SRU, business students, offer free tax preparation

IRS tax form 1040

Feb. 17, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - With tax season upon us, qualifying Pennsylvania residents are reminded they can get their taxes done for free through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Once again, Slippery Rock University is participating in the program by providing space and SRU business students trained to help clients prepare their returns.

VITA is a U.S. Internal Revenue Service program designed to help low and moderate-income taxpayers complete their tax returns at no cost. The program offers tax preparation for individuals and families with less than $50,000 of income in tax year 2015. Taxpayers must present their W-2s, photo ID and their Social Security card.

SRU's VITA location operates at the University's Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator office at 165 Elm St., in Slippery Rock. Other VITA offices are in Butler, Kittanning and Cranberry.

Rhonda Clark, SRU instructor in the School of Business, oversees SRU's VITA participation. She said 16 SRU students are helping with returns, earning academic internship credits and working toward becoming certified tax preparers with the IRS.

"Not only is this a wonderful community service, but it also provides experiential learning opportunities for business students to develop new skills," she said.

The service includes filing federal and state tax returns. Some taxpayers have received their refunds as quickly as nine days, Clark said. The 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, she said.

"From my experience with this program over the past five years, it has been impressive to see how VITA continues to grow each year to reach more people to create a greater impact in returning money back to the community," Clark said. "Last tax season the program helped more than 2,045 tax payers, which yielded a total of more than $2.8 million in refunds to the local economy."

The tax season opened Jan. 19, when the IRS began accepting returns. Taxpayers will have four extra days - counting Feb. 29 because this is a leap year - to file without needing an extension. The deadline is April 18, because of the celebration of Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia.

SRU VITA office hours are from 4-8 p.m., Wednesday and Thursdays, noon-7 p.m., Fridays and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through April 15.

For an appointment, call 724.431.3767.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 | gordon.ovenshine@sru.edu