Wednesday, January 25, 2012

VITA moves to Olean United Way office

The Bonaventure Accounting Association and Students in Free Enterprise are teaming up for the ninth year to offer free tax services for qualifying taxpayers.  

Interested persons are encouraged to call (716) 373-2534 to see if they qualify and to make an appointment.

After four successful years at the Olean Center Mall, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has moved to the United Way office at 807 W. State St., Olean, next to NAPA Auto Parts and across the street from Raymour & Flanigan. 

The St. Bonaventure University VITA program officially opens its tax preparation site at the Olean United Way office on Monday, Jan. 30. The office will remain open until April 2.  Operating days are Monday through Saturday, with morning, afternoon, and evening appointment times available. 

The St. Bonaventure VITA site is an innovative, high volume program that operates on an appointment basis, and has the capacity to prepare over 100 tax returns per week during the 2012 tax season.  The St. Bonaventure volunteers are trained not only to prepare high quality tax returns, but also to explain the tax return to the taxpayer and to answer the taxpayer’s questions.  

To qualify for free tax return preparation and electronic filing, Cattaraugus County workers must have a family income of $49,000 or less. Candidates will go through an entrance interview to see whether they qualify for free assistance. Those who qualify must bring a valid picture I.D., Social Security cards, all W-2 forms, and Forms 1099 to their tax preparation appointment.

Since 2004, the University’s VITA program has brought federal and state income tax benefits to people with low and moderate incomes by providing free income tax preparation and e-filing. The program focuses on workers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit available to low- and moderate-income workers with earned income.  
In the first eight years of operation, VITA tax preparer volunteers have contributed 13,000 service hours, and prepared 2,670 tax returns, to help Cattaraugus County residents earn $4.1 million in tax refunds. 

Accounting majors, alumni, and faculty from St. Bonaventure University volunteer to make the program possible under the leadership of Dr. Susan Anders, professor of accounting and site coordinator for the VITA program. Volunteer tax preparers engage in many hours of training and must pass rigorous IRS certification tests. All volunteer tax preparers are certified at the advanced level or higher.  

The St. Bonaventure VITA program operates in partnership with the Cattaraugus County Department of Social Services and the United Way of Cattaraugus County, which provide resources for the activity.  The Bonaventure Accounting Association provides around 40 to 50 volunteer student tax preparers each year, along with experienced alumni, faculty, and friends of the University.  SIFE students handle the marketing and promotions for VITA, as well as client screening and booking appointments.

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