March 16, 2015

Business students to provide tax preparation assistance

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Students from Southern Illinois University Carbondale are offering an important community service this spring, preparing income taxes for the region’s low- and moderate-income people. 

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is sponsored by Beta Alpha Psi, an honors accounting organization within SIU’s College of Business. The tax preparation assistance is available from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through April 11 in the computer labs on the lower level of Rehn Hall, located at 1025 Lincoln Drive on the SIU campus. 

Rob Siwek and Keenan Walsh, student officers for Beta Alpha Psi, have completed advanced training to be able to answer questions and work with tax preparation. They supervise each of the tax preparation sessions and review each return prepared by a student volunteer. Several student volunteers work each Saturday morning. 

All of the volunteers complete an ethics exam and basic tax exam to become IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers. Although Beta Alpha Psi is the sponsor for VITA, all accounting majors who pass the required exams are eligible to volunteer. 

During a typical VITA session, dozens of people take advantage of the free tax preparation service. The service is available to any U.S. citizen, single or married, who meets the criteria. The focus is on providing free services for low- to moderate-income people, so people must have an income totaling no more than $53,000 and must take the standard federal deduction. 

There are a few specific tax situations that are beyond the scope of VITA, but the volunteers can help with common tax matters including wages and earnings from self-employment income, interest and unemployment income, Social Security benefits, dividends and more. They also handle situations involving child tax, education and earned income credits. 

Many of those who utilize the service are college students or senior citizens but anyone is welcome.  

For more information, email Siwek at or Walsh at