Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program

NOTE
Although the IRS has extended the tax season till May 17th, our site will only operate until April 24th.

VITA is a nationwide organization regulated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that offers free tax help to people who make less than $56,844 per year. Since 2008, students, faculty, and alumni of the Fox School’s Department of Accounting have assisted low-income members of the Philadelphia community by filing their income-tax returns for free through Temple University’s VITA program, based on Temple’s Ambler Campus.  For this tax season we are operating 100% virtually.

Accounting firms, CPA review firms, and the Department of Accounting Circle Executive Committee sponsor VITA each year.

Students that volunteer with the VITA program find the experience extremely fulfilling. While you help local low-income families ensure they receive the full returns to which they are entitled, you also learn practical skills and gain real-world insight into the U.S. tax system.

Beginning February 6th, Temple University is once again offering free tax return preparation. Due to the Coronavirus we are planning on running our VITA program virtually this year – although you will have the opportunity to interface with our preparers and reviewers via Zoom or the telephone. We will be working through an organization called Get Your Refund – and rather than emailing your documents, you will upload them to their website via the following link.

Your return will be prepared by IRS certified Temple students assisted by Temple faculty and alumni. If your return is outside of our scope as set by the IRS we are legally unable to do your tax return. These rules are set by the IRS to ensure the quality and accuracy of the returns we do prepare.

Some of the more common limitations are:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.
  2. Your annual income is less than $56,844 (if married, this refers to joint income).
  3. You do not own and operate your own business
  4. You do not own any rental property

Note this is not a complete list, for a complete list of limitations please see IRS Publication 4012 (Pages 5-16).

Required documents

Below is a list of items we require.  You must either upload digital images to the above website or mail copies (do not send originals).

Applicable to all clients

  • Photo identification – we cannot do your return without this.
  • Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration (this is an IRS requirement to prevent identity theft) – we cannot do your return without this.
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return – we cannot do your return without this.
  • Form 1095-A if you received insurance at any time during the year via the marketplace. We cannot do your return without this information.
  • A copy of last year’s Federal and State returns if available – This is very useful in doing the current year’s return.
  • Bank Routing Numbers and Account Numbers for Direct Deposit – if you would like to have your refund directly deposited to your bank account
  • Local returns to be filed (we cannot file these electronically using our software) – if you want us to prepare your local return

You may need to provide the following forms depending on your circumstances. Read this list carefully. If you do not provide what is needed, it will delay the process as we will need to contact you for the additional documents.

  • If you had one or more jobs during 2020, you must bring all of your wage and tax statements commonly known as form W-2
  • If you received any payments from the government, for example, unemployment benefits, you must bring form W-2G
  • If you are retired and received payments from one or more former employer, or distributions from one or more retirement accounts you must bring all 1099-R forms.
  • If you are receiving social security you must bring your benefits statement, form SSA-1099.
  • If you received interest, for example, from a bank, you must bring form 1099-Int
  • If you received dividends from owning mutual funds or stocks, you must bring form 1099-Div
  • If you sold investments during the year, you must bring form 1099-B
  • If you were a college student during 2020 or are claiming a college student as a dependent, you may be entitled to education credits. You must bring with you Form 1098-T, which should have been sent to you by the college(s) in question (hint: you may have to download this form from the college’s web portal).

If you think you may benefit from itemizing deductions, which is very unlikely under the revised tax code, you will need to provide:

  • Documentation for medical and dental bills, prescriptions and insurance premiums.
  • Documentation for property/real estate taxes paid (note that locally many people get two tax bills)
  • A mortgage interest statements from your lender, form 1098. This form may include amounts your lender paid on your behalf for property/real estate taxes
  • Receipts for charitable donations (if you are unsure please submit what you have). Please note that for 2020 & 2021 you are allowed to deduct a limited amount of qualifying monetary contributions without itemized.

If you paid for day care for a qualified child, the total paid to the day care provider and the day care provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)

Please note, if you want to file as married filing jointly, both spouses must be available to speak with the reviewer, and if you want us to prepare a return for an individual who is not available you must provide your power of attorney (if you don’t know what this is, you probably don’t have it).

To assist others with their tax returns as a part of the VITA program you must first pass the online Link-n-Learn test offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and attend three training sessions in January at the Ambler campus.

Students interested in volunteering without receiving course credit should contact Dr. Balsam directly at drb@temple.edu.

It is highly recommended volunteer students request to receive course credit for completion of the VITA volunteer work through registration of ACCT 3581 – Co-operative Experience in Accounting, section 101 during the Spring semester.

Provided that total credits do not exceed 18 credits for the semester, the course will require no additional cost to a full-time student’s tuition, and the 3 credits earned upon completion of the course will count toward the academic requirements of sitting for the CPA exam and becoming licensed.

In addition to meeting the general volunteer requirements, participants are required to offer their expertise every Saturday from mid-January through the end of tax season in April.

Students interested in course credit must complete the following requirements to register for the course:

  • Meet the prerequisite of a grade of C or better in ACCT 3511 – Intermediate Accounting I
  • Email your TUID number, resume, and request for course credit to Dr. Balsam
  • Receive written approval in the form of email or signature from Dr. Balsam
  • Once approval is granted, students must visit the Fox School of Business Advising Office located in Speakman Hall 101 with the written approval to be registered for the course. Only an administrator can process the registration for this course.

For more information about volunteering and getting assistance contact Steven Balsam, PhD, director of the VITA program, at drb@temple.edu.