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APSU College of Business offers free 2020 tax prep to qualifying individuals


(Updated March 12, 2020)

The APSU VITA program has been canceled because of concerns related to the spread of COVID-19.


CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – No matter how painful it is, everyone has to file their federal income taxes. Even Benjamin Franklin commented on this quasi law of nature when he wrote, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” The process can add a bit of tedium and frustration to an otherwise pleasant spring, but this year Austin Peay State University’s College of Business is looking to ease some of that stress by providing free tax preparation through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The program is open to anyone with an annual income of $56,000 or less, individuals with disabilities or Spanish speakers with limited English skills.

For the last three years, Austin Peay has offered the VITA program as part of a service-learning course that provides an important community service while also giving APSU accounting students practical, real-world experience. The students in Business Professor Jennifer Thayer’s class are all IRS-certified volunteers who spent the winter months preparing for the VITA program.

APSU business students during a previous VITA class.

“Over winter break, the students had to complete 32 tax-training modules that the IRS provided online,” Thayer said. “Then, once classes started, we meet three hours a week and do practice returns. The students have to certify their returns – the IRS requires them to be certified at 80% or better in order to be a volunteer at the site.”

The VITA program begins Feb. 6, with 31 student volunteers ready to serve members of the community at 322 Home Ave., home of the APSU Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement. Appointments can be made by calling 931-221-6590, but walk-ins are welcome. Students will offer tax preparation from 1-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays. The VITA program will remain open (except for the week of March 8-14, which is spring break) until the final tax-filing day on April 15.

“For a lot of students, it’s the first time they’ve connected classroom learning to what they will actually do in the real world,” Thayer said. “And it’s not just technical skills for them. We’re working on soft skills too because they have to communicate with every one of these taxpayers, they have to be able to articulate why their taxes are the way they are, and what their refund or balance is, and so it’s a really great opportunity for them.”

Students who took the service-learning class last year can return and work with the VITA program as supervisors, helping to review tax returns to make sure everything is correct. Under IRS guidelines, all tax returns must be reviewed. Through APSU’s program, student supervisors and Thayer examine every return.

“So, returning students are getting supervisory experience and review experience, which is invaluable for someone looking to work at a CPA firm,” Thayer said. “Just for the students alone, it’s a great experience. But the community also benefits because if they meet the guidelines, then anyone in the community can come in and have their taxes done for free by IRS-certified volunteers. And for filing taxes, we all have to do it.”

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