East central Iowa residents can get free tax help this (Thursday) evening from students in the business program at the University of Northern Iowa. Professor Dennis Schmidt says 48 of his accounting students are taking part in this 12th year of the program that he created when he started at UNI. It’s actually part of the IRS’s VITA Program, Volunteer Income-Tax Assistance. It has volunteers around the country offering help with tax returns, particularly for low-income people who have trouble paying for professional assistance. The aid isn’t just for students, although Schmidt says many students do come in for help. Schmidt says there are plenty of deductions and credits you need to be aware of to reduce your tax liability. He names the Holt Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit and deductions for tuitions, fees and expenses, as examples of things you need to know just to file for a student. Then there are child-care credits, child credits, itemized deductions — all kinds of things taxpayers may not know about. These students have taken an entire course in it, and Schmidt has given them extra training for the tax season. He says they also use “state-of-the-art” professional software. He says the Earned Income Credit is a fairly complex one that many people don’t know and have trouble calculating without help. He has reassurance for folks concerned about letting a student handle their tax return. “Every tax-preparer I’ve met makes SOME mistakes,” Schmidt says, but while he can’t claim a 100-percent accuracy rate for the students, they’ve had IRS observers in who’ve said the UNI program’s probably the best in the state. Schmidt says from now through April 14 the students will offer aid in two sessions a week — Tuesday and Thursday evenings in a room of UNI’s Curris Business building.
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