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APSU College of Business offers free, virtual tax prep to qualifying individuals

Dr. Jennifer Thayer with previous (pre-COVID-19) VITA students.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Last spring, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted one of Austin Peay State University’s most popular community projects – the College of Business’s free tax preparation program, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Now, with tax season underway, the college is once again offering the program, but in a virtual format.

For the last four years, APSU 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 program is open to anyone with an annual income of $66,000 or less, and their taxes are prepared by APSU students who are all IRS-certified volunteers.

“This is such a great program for both the taxpayers and students alike,” Business Professor Jennifer Thayer said. “Taxes can be an overwhelming and stressful task for people and the VITA program is able to alleviate the stress of filing. It is a relatively simple process for the taxpayer as they go through a series of interview questions and provide their tax documents to the preparers. Every tax return completed is then quality reviewed for accuracy.”

Late last year, Thayer worried the ongoing pandemic might once again disrupt this important community project because social distancing doesn’t easily allow for discussions about private finance matters. But then she met Tamara Kreigh, the United Way of Greater Nashville’s regional coordinator for their VITA program. That organization recently partnered with GetYourRefund.org, an encrypted, secure online platform, and Kreigh invited Thayer and her 13 students to join their virtual VITA site. 

Thayer’s class, Accounting 4311, spent winter break studying and preparing to take the required certification tests. In addition, to the usual certifications, the students also had to become proficient in navigating GetYourRefund.org. 

“For the students, it is a wonderful experiential learning process for them,” Thayer said. “They are able to take the concepts from their classes and apply them in real-world scenarios. The feedback from the students has been overwhelmingly positive. It gives them a sense of accomplishment knowing they successfully took the skills taught in the classroom and applied them all while making a difference in the community.”

Anyone who earned less than $66,000 last year and is interested in having their taxes completed by an IRS-certified volunteer should visit GetYourRefund.org to begin the tax filing process.  For more information on APSU’s VITA program, contact Thayer at thayerj@apsu.edu.

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