Lexington, VA • Friday, February 13, 2009
Students from Washington and Lee University School of Law will offer free tax preparation assistance for low- to moderate-income taxpayers in the Rockbridge county area this tax season. This service is free to members of the local community earning less than $42,000 annually (per family).
2008 VITA students help prepare a tax return for a local resident
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office will be open on Monday evenings beginning February 23 through April 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Wilson Hall at the Lenfest Center. This year, service will also be offered in Spanish beginning March 2 through April 13. No appointment is necessary.
The office will be closed Monday, March 9 while law students are on spring break.
In order to participate in the VITA program, students undergo extensive training and take an online test before they are eligible to help prepare tax returns. As a result of this training, law students can help local residents claim valuable tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.
To take advantage of VITA's services, taxpayers should bring the following documents to their tax preparation session:
- photo identification
- social security cards and birth dates for taxpayers and dependents
- information for all deductions/credits
- all tax forms received from employers, banks, etc., including Forms W-2 and 1099
- total paid for day care services and day care provider's tax identification number
- any other relevant information about income and expenses
- a copy of 2007 tax returns if they have one available
- bank routing numbers and account numbers if direct deposit of refund is desired.
The School of Law also operates a tax clinic during the school year. Directed by Prof. Michelle Drumbl, the Tax Clinic is distinct from the VITA program. VITA student volunteers provide assistance only with current year income tax preparation. Students working in the Tax Clinic assist taxpayers who cannot pay their tax bills or who are in a dispute with the Internal Revenue Service over amounts owed. The Clinic also assists taxpayers who speak English as a second language and who need help understanding their taxpayer rights and responsibilities.
"I like the VITA program because it lets us put something real and tangible back into the Rockbridge County community," said Michael Duffy, a third year law student who works in the Tax Clinic and is head of the VITA program this year. "Our student volunteers walk away with experience and a better understanding of the tax system, and our clients walk away with accurate tax returns at a zero cost. It's a win-win for everybody."
For more information about the VITA program, or for directions to the Lenfest Center, contact Vera Mencer at (540) 458-8570.
For more information about the Tax Clinic, contact Clinic Director Michelle Drumbl at (540) 458-8258.
For service in Spanish and for more information on when Spanish-speaking volunteers will be available, please call the University's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Hotline at (540) 460-6606.