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Liberty Law, business students provide free tax preparation services to community

Since early February, Liberty University volunteers have continued the annual tradition of serving the Lynchburg community through the Virginia Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, providing an essential service to qualifying residents free of charge.

School of Law students assist students and community members through the VITA program on Liberty’s campus during February and March. (Photo by Bryson Gordon)

Liberty University School of Law students have participated in VITA since 2009, and for the second year, the school has partnered with volunteers from the School of Business, hosting sessions in Liberty’s Center for Financial Literacy.

Donovan Newkirk, a Liberty Law 3L student who is leading the program along with 3Ls Amber Solberg and David Thomas, said this year’s volunteers are split evenly between 20 law students and 20 business students. Clients, Solberg said, have been a good mix of students hoping to learn how to do their tax returns and community members.

“I think the students are wise to utilize this service on campus, but we’ve got plenty of community members who prefer to come in every year and do this as repeat customers,” Solberg said. “I think it just takes the burden off of them having to try to do it online on their own, and it’s just a bit more conversational.”

Newkirk, who trained many of the volunteers who prepare the returns (all returns are reviewed by certified volunteers), said the program is not just rewarding for the community but also for the volunteers who are developing real skills they can use upon graduation.

“It’s a lot of fun to see how far the volunteers have come because people who didn’t know anything about tax language are now very conversational and fluent in the language,” he said. “Some of the team started with literally no knowledge of taxes and now they’ll leave this program able to prepare a pretty complicated 1040 (tax form).”

Liberty University School of Business and School of Law host Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services at the Center for Financial Literacy. (Photo by Matt Reynolds)

While the heart of the program is to serve residents and train Liberty students in tax preparation, the university’s mission is on display when it opens up its doors to its neighbors and volunteers share the love of Christ with new visitors to campus.

“These are people who would never otherwise be here, but they get to come here and get their taxes prepared and see our motto of Training Champions for Christ,” Newkirk said. “They may have never voluntarily come to campus, but we get to bring them in and offer them a great service.”

The service is offered on a first-come, first-served basis; no appointment is necessary. The remaining sessions are 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, March 1; 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 2; and 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 5. Reservations are encouraged but not required.

To qualify for the free service, the income of the taxpayer (or the income of both spouses if filing jointly) may not exceed $64,000 in 2023. Returns from previous years and international student tax returns cannot be filed. Both spouses must be present if married and filing jointly.

For additional questions, a list of what items to bring, or to make an appointment, email VITA@liberty.edu.

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