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MU Develops New VITA Online Search Tool

Provides Tax Assistance Across the Nation

March 15th, 2010

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217, hurstn@missouri.edu

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­—With the deadline for filing federal income tax returns rapidly approaching, many people nationwide are searching for help with filing their taxes. Tax experts at University of Missouri Extension have created a new Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) online search tool that allows those in need of tax assistance to find it anywhere in the country. The new search tool is the only comprehensive nationwide VITA search source on the Internet. Andrew Zumwalt, an associate state specialist for financial planning and a member of the University of Missouri Extension faculty in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, says this search tool will make tax assistance more readily available for everyone.

“It will lower the barrier between people and information,” Zumwalt said. “Before this search tool was developed, it was a little more difficult to find the nearest VITA location.”

Currently, the IRS offers a telephone hotline where callers can find their nearest VITA site. With the new online search tool that MU Extension has developed, a person simply visits the Web site, enters their location, and receives a list of available sites. The search can be narrowed from state-wide, to county, and even to each individual city. The VITA locations are updated every week using the official IRS database. Zumwalt believes this new Web site will allow VITA sites to become a little more accessible.

“Currently, calling the IRS involves a long wait, especially during busy tax season,” Zumwalt said. “Our search site has provided a simpler way to present the information. Not only is it more simple; it is much quicker as well.”

 VITA is an IRS-sponsored program that provides free tax preparation assistance for low- to moderate- income-level homes. Trained community volunteers may help with special credits, such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, most sites also offer free electronic filing.

 Andrew Zumwalt has been instrumental in founding and growing the Missouri Taxpayer Education Initiative. MoTax sites have prepared more than 20,000 returns during the past six years. Zumwalt serves as MU campus support for the state network of Family Financial Education Specialists.

To view the MU Extension search tool, go to: http://extension.missouri.edu/hes/taxed/vitasites.htm

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