Mar 9, 2010

Law students prepare taxes

by Camille Smith

As the days crawl by and the tax deadline of April 15 approaches, the procrastinators of America continuously put off paying their taxes. Reasons for this file delay range from laziness to fear of an Internal Revenue Service disaster. The solution is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provided by the Liberty University Law School.

VITA is a service that assists taxpayers in the preparation of income tax returns, according the Liberty law school Web site. VITA is located in the Mountain View Room in the Liberty School of Law on North Campus.

Paul W. Benton, a third year law student at Liberty is the contact for the VITA program.

“Most individual taxpayers don’t have any tax preparation experience or very little, if any,” Benton said. “Using a tax program without the personal knowledge can only help to a point.”

The volunteers for the program are Liberty law students who are IRS certified tax preparers. They must pass an IRS certification test after training before they are able to volunteer for VITA.

“Attempting to complete your own taxes without having a certain level of tax knowledge is a shot in the dark,” Benton said. “Each year Congress makes changes to the tax code that people don’t know about.”

While the clinic is not available to all taxpayers, for example, small businesses or rental properties, it is available to a wide range of individuals.

“During the 2009 tax year, VITA is available for low and middle income taxpayers with income of $49,000 or less,” Benton said. “Using a VITA clinic is the perfect price. It’s free.”

In a recent article on the Liberty School of Law Web site, Dean Mat Staver attributed the success of the program to the students’ commitment.

“Our faculty and students are committed to providing pro-bono legal services to those who need assistance with preparing their tax returns. I am very proud of them for using their legal skills to help those in need,” Staver said.

The article reported that 26 law students completed the IRS certification process to participate in VITA. Those students joined the many others already certified to prepare 127 income tax returns, volunteering a total of 185 hours of preparation.

The clinic recently ended, however, students are reminded to file their taxes soon, if they have not done so already.

Contact Camille Smith at

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