UNR Accounting Students Offer Free Tax Help - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

UNR Accounting Students Offer Free Tax Help

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Business students at the University of Nevada are trying to take the confusion out of taxes, and save people money. With tax season officially underway, more than 90 accounting students are participating in a program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA.

Students volunteer to prepare tax returns, and in return for helping the community, they receive credit in their Federal Tax Accounting class at UNR, so it's a win-win situation.

Last year UNR accounting students helped prepare 700 tax returns. This year they're expecting that many, or even more. Associate UNR Business professor Richard Mason says the program can save taxpayers hundreds of dollars that they would otherwise pay for professional help. "We have some taxpayers who come in with three, four or five years of unfiled tax returns. Especially during the economic downturn, we have a number of people who were foreclosed on, who short-sold houses," Mason said.

The program is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service. "We save upwards of $100,000 to $150,000 for the community in what would be professional fees, because most of these folks are not really up to doing it themselves," said Mason.

According to Mason, students learn first-hand how to complete a complicated task. "Traditional classroom learning is one way to learn," he said. "We offer that course in the fall. In the spring, our tax course is what's called a 'service learning course.' It's where you learn by doing," Mason explained.

The students receive training to prepare tax returns, and each return is checked for accuracy. Mason is there to help if the students have questions. "I can sit down and walk them through exactly what they're doing and why. And when the light bulb goes off, some of them really shine," he said.

Customers tell the students they're grateful for help with a complex chore. "Unfortunately taxes are with us," Mason said. "The old saying is ‘death and taxes.' The reason death comes before taxes is that you have taxes even after you're dead!"

The VITA program is offered every Tuesday and Thursday from 6 pm to 8:30 pm and every Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm through April 12th. The students will be set up at the Community Services Agency located at 1090 E. 8th Ave. in Reno. Call 786-6023 for an appointment.

VITA is available to people with incomes at or below $55,000.

Written by Jennifer Burton

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