Students at the Washington and Lee University School of Law will offer free tax preparation assistance for low-to-moderate income taxpayers in the Rockbridge county area. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office will be open on Monday evenings from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. beginning February 11 through March 24 in Wilson Hall at the Lenfest Center. There will also be an additional session from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2. The office will be closed Monday, March 10 while students are on break. This year, service will also be offered in Spanish on certain nights.
The VITA program, which is coordinated by the IRS's Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication division, requires students to undergo extensive training and 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, which is a refundable credit for people who work but do not earn high incomes. VITA tax preparation assistance services are free to members of the community earning less than $40,000 annually, and no appointment is necessary.
"The VITA program is a great way for law students to get involved in the community and really know that they are helping people," said VITA Student Coordinator Jeff Mauzy. "The taxpayers are always grateful for our help, so students get to see immediately that they have done something worthwhile."
To take advantage of VITA's services, taxpayers should bring the following documents to their tax preparation session:
The School of Law also recently opened a new Tax Clinic, which will provide free legal representation to eligible low-income taxpayers in resolving their controversies with the Internal Revenue Service. The Tax Clinic has been awarded a matching grant of $50,000 from the Internal Revenue Service's Low Income Taxpayer grant program. The grant partially will fund the clinic for the 2008 calendar year.
The new Tax Clinic is distinct from the VITA program. While VITA student volunteers provide assistance with current year income tax preparation, the Clinic students assist taxpayers who are in a dispute with the IRS over amounts owed or who cannot pay their tax bills. The Clinic will also assist taxpayers who speak English as a second language and who would like help understanding their taxpayer rights and responsibilities. For more information about the VITA program, or for directions to the Lenfest Center, contact Vera Mencer at (540) 458-8570.