ATHENS – University of Georgia students are once again helping Georgia taxpayers by providing free tax preparation services as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
UGA has been a partner of the Georgia United Credit Union as part of the VITA program since 2005. The program is designed to provide free tax preparation assistance to individuals and families with low to middle income, people with disabilities and the elderly.
As part of the service learning course, financial planning majors from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences and accounting majors from the Terry College of Business are certified by the IRS as tax advisors and receive academic credits for their involvement.
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With Virtual VITA, taxpayers can work with their local UGA Cooperative Extension representatives to facilitate remote tax preparation for Athens-based students. Students work under the direction of FACS faculty members Joan Koonce and Lance Palmer.
“Learning tax is definitely a different feeling than talking to an actual client about their own finances,” said Blake Ertzberger, a student services provider and financial planning major from Bowersville. “It keeps your ears open to learning so you are better prepared when presenting to the client. It will be beneficial to me in the long run. “
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Since the partnership began, more than 15,000 tax returns have been filed for Athens and other municipalities across the state, totaling more than $ 12 million in federal and state refunds.
“We are proud to be a partner in this program that is bringing tangible benefits to so many families in Georgia,” said Koonce, FACS professor and financial planning specialist at UGA Extension. “The practical experience that students gain by applying teaching knowledge to real situations is enormous and serves as an excellent preparation for their future careers.”
All personal appointments are booked until the end of the season, but virtual appointments are available until Wednesday and Thursday evenings through April 7th. The students also support additional VITA locations in Athens operated by the Hancock Community Development Corporation and the East Athens Community Development Corporation.
All virtual appointments must be planned in advance. Walk-up appointments are not offered.
Cal Powell is the director of communications at the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.