MU Extension offers face-to-face tax education
January 27th, 2014
COLUMBIA, Mo. – With the beginning of a new year comes the start of another tax season. To assist Missourians with their tax return preparation, tax experts in the personal financial planning department in the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Missouri and MU Extension will open their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites on Jan. 28. Sites will be open around the state, including two on the MU campus. Andrew Zumwalt, an assistant extension professor for financial planning and a member of the University of Missouri Extension faculty, says the VITA program not only helps participants file their taxes; it also provides MU students a great learning experience.
“The students that actually prepare the taxes at MU have been through an IRS training and certification,” Zumwalt said. “Those who qualify can have their tax returns prepared for free, and students learn how to communicate with clients about money. This year we are excited to have trained students from the MU School of Law helping alongside students from the Department of Personal Financial Planning.”
Zumwalt says that currently he does not anticipate any special problems arising for people filing their 2013 tax returns and says it is a good time for filers to get back to the basics.
“At this point, it does not seem as if anything new or problematic will pop up with this year’s returns,” Zumwalt said. “Filers can take advantage of the relative stability in the tax code to re-examine their tax brackets and whether they qualify for some of the basic tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Trained volunteers at our VITA sites can help filers with all of these issues.”
Zumwalt wants Missourians to be aware that they can also file their taxes for free online at a new online VITA website: www.MyFreeTaxes.com/MoTax
VITA is an IRS-sponsored program that provides free tax preparation assistance for low- to moderate- income-level homes that earn less than $58,000. Trained community volunteers may help with special credits, such as the 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. Last year, MU VITA sites served nearly 1,500 mid-Missouri families.
The MU campus VITA sites are located in Room 162, Stanley Hall and Room 005, Cornell Hall. The Stanley Hall site will be open from 4:30-8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The Cornell Hall site will be open Mondays from 4:30-8 p.m. To search for VITA sites around the country, visit: http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/.
In an effort to promote smart financial decisions by Missourians throughout the state, MU Extension has declared February “Missouri Saves Month.” The “Missouri Saves” program aims to help individuals and families save and build wealth. This program assists those who wish to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, save for a home, save for an education or save for retirement. The goal of the campaign is to convince all Americans that they can build wealth and to assist them in doing so. “Missouri Saves” is a part of the national “America Saves” campaign.
Andrew Zumwalt has been instrumental in founding and growing the Missouri Taxpayer Education Initiative (MoTax). MoTax sites have prepared more than 24,500 returns during the past seven years. Zumwalt serves as MU campus support for the state network of Family Financial Education Specialists.