by Janie Hannon
Thanks to twenty-two Sewanee students, free assistance in preparing and filing 2013 Federal Income Tax returns is now available for low-to-moderate income residents of Franklin, Grundy, and Marion counties. The students, led by Dorothy Estes (C ’15), partner with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) to be trained to execute this service. The VITA teacher used the IRS Link and Learn taxes program to guide the students through a certification test, which encompasses the scope of tax law on the basic level. Once the volunteers passed the tests, Estes taught them how to use the tax program TaxWise Online. As they gained experience with the specific software used at VITA sites, they branched off to prepare returns on their own. They currently operate at a Sewanee site on Tuesday mornings and a Monteagle site on Sunday afternoons. The program’s goal for this year is to complete 35 returns, alloweing them to continue into VITA’s filing season next year.
The potential that VITA has to impact the local community is vast. The volunteers help the taxpayers save money they are entitled to yet haven’t had the opportunity to claim in years past due to intense filing fees or because they were unaware of credits they may qualify for, such as Earned Income Credit or Child Tax Credit. VITA hopes that as more local taxpayers become familiar with the program, both the client and volunteer base will grow. “I got involved with VITA because it’s an amazing opportunity to benefit the community and is simply a necessity for Sewanee and the surrounding areas,” said Estes. The program benefits the taxpayers as well as the students, who are learning practical financial skills. VITA has proven itself to be a valuable link between Sewanee and the local community, allowing students to lend themselves to others in a highly productive way.