OGDEN -- Weber State University accounting students, starting Wednesday, will offer free tax preparation and online filing to individuals and families with incomes of $50,000 or less.
It's a win-win situation for both those getting help and those giving it, said Eric S. Smith, assistant professor at WSU's School of Accountancy & Taxation.
"Our goals are to provide a service to the community and to students (filing taxes), and to give our accounting students the opportunity to not only prepare a live return, but also to interact with a client," Smith said. "It provides a good service, but it's also a great opportunity for our students."
Smith said about a third of those who sign up for the free service, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), are Weber State students, and two thirds are nonstudent community members.
The service will be provided at various sites on both the Weber State main campus and the Davis campus. People who would like to make an appointment should phone 211, and listen to an operator, who will outline eligibility rules, will read a list of paperwork to bring, and will give the caller an appointment and a specific campus room number and building at which to meet the student tax preparer.
Smith said all accounting students will be using professional software designed to alert the user to any potential problems. He said completed returns will be checked by a second student preparer (one in graduate school or with previous VITA experience), then again by a WSU faculty member or VITA site coordinator.
"We make double sure things are done correctly," Smith said.
Appointments are open Wednesday through at least Feb. 28 on the Weber State main campus, and Friday through at least March 2 on the Davis campus. The sites may stay open a few days longer, Smith said, depending on students' interest in working over spring break.
On Weber State's main campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden, appointments will be offered 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and noon to 3 p.m. Thursdays. On the Davis campus, 2750 N. University Park Blvd., Layton, services are available 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Smith said those who use Weber State's service, now in its third year after a long hiatus, tend to come in two waves. The first wave hits as soon as the service is available, and the second hits as the tax deadline approaches. By the time Weber State discontinues its service for the season, several other community organizations will have begun their annual programs to provide free tax help to those who qualify, Smith said.
Weber State's School of Accounting & Taxation now offers the two master's degrees noted in its name, the most recent addition being in taxation.
"The VITA program works hand in hand with the strategic mission of having a strong taxation program," Smith said. "Working in our VITA program is particularly helpful for students going out on internships, who have told me now they can see how this fits into the larger corporate picture. Our students also can show their ability to work with software and clients under real life conditions. All the feedback has been positive."