two young women wearing masks, working on taxes

Jaiden Sanders, left, and Loralei Glueck, both SIU accounting majors, are the 2022 program coordinators for the free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. They are leading a team of about two dozen student volunteers in offering free income tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income community members on Saturday mornings from Feb. 26 through April 2, with the exception of March 6 and 13 due to Spring Break. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

February 10, 2022

SIU students will offer free tax preparation services beginning Feb. 26

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Free income tax preparation services will soon be available at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, courtesy of a group of specially trained students.

Beta Alpha Psi, a College of Business and Analytics honors accounting student organization, is again sponsoring the popular free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in 2022 for low- and moderate-income community members.

“VITA is a great hands-on learning experience that benefits SIU students by putting their skills and knowledge to good use as they provide a service to our community,” said Jaiden Sanders, a senior accounting major from Vienna, Illinois. “I am excited to be a part of this awesome opportunity, and I hope individuals who qualify will take advantage of our free services.”

Sanders and Loralei Glueck, a junior accounting major from Tremont, Illinois, are the 2022 VITA program coordinators.

Program kicks off Feb. 26

The program begins Feb. 26 and continues each Saturday through April 2 (no services during spring break, March 5 and 12). Students will offer the free tax preparation services from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the computer lab on the lower level of Rehn Hall, 1025 Lincoln Drive.

SIU is committed to protecting the community, so all those participating in VITA program must follow current campus and state pandemic safety protocols and wear masks.  

SIU students have offered the free tax preparation for nearly a quarter of a century, according to Benna Williams, a School of Accountancy lecturer and former tax practitioner who serves as the Beta Alpha Psi adviser.

“It brings me great joy to know our students are having such an impact on the community,” said Williams, who has been part of the program for the past five years. “We have taxpayers who return every year, and they are so very thankful to receive our service for free when they might otherwise have to pay hundreds of dollars.

“We are so happy and thankful we can continue to provide this wonderful service for the local community, and the taxpayers are really grateful and enjoy getting to know the SIU students too.”

Students are very prepared

Glueck and Sanders participated in advanced training to prepare for their leadership roles in the VITA program. They will lead a team of about two dozen accounting students who are donating their time and energy to prepare tax returns at no cost for community members and students who meet the qualifications.

Each of the tax preparers is an IRS-certified volunteer who has completed mandatory ethics and tax examination courses.

Glueck or Sanders will review returns and assist with questions as will Williams and other SIU faculty members.

“VITA is a valuable learning experience for students and a wonderful leadership opportunity for Jaiden and me,” Glueck said. “I am so proud to be a part of this event in which I am able to both give back to the community and get experience providing tax assistance.”

Who qualifies?

The free tax preparation services are available to any U.S. citizen, whether single or married, as long as their income does not exceed $58,000, and they take the standard federal deduction.

The students will prepare tax returns that involve:

  • Wages/salaries.
  • Interest income.
  • Dividends received.
  • State tax refunds.
  • Unemployment benefits.
  • IRA distributions.
  • Pension income.
  • Social Security benefits.
  • Simple capital gains or losses.
  • Self-employment income.
  • Gambling winnings.
  • Education credits.
  • Earned income credit.
  • Child tax credit.
  • Limited itemized deductions.

Unfortunately, the VITA students will not be able to prepare tax returns for people who are not U.S. citizens or tax returns that involve:

  • Schedule C with losses.
  • Complicated capital gains and losses (Schedule D).
  • Nondeductible IRA (Form 8606).
  • Minor’s investment income (Form 8615).
  • Determination of worker status for purposes of federal employment taxes and income tax withholding (Form SS-8).
  • Premium tax credits (Parts 4 and 5 of Form 8962).
  • Foreign returns.

Things to bring

In order to take advantage of the free tax preparation, people should bring all of the necessary documents. That includes legal identification, such as a driver’s license, passport or state ID, along with Social Security cards and birth dates (for spouse and dependents, if applicable as well).

In addition, bring all necessary tax documents including all official wage, earning, interest and dividend statements and copies of the previous year’s state and federal tax returns, if available. Those claiming child care credits will need to bring the day care provider’s tax identification number (either Social Security number or business employer identification number) and amount paid for child care.

Participants should also bring Letter 6419, which provides information about any Advance Child Tax Credit payments they may have received, if applicable. Williams also noted that people should check to ensure they received the third Economic Impact Payment (commonly referred to as a stimulus check) that was issued beginning in March 2021. Failure to provide all of this information could result in the VITA students being unable to complete and file the return on-site and/or the payment of any income tax refund being delayed or hindered, Williams said. In addition, bring a blank check or other proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit if you anticipate receiving a tax refund.

Fast service, filing included

The VITA services are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Those who arrive late in the morning or at exceptionally busy times may be asked to return later or the following week if necessary to allow sufficient time for the tax preparation and to ensure the public safety.

Free e-filing is included with the tax preparation.

Note that when married couples are filing a joint return, both must be present to sign the required forms.

For more information, email or call 618-453-1407.