Free tax program provides services to students, faculty

Story by Alex Zank

Completing tax returns can be tricky, confusing or downright terrifying to some.

However, there are opportunities being provided by the UW-Eau Claire Department of Accounting and Finance to help students and staff fill out their returns, including a program offered on campus.

According to senior Britni Stensen, who works at the on-campus site, two different options are available. One of these options is located on campus, where students can show up and do their own taxes with help from accounting students like Stensen if requested.

A Jan. 17 news release from the College of Business stated that a second option is to have a tax preparer complete the tax returns. That service is open Monday through Wednesday at two different locations: Western Dairyland (Mondays) and the RCU Shopko South Office (Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Individuals wishing to use this program need to have an income less than $50,000, according to the news release.

For students who would benefit more by visiting a place to prepare their taxes at the university, Stensen said the on-campus site is open Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. The site is located in Schneider 322.

Accounting and Finance professor Brenda Thalacker said that students and staff can utilize this service if their income is under $57,000. Both of these services take
advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

According to Thalacker, VITA is a service through the Internal Revenue Service with a goal to grant the ability of low-income individuals or families to file their taxes without worrying about needing to pay a professional.

“It is kind of spendy to pay to have your tax return filed,” Thalacker said, adding that many individuals with low incomes can’t always afford to pay someone to prepare their taxes.

Stensen said that students can schedule appointments for the on-campus location, but they can also just walk in and use a computer if one  is available.

Freshman Marjorie Carlson said that she lets her dad take care of her tax returns each year, but she has always been interested to know how to complete them
herself. She added that the free tax filing program is a great idea to offer students, especially with the benefit it provides by letting students to do their own returns rather than relying on others.

Thalacker said that using the VITA program on campus has advantages over both paying a professional to file the tax return and allowing students’ parents to do the return for them.

The obvious benefit this service has over paying a tax preparer is that the VITA program is free, Thalacker said. She also explained that it is less of a hassle for students to do their taxes here than shipping off all their tax information to their parents.

Individually completing one’s own tax return also adds a life skill that Thalacker said everyone will eventually need to learn.

“I would encourage students to take that additional step of independence,” Thalacker said. “After you graduate you would typically want to take care of your own tax returns, whether it is going to someone to prepare it or if you want to do it yourself.”