The Bonaventure Accounting Association and Students In Free Enterprise are teaming up again to offer free tax services this season for those who qualify.
The St. Bonaventure University Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program officially opens its eighth year of tax preparation services at the Olean Center Mall on Thursday, Jan. 27. The VITA site is located near Subway and JCPenney, and will remain open until April 1.
Operating hours are Monday through Friday, with morning, afternoon, and evening appointment times available. Taxpayers may call 2-1-1 or (716) 373-0123 to see if they qualify and to make an appointment.
On Saturdays in February, volunteers are scheduled to be at Franklinville Elementary School on Feb. 5, the Little Valley office of the Business Development Corporation on Feb. 12, and the Randolph Free Library on Feb. 19. Saturday hours of operation are 1 to 3 p.m., and interested persons are encouraged to call 2-1-1 or (716) 373-0123 to see if they qualify and to verify exact dates and locations.
The Franklinville, Little Valley and Randolph Saturdays are walk-in with no appointment necessary, but taxpayers willing to be pre-screened will be given first consideration.
The St. Bonaventure VITA site is an innovative, high-volume program that operates on an appointment basis, and has the capacity to prepare more than 100 tax returns per week during the 2011 tax season. Using VITA tax preparation services allows taxpayers to keep 100 percent of their refunds.
With electronic filing and direct deposit, most taxpayers will receive their federal refunds within two weeks, and their New York State refunds within three to four weeks.
To qualify for free tax return preparation and electronic filing, Cattaraugus County workers must have a family income of $49,000 or less. Candidates will go through an entrance interview to see whether they qualify for free assistance. Those who qualify must bring a valid picture I.D., Social Security cards, and all W-2 and 1099 forms to their tax preparation appointment.
Since 2004, the University’s VITA program has brought federal and state income tax benefits to people with low and moderate incomes by providing free income tax preparation and e-filing. The program focuses on workers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit available to low- and moderate-income workers with wages or self-employment income.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is essentially a bonus for working, and New York state provides a matching credit of approximately 30 percent of the federal amount. For more information on the Earned Income Tax Credit, see www.irs.gov/eitc and www.tax.ny.gov/pit/credits/earned_income_credit.htm.
VITA students set a new record in 2010, preparing 550 tax returns with $877,000 in tax refunds for local taxpayers, an almost 17 percent increase from 2009. Since 2004, VITA has helped Cattaraugus County residents earn $3.3 million in tax refunds, and prepared 2,100 tax returns.
Accounting majors, faculty, staff, and alumni from St. Bonaventure University volunteer to make the program possible under the leadership of Dr. Susan Anders, professor of accounting and adviser for the VITA program. Volunteer tax preparers engage in many hours of training and must pass rigorous IRS certification tests.
For 2010, 83 percent of the volunteer tax preparers were certified at the advanced level. The St. Bonaventure VITA site was carefully reviewed by both IRS and New York state representatives in 2010 and received positive evaluations.
The St. Bonaventure VITA program operates in partnership with the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services and the United Way of Cattaraugus County, which provide resources for the activity.
The Bonaventure Accounting Association provides around 40 to 60 volunteer student tax preparers each year, along with experienced alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the university. SIFE students handle the marketing and promotions for VITA, as well as client screening and booking appointments.
For more information, contact SBU’s VITA program at 2-1-1 or (716) 373-0123, or visit www.irs.gov.
About the University: St. Bonaventure is ranked 29th in U.S.News & World Report’s 2011 ranking of Northern universities that offer master’s degrees. It has a history of accomplishment and service that extends back more than 150 years. At the heart of St. Bonaventure is the Franciscan affirmation of the dignity and worth of the entire created order. Fundamental to this vision is an awareness that it is within relationships and community that individuals discover and develop their potential.