund."

Fernandez says returns are double-checked before they're filed, to keep any problems from bouncing back to the client.  Student volunteers will take clients on a first-come-first-served basis at the MD Anderson YMCA on Cavalcade for the next two Saturday.  He says allow at least two hours for a finished return. 

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