Jaiden Sanders and Loralei Glueck

Jaiden Sanders and Loralei Glueck, both SIU accounting majors, are the 2023 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. (Photo by Russell Bailey)

January 30, 2023

SIU accounting students offer free income tax preparation services

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Community members can soon receive free income tax preparation services at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, thanks to 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 2023 for low- and moderate-income community members.

“We are honored to continue the tradition of providing tax services to SIU students and our community members,” said Loralei Glueck, a senior accounting major from Tremont, Illinois, who is vice president of Beta Alpha Psi. “We look forward to serving everyone as we prepare individual tax returns.”

Glueck and Jaiden Sanders, a senior accounting major from Vienna, Illinois, are the 2023 VITA program coordinators.

Program kicks off Feb. 25

The program begins Feb. 25 and continues each Saturday through March 25 (except for March 18 when there will be no services due to spring break). 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.

In addition, there will be a special session from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 11 specifically to provide tax preparation for SIU students.

Students are very prepared

SIU student volunteers have offered the free tax preparation for nearly a quarter of a century, and they train extensively in order to provide professional services, according to Benna Williams, the School of Accountancy program coordinator, associate lecturer, CPA and former tax practitioner who serves as the Beta Alpha Psi adviser.

Glueck and Sanders participated in advanced training to prepare for their leadership roles in the VITA program. They are at the helm of a team comprising about two dozen accounting students. Each of the tax preparers is an IRS-certified volunteer who has completed mandatory ethics and tax examination courses. All are donating their time and energy to prepare tax returns at no cost for community members and students who meet the qualifications.

Williams noted that the students save community members hundreds of dollars and do such a good job, that many people return year after year to gratefully take advantage of the program.

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

“I’m excited for another year of VITA and offering our service to the community,” Sanders said. “As always, we have a great group of students who are stepping up this year to volunteer their time. This hands-on experience is an excellent way for SIU students to generously use and enhance their skills and knowledge.”

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 SIU VITA volunteers 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.

The VITA students can only file domestic returns. However, SIU international students and faculty may submit their information to www.getyourrefund.org/Franklin, another VITA site with international certifications, to get their returns completed for free, Williams noted.  

The services at SIU are also unavailable for people whose returns 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.

What to bring

In order to take advantage of the free tax preparation, community members 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 as well, if applicable).

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. Failure to provide all of the necessary 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.

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 vita@business.siu.edu or call 618-453-1407.