Free tax clinics help mid-Missourians navigate changes

5 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Wednesday, January 24 2018 Jan 24, 2018 Wednesday, January 24, 2018 11:17:00 AM CST January 24, 2018 in News
By: Nora Faris, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA - The old saying goes, "Nothing is certain but death and taxes." And after Congress passed a massive overhaul of the U.S. tax code last month, even taxes may be a bit uncertain. For those seeking answers to questions about their 2017 returns, several Columbia resources are available to help.

VITA Tax Preparation Clinics:
Starting this week and running through this year's tax deadline of April 17, MU Extension will be offering a free tax preparation clinic to mid-Missourians. The IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, administered by MU students and faculty, provides tax prep help to low- and middle-income individuals.

MU tax preparers are available to help answer taxpayers' questions about the new plan, said Bryce Marsherall, a VITA volunteer. 

"We take the stress off of taxpayers if they don't have the time or if they just don't know how to prepare their taxes," Marsherall said.

The following sites will offer walk-in tax preparation services from January 24 to April 17:

  • Room 162, Stanley Hall, MU Campus, Columbia
    • 3:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. | Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday
    • 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. | Saturday
  • Room 005, Cornell Hall, MU Campus, Columbia
    • 4:15 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. | Monday
  • Family Impact Center, 105 E. Ash St., Columbia
    • 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. | Monday & Wednesday

The clinics' services are free, but patrons are expected to bring the following with them to their appointments:

  • Photo ID of individual and their spouse (if applicable)
  • Social Security cards for everyone listed on the return
  • W-2 forms for every job worked
  • 2016 tax return (optional, but helpful)

Find a full list of helpful forms to bring to an MU VITA tax prep appointment here. 

Changes for 2017 Tax Year:
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed in December, with a majority of its provisions going into effect this month. That means most of the tax code changes in the bill will affect taxpayers' returns filed in 2019 for the 2018 tax year. However, there are a few changes that will affect taxpayers' filings this year, including provisions related to medical expenses for individuals and equipment purchases for businesses. 

The new code expands the medical expense deduction for both the 2017 and 2018 tax years. Previously, the tax code allowed deductions for expenses that exceeded 10 percent of an individual's income. The new changes set that figure at 7.5 percent, meaning some new individuals will qualify for the deduction, while others will see an increase in their existing deduction.

Another key change applies to equipment purchases by businesses. For capital investment purchases occurring after Sept. 27, 2017, the law will allow for immediate expensing, rather than requiring gradual deductions over time. 

Andrew Zumwalt, assistant extension professor in MU's Department of Personal Financial Planning, said taxpayers without health insurance are still liable for the Affordable Care Act tax penalty this year.

"If you don't have health insurance, and you don't have an exemption, you're still going to pay a penalty for 2017 and 2018," Zumwalt said.  

Additional Free Resources for Taxpayers
If you don't live in Columbia, you can find a full list of VITA tax preparation clinics here.

Taxpayers can also file online for free at www.MyFreeTaxes.com.

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