MU offers free tax help to Missourians

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COLUMBIA – Missourians have a free place to get tax help. Tax experts in the personal financial planning department at MU's College of Human Environmental Services, MU Law School and MU Extension are offering free tax clinics starting Jan. 24.

MU will operate Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites on the MU campus and one site in downtown Columbia through Apr. 17. The VITA sites will be staffed by students from the MU School of Law and Department of Personal Financial Planning. All students who volunteer go through IRS training and certification prior to working with clients. 

"The greatest thing about volunteering here is getting the experience of working with actual clients, and so a lot of the law school students and personal financial planning students will go out and they'll work in fields that involve talking about money. And money is still a very taboo subject," MU assistant extension professor for financial planning Andrew Zumwalt said.

The program generally works with clients with incomes less than $60,000, many of whom receive the Earned Income Tax Credit, an anti-poverty program for low income people. Zumwalt said people with incomes greater than $60,000 have tax returns too complicated for the VITA staff to complete.

VITA is an IRS sponsored program, which allows students to receive real world experience and class credit for many. Though course credit is limited to undergraduates in the MU Department Personal Financial Planning, one MU Law Student who volunteers views his experience as invaluable.

"Before I started, I really didn't even know how to prepare my own taxes, but now I've learned how to do a variety of tax related issues and as a future lawyer, that's going to be really helpful for me," volunteer and MU law student Anthony Meyer said.

VITA sites are walk-ins only. The volunteers will not prepare tax returns involving farms, complicated small business and rental property income.

VITA is offering services at the following locations:  

Hulston Hall on the MU campus Mondays from 4:15pm to 7:45pm

162 Stanley Hall on the MU campus Tuesday through Thursday from 3:30pm to 7:00pm and Saturdays from 9:00am to 12:30pm

Family Impact Center on 105 E. Ash St. Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00am to 12:30pm.