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Students offer free tax help

February 21, 2009|By CHRIS CARTER

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Internal Revenue Service studies have shown many people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax credit have not taken advantage of it.

Students involved with the Shippensburg (Pa.) University chapter of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program have made it a priority to make taxpayers aware of the break.

"There is a need for assistance like this because there are lots of people who qualify, but don't take the credit," said accounting professor Deb Hocking, who directs the program. "We provide a great service here, particularly for people who qualify for the Earned Income Tax."

For a taxpayer to qualify for the Earned Income Tax credit, he or she must fall into a certain income range from salaries, wages, tips and net earnings from self-employment:

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o With no qualifying children -- a single taxpayer who made less than or equal to $12,880; a married couple filing jointly that made less than or equal to $15,880.

o With one qualifying child -- a single taxpayer who made less than or equal to $33,995; a married couple filing jointly that made less than or equal to $36,995.

o With two qualifying children -- a single taxpayer who made less than or equal to $36,646; a married couple filing jointly that made less than or equal to $41,646.

While the VITA program targets helping these taxpayers, they will file for free an income tax -- federal, state and local -- for all families and individuals with incomes below $41,646, regardless of whether they qualify for the Earned Income Tax credit, Hocking said.

A group of five students stayed busy Saturday at Chambersburg's Coyle Free Library, filing taxes and informing the public about many of the unknown tax facts. The students in the VITA program already have filed about 150 returns since their 2009 tax season kicked off in mid-January, and they expect to file hundreds more before the April 15 deadline.

"I feel like more people are coming in right away this year because they're looking for a way to get their money quicker," said Shippensburg senior Melissa Eshelman, one of the site coordinators.

In addition to the five students in Chambersburg, there were eight more offering the same service Saturday at the Shippensburg Area Chamber of Commerce, where the VITA program offers free tax preparation Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It offers the service at Coyle Free Library every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"We have a total of 25 students certified to do this, either at intermediate or advanced levels," Hocking said. "It's strictly voluntary for the students, but it's a great thing to have real-life experience and it's applying what they've learned in the classroom. They want to be able to share their knowledge."




What to bring



Taxpayers should bring the following when having their returns filed.

o Proof of identification

o Social Security card for yourself, spouse and dependents

o All wages and earning statements

o Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit

o Interest and dividend statements from your bank

o Total paid for day care and day care provider's tax identification number

o Current year tax package

o Copy of 2007 tax return

Note: For couples filing jointly, both spouses must be present to sign the required form.

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