Robert Morris again offering free help for low-income filers
By Mike Nolan email@example.com February 3, 2012 7:46PM
The Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program offers free tax preparation and filing for low- and moderate-income filers. | File Photo
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
Another free tax-help program, Tax Counseling for the Elderly, focuses mainly on tax filers over 60, with volunteers specializing in areas such as pensions and retirement issues unique to seniors.
The program also uses IRS-certified volunteers. To find a TCE site, visit the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide website at http://aarp.us/baDshn or call the Tax-Aide information line at (888) 227-7669.
Updated: March 6, 2012 8:15AM
Eleven years ago, when Robert Morris University’s Orland Park campus first started offering free tax preparation help to low-income filers, the idea was to benefit cash-strapped college students who couldn’t afford to hire a pro.
But with the economy greatly straining household budgets the past few years, demand for tax filing help has been “growing exponentially since about 2007,” said Karen Novey, who teaches accounting, finance and business management at Robert Morris.
The school again is taking part in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which offers free state and federal tax preparation for low- and moderate-income individuals and families — generally those earning less than $49,000 annually.
Every Saturday through March 24, accounting students from the school, trained and certified by the IRS, will meet with taxpayers and prepare their returns, said Novey, who oversees the student volunteers. The students need the real-world tax prep experience to graduate.
“It’s our job to get everyone the maximum return possible,” she said.
The tax service is available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the school, 82 Orland Square Drive, northwest of 151st Street and 94th Avenue and across from Orland Square Mall.
Save for a couple of churches in Harvey and Phoenix and a community center in Joliet, Robert Morris is virtually the only Southland VITA site. The IRS puts VITA volunteers through a rigorous training and certification process, Novey said.
“It’s an undertaking to be qualified,” she said, offering a possible explanation for why there are so few VITA centers locally.
Once the tax returns are prepared, they’re carefully checked by Robert Morris faculty.
Until last year, that job was handled solely by Novey, who reviewed 424 state and federal returns in 2011. This year she’s getting help from Tom Bednarcik, another accounting teacher at the school.
“Nothing gets efiled until a faculty member audits it,” she said.