Tusculum College program to provide free tax preparation services

Time is running out to take advantage of free tax preparation services through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program offered locally through Tusculum.

Six weeks remain in a free program, implemented through the efforts of Tusculum that provides free tax preparation services in Greene and surrounding counties.

The IRS-certified tax preparation program will host appointments at Tusculum’s Greeneville campus, where trained volunteers will be available to assist members of the public with the preparation of their tax returns.

Appointments are being booked now and are offered each Thursday through April 12.

The program is sponsored in partnership with the Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union, a long-time partner with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in the area.

Led by Dr. Harold Branstrator, associate professor of management at Tusculum College, the VITA program offers a free alternative to the expensive services of a paid tax professional.   The volunteers of the VITA program have completed roughly 1,000 returns annually since 2014, often saving clients $200 or more that they would have spent on payments for alternative, fee-based, services.

Taxpayers eligible for VITA services include: individuals with annual incomes of less than $54,000, individuals over 55 years of age, individuals diagnosed with a physical disability and non English-speaking citizens.

“Tusculum is thrilled to be part of the VITA program this year and hopes to expand the service to reach more people in the region,” said Dr. James Hurley, president of Tusculum College. “With service to community so ingrained in our mission as a college, the VITA program is an additional way that we can engage our community through service in an area that is a significant need in our region.”

Under the supervision of Dr. Branstrator, a former IRS employee, returns are prepared by Tusculum students who have completed a VITA-standard three-week certification process that facilitates their ability to meet the high level professional standards expected by the IRS.

According to Dr. Branstrator, “The East Tennessee VITA program has become one of the strongest in the Southeast.” He added, “We see this as a ministry of justice to low and moderate-income taxpayers, our volunteers (mostly Tusculum students) are competent, courteous and respectful and we have a near-zero error rate, much lower than the average for paid preparers.”
Dr. Branstrator said the program has also helped students, particularly those in business-related fields of study, utilize classroom skills to acquire needed real world practice.

Appointments are required. To schedule an appointment, call (800) 378-3778 and wait for the operator, or register online at http://web.tusculum.edu/vita.