The pandemic has brought changes to this tax filing season, and University of North Georgia students are prepared to help people navigate those alterations.
For the fifth year, UNG’s Dahlonega campus is offering free tax preparation services to those who make $57,000 or less per year. Community members who schedule an appointment will receive assistance from students pursuing accounting and finance degrees as a part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program sponsored by the IRS.
The free services are open by appointment from 4-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays from Feb. 2 to March 2. The sessions are located in room 011 of the Newton Oakes Center on the Dahlonega campus. Returns prepared between Feb. 2 and Feb. 12 will be filed on Feb. 12.
All participants are required to follow UNG’s COVID-19 protocols, which include wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
Lisa Nash, lecturer of accounting at UNG and certified public accountant, supervises the program and has equipped her students with the skills to prepare 1040 forms with schedules A, B, C-EZ and D, and basic tax credits. Before becoming a VITA tax volunteer, all students must pass an IRS certification test.
By serving in the program, Nash said students are able to gain valuable real-world experience.
“It allows them to interact with the client and to be professionals,” Nash said. “It reinforces what they learn in previously complete tax classes.”
Nash said this filing season will look different for taxpayers because of major changes in legislation that affect personal income tax return. She noted that all stimulus money will be reconciled on 2020 tax returns.
“We want to make sure everyone received stimulus payments due to them,” she said. “Even for people who may not normally file a return, they should file to see if they received their full stimulus. Also, taxpayers may receive higher earned income credit or child tax credits by alternatively using 2019 earnings amounts, which is an area where taxpayers may need assistance. "
Last year, Nash said students prepared 100 tax returns. This year, she hopes to meet or exceed that amount.
“It’s a great service to help people make sure they’re filing tax returns correctly and following all the new changes,” she said.
Appointments can be scheduled by leaving a message for Nash at 706-867-3082. She will inform participants of what items to bring to the appointment.