by Dawn Humburg
Posted on 2/14/2014
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program known as VITA began in the 1960s by the Internal Revenue Service. This program was a part of a national effort to increase its public service. The concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by local accounting students; in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a great hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. VITA provides free income tax preparation services to low income individuals and families all around the country. This program is geared for individuals with income of less than $20,000 and if you are married filing jointly or head of household your earned income must be less than $58,000 for the 2013 tax season.
Iowa Central Community College partnered with the Fort Dodge United Way in 2006 to bring this program to Fort Dodge and the surrounding communities. This all started with one student preparing returns in a downtown office in Fort Dodge. The following accounting interns Shawna Iverson, Amanda Bergeson, Kelly Ayers, Rose Sielaff, Raylene Boyington, Amanda Persoon, Mitch Russell, Peggy Miller and Myra Caquelin are located at the Fort Dodge Library volunteering with the VITA program. Iowa Central is the second VITA location with the following accounting interns Bobby Heun and Jessica Morey assisting clients there. The site coordinators at these sites are Dr. Dawn Humburg, Jessica Martens, Mitch Lewis, and Melissa Thompson.
The volunteers begin with two weeks of training with one of the site coordinators. The volunteers started by reading the IRS workbook 4491 which helps understand the tax laws and the tools to assist you in preparing and filing accurate returns. Volunteers had to read the code of conduct book and take a certification exam to proceed to the next step. There was a basic and an advance exam that the volunteers had to take. The basic exam consisted of several common scenarios dealing with different examples of people wanting their tax returns done. The advanced exam was a little more in depth and required the knowledge of someone that understood the tax laws more. These volunteers are required to complete 120 hours for their internship for the accounting program at Iowa Central.
The goal is that this program will continue to grow and strive for many years to come. Over the past seven years, the volunteers have helped bring back $2.5 million to the Fort Dodge area. This wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the 5,700 internship hours that were provided by Iowa Central students. Last year, the public library in Fort Dodge completed 277 returns while the students on the Iowa Central campus completed 63 returns, which makes a total of 340 returns which saved the clients an estimated $68,000 in tax preparer fees. The program helped clients receive $158,603 in earned income tax credit. The education credits last year were $29,007 received back by clients. Clients last year got $431,585 in federal refunds and $51,818 in total state refunds. This all had an increase on the economic impact of $551,403.
Tax preparation appointments may be made by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. These services are located in the AST Building, Room 402, Studio B or at the Fort Dodge Public Library. The VITA program is staffed by accounting interns from the Accounting Associate and Numbers at Night Programs under the direction of Dr. Dawn A. Humburg, Program Coordinator.