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Law students volunteer free tax return preparation services

For the fifth-straight year, Liberty University School of Law is participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, offering free assistance in income tax preparation to qualifying taxpayers. Nearly 20 students are taking time out of their schedule to provide this service to the community.

“It is great to see their heart for serving the community; knowing they are sacrificing a significant amount of time,” said Blake Godwin, VITA site coordinator. Godwin, a third-year law student who is studying business and tax law, has participated every year he has been in law school.

The VITA program is available to low-to-middle-income taxpayers, generally defined as those earning $51,000 or less in 2012, and gives assistance for both federal and state returns.

The tax services are being held in the law school’s Mountain View Room and are available 5-9 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon-4 p.m. on Saturday. No appointment is needed during the listed hours and service will continue through Feb. 23.

“It is a great service to the community,” Godwin said. “The best thing is when you see the green come up and you are able to tell the people they are getting money back. You see the smile on their face because everyone’s been working hard during the year and they’ve been paying their taxes.”

In the past, Liberty Law has received the American Bar Association’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Honorable Mention award, which is based on the number of taxpayers served as well as the remarkable achievement of 11 percent of the student body being involved in the program.

“The VITA Program is one of many ways Liberty Law students reach out to the community. The program has been very successful because of their commitment. I am very proud to see their legal skills in action helping those in need,” said Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law.

Student volunteers are certified by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They gain valuable experience, especially in communication skills and interacting with clients.

In the past four years, student volunteers have prepared nearly 800 federal and state income tax returns and invested more than 400 hours. Many volunteers are doing so for the second time, which Godwin said is encouraging and shows Liberty’s heart for service.

For information about what documents are required for tax preparation, directions, and more information about the Liberty University School of Law VITA program, visit the website, or email Godwin at liberty.vita2013@gmail.com.