IRS-certified WC students ready to provide free tax preparation assistance

WILMINGTON — As tax season approaches, 16 Wilmington College students are looking forward to assisting area residents in preparing their annual tax returns.

The IRS-certified, volunteer tax preparers will again offer this service as part of the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA).

Wilmington College hosts a VITA site that offers tax help to persons of low and moderate income who, generally, make less than $57,000, as well as taxpayers with disabilities or with limited English-speaking skills.

Last year, the students again secured a 100 percent IRS rating in completing 141 tax returns — free of charge — as a community service that gives the accounting and business majors, and other students involved, a valuable hands-on learning opportunity.

The 2020 operation was on track to eclipse its 2019 record of 205 completed returns when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the College to shutter the tax prep site in early March.

Allen Beatty, CPA, assistant professor of accounting and IRS Enrolled Agent/Site Manager, will again supervise the group, which includes eight tax preparers and eight student greeters. Beatty noted how impressed both he and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been with the local program’s first four years.

Beatty cited the professionalism exhibited by his highly motivated VITA students. “This goes beyond professor and students,” he said. “I look at them as co-workers, like when I was back in the corporate world.”

Beatty said that, since the IRS pushed back to opening the tax season to Feb. 12, WC’s VITA site will open Feb. 15 and operate through April 14. The appointment-only site will be available every Monday and Wednesday evening from 5 to 8 p.m. Appointments can be made by contacting Nathan Johnson, the student site director, at (937) 546-3628. Those interested can also e-mail him at .

The students will provide basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. This service generally includes basic returns of wage earners (W-2) and retirees (1099-R and Social Security), who might also have such additional forms of income as interest, dividends (1099-INT, DIV) and unemployment (1099-G).

Preparation of a limited amount of itemized returns (Schedule A with home mortgage, interest, charitable contributions, medical expenses, etc.) will also be available, along with those featuring such popular credits as Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Credit, Retirement Savers Credit, etc.

Also, the students will be able to work with taxpayers claiming capital gains and losses, and those with self-employment income, in addition to being able to do limited small business returns. The preparers will possess additional expertise in dealing with Health Savings Accounts and one is a certified translator of Spanish to English.

On the heels of the recent increase in the standard deduction, the VITA staff will review receipts and documents to advise on whether their clients should itemize deductions.

This year, VITA is operating under the CDC and other safety guidelines, which requires face masks by all volunteers and taxpayers, socially distanced tax preparation with extra spacing between the tax preparers and taxpayers, and sanitized wipe down after every appointment.

Face masks will be provided free of charge to those who are unable to bring a mask.

This year taxpayers need to bring any documentation such as the IRS notices 1444 or bank statements for any stimulus amounts received last spring and the latest round received in late December or early January. These payments may have been direct deposit, check, or pre-paid debit card.

The payments are not taxable, but if a taxpayer didn’t receive the full amount, they may receive additional funds this year.

Two other changes with the CARES Act allows taxpayers to deduct $300 in charity donations by cash, credit card, or check with out itemizing as an “above the line adjustment.”

Also, those affected by the pandemic physically or economically can generally take a distribution from a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k) of up to $100,000 without the 10% penalty if under 59 ½ for tax year 2020.