FEBRUARY 16, 2005

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Cameron students, GPIF ready to help with the headache of filing taxes

Taxpayers beware: April 15 is coming.

As the dread of that deadline draws near and the fuss of filing fills the air, Cameron University students, the Great Plains Improvement Foundation (GPIF) and community volunteers have banded together to open a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site.

Coordinated by the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center (OSBDC), the Cameron-GPIF VITA site will offer free tax preperation for low- to moderate-income families that meet two simple requirements.

“Anyone who makes $36,000 or less and does not itemize their tax return can use this service,” explained John D. Veal Jr., business coordinator for OSBDC and VITA site coordinator. “We cannot do returns that have stock transactions, business income and other complicated items. We do very basic, simple returns.”

The CU-GPIF will operate from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays until April 12. On March 5, the site will begin weekend hours, offering tax preparation from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The site is located on the second floor of the GPIF office at 2nd SE Lee Blvd.

Cameron has traditionally operated one of the Lawton VITA sites; however for the 2005 tax season, the university and the GPIF, a community action agency, joined efforts at the behest of the Internal Revenue Service.

“This year the IRS has made a nationwide effort to coordinate serving communities in the most efficient way possible,” said John A. Bachelor III, assistant professor of accounting and supervisor of the CU students working the site. “The IRS approached the Lawton VITA sites and asked us to consider the most efficient ways possible to serve the community. The partnership between Cameron and GPIF was born out of those discussions.”

Currently, the 16 accounting students enrolled in Cameron’s VITA class, along with former CU students now volunteering, constitute the bulk of the site’s staff. Students enrolled in the VITA class receive one credit hour for their advance training and on-site work.

However, enrolling in the VITA class is not as simple as filling out a form. Students must complete a three-credit-hour “Individual Income Tax” course, take three IRS volunteer certification tests and go through six hours of IRS tax software training.

Bachelor said the benefits of working the VITA site far outweighs the effort expended.

“First and foremost, the students get the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve served the community in a way that saved money for those who needed it most,” Bachelor said. “The VITA experience also gives students a unique qualification that is attractive to prospective employers. The hands-on experience the students get while preparing actual tax returns will be a definite advantage for them when they seek employment.”

Bachelor’s students agree.

“This class is the capstone for the tax training I have had in various other tax classes at Cameron,” said accounting major Chris Bishop. “After learning the theory of tax law and tax accounting, it is great to see how real-life tax work is done.”

For more information, contact the GPIF at 580/353-2364.