Free tax filing for the YSU community  

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By Jessica Stamp

At Youngstown State University, the Williamson College of Business Administration is providing free tax services most Saturdays.

The WCBA can start scheduling anyone in the YSU community Feb. 5 until April 9 by appointment only.

The tax service program is called VITA, a volunteer income tax assistance program, and is offered as a credit course for students called income tax preparation. The course teaches students about tax law and tax preparation software.

Ray Shaffer, accounting professor in the department of Lariccia School of Accounting and Finance, believes this course is a good opportunity for students to learn tax returns and take advantage of it being free. 

“Students actually get to talk to the taxpayers, so they improve their communication and interviewing skills. They learn about the taxes and how to prepare them with the software, so it’s a great learning experience,” Shaffer said. “They get academic credit, and the taxpayers who come in love it because they get their taxes done for free.”

The program allows community volunteers and students in the course to participate in filing free tax returns. Taxpayers can simply drop off their information and come back when it’s done or wait while their taxes are being filed.  

Over 20 students have started training for the course, and began preparing for taxes with an additional four to five experienced volunteers that return every year to help.

“We have about 22 students taking [the class] for credit and we have a couple more that are doing it as volunteers. Plus, we have four or five volunteers that have come back year after year,” Shaffer said. “They’ve been doing it for at least 10-15 years, and they are experienced volunteers to help us review returns.”  

Shaffer said the added volunteer helps eliminate any possible errors and mistakes that could occur while filing. 

Students can start filing as soon as they gather the documents they need to file with. Documents that must be obtained are W-2 forms, forms 1099 and other information about income.

Shaffer recommends making an appointment as soon as possible due to spots being filled so quickly. 

“A lot of people come back year after year … They love the service. They like to talk to our students,” Shaffer said. “It makes for a nice day. Students learn a lot, not just in taxes, they learn how to communicate, how to work with people — it’s just that everybody wins.” 

To schedule an appointment, call 330-941-2507.