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February 21, 2014
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine

SRU students provide income tax help

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - It's that time again - time to file your federal taxes. But don't worry, you could be eligible for help filing.

Slippery Rock University is again partnering with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service to offer free tax return assistance for taxpayers who earned less than $50,000 in 2013. SRU is hosting a tax preparation site on Elm Street for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

The VITA program is offered in conjunction with the IRS and managed locally by the Center for Community Resources in Butler. The initiative is designed to promote and support free tax preparation services for the underserved, in both urban and non-urban locations. Service is targeted toward low-to-moderate income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly and those with limited English speaking skills.

Taxpayers may receive help with state and federal taxes, provided they live and work in Pennsylvania.

New this year is a program enabling individuals or families with a combined income of $58,000 or less to file their federal and state taxes for free online at county.

More than 20 SRU students from SRU's College of Business, Information and Social Science are helping Pennsylvania taxpayers at offices in Slippery Rock, Butler, Cranberry and Kittanning. Students have been trained and certified as IRS tax preparers, but their work with clients will be supervised by professionals.

The Slippery Rock VITA office will operate through April 11. The tax service is open to anyone who meets the eligibility guidelines, not just Butler County residents. Students, staff members, faculty and individuals in the community and the surrounding area can make use of the service. Parties will be pre-screened to ensure they qualify. There are no fees, service charges or loan interest charges because no loans are involved.

"SRU's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator is proud to assist with this program by providing the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program with space in their office," said Rhonda Clark, SRU instructor in the School of Business. "Twenty-one interns from SRU's School of Business are earning academic credits by becoming IRS-tax certified and helping local tax payers with their returns. Not only is this a wonderful community service but it also provides experiential learning for the students to grow and develop their new skills."

This free service is especially helpful to inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as earned income tax credit, child tax credit and education credit, Clark said.

Clark, who has been involved with the program for two consecutive years, said she has been impressed to see how VITA continues to grow each year to reach more people and to create a greater impact in returning money back to the community.

"Last tax season the program helped more than 1,633 taxpayers that yielded a total of more than $2.2 million in refunds to the local economy," Clark said.

"Many tax refunds and credits go unclaimed each year. The IRS reports "that up to 25 percent of those who are eligible do not claim earned income tax credits," said Jean Bowen, progam specialist and VITA coordinator based in Butler. "Our goal is to reach people who do not file because they can't afford to pay a preparer or they don't know they qualify for tax credits and refunds."

The other offices are located at the:

Center for Community Resources>

212-214 South Main St.

Butler, Pa., 16001

Cranberry YMCA

2001 Erhman Road

Cranberry Township, Pa., 16011

Kittanning Empowerment Center

113 Market St.

Kittanning, Pa., 16201

Taxpayers who need help can call 211 for an appointment.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.