March 21, 2016

Accounting students offer tax return assistance

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. – A group of Southern Illinois University Carbondale is helping fellow students and community members with tax return preparation this spring. 

Beta Alpha Psi, an honors accounting organization within SIU’s College of Business, sponsors the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program as a community service to assist students and low- and moderate-income people. Free tax preparation assistance is offered from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday through April 9 in the computer labs on the lower level of Rehn Hall, located at 1025 Lincoln Drive on the SIU campus. 

Don Allen Bryant III, Keenan Walsh and Juan Ramirez are the coordinators of SIU’s VITA program this year. Bryant, of Carbondale, and Walsh, of Lisle, are master’s of accounting students, while Ramirez, of Waukegan, is a junior accounting major. They received advanced training before taking on the leadership roles. They assist with more complicated questions and supervise a team of about a dozen accounting students who are preparing the tax returns.  In addition, Bryan, Walsh or Ramirez reviews each return prepared by a student volunteer. 

All of the IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers have completed mandatory ethics and basic tax exams. And, Marcus Odom, professor of accountancy and Deloitte & Touche Faculty Fellow, is also available, usually in person but otherwise by telephone or email, to provide his expertise as needed. 

Many of the returns are completed in an hour or less and the average wait time is no more than 15-30 minutes. No appointments are necessary. The service has been provided each year for more than 25 years. Typically, about 20 returns are completed at SIU each Saturday. The service includes free electronic filing of tax returns. 

Assistance is available to any U.S. citizen, single or married, who meets the criteria. People must have an income of no more than $53,000 and take the standard federal deduction. 

While there are a few specific tax situations that are beyond the scope covered by VITA, volunteers can help with a wide variety of common tax matters including wages and earnings from self-employment income, interest and unemployment income, Social Security benefits, and dividends. They can also assist with returns that involve child tax, education or earned income credits. 

For more information, email Walsh at