Free Tax Services Offered to U Students

MSA is providing tax services with the help of trained, volunteer students.

Luke Feuerherm

A Sunday tax return training session was nothing unfamiliar to University sophomore Mathew Marcussen . Marcussen comes from a long lineage of tax professionals âÄî both his father and grandfather ran tax businesses, and he will continue the family tradition. Along with a group of University students, he will prepare free tax returns for members of the student body. Starting in mid-February, the Minnesota Student Association will couple with the Internal Revenue ServiceâÄôs Volunteer Tax Assistance Program (VTAP) to open a revamped service aimed at preparing free tax returns for students at the MSA office located in Coffman Union . The UniversityâÄôs VTAP has 43 volunteer tax preparers, quality reviewers and site coordinators on the Twin Cities campus âÄî all of which are University students. The students are a mixture of future tax professionals and those interested in simply gaining more understanding of tax returns. âÄúI am quite excited to work with students and get to see if I enjoy what I am going to school for,âÄù said Bradford Brennan , a quality reviewer for VTAP and sophomore accounting and finance major. Marcussen, also a finance major at the University, doesnâÄôt intend on pursuing tax preparation as a career, but he is interested in helping students while familiarizing himself with his familyâÄôs business. He also said heâÄôs interested in learning about loopholes that any student may take advantage of. There are more than 400 VTAP Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout the state . The UniversityâÄôs site is open to all low-income individuals, but it is geared toward the student population at the University. To qualify, students must have personal incomes under $40,000. âÄúNinety-five percent of students could use this program, if not more,âÄù said Duane Pulford , an IRS tax professional. Pulford has been working with MSA to help launch the new VITA site, and he presented SundayâÄôs training session. The tax preparers have been trained to handle federal taxes and state taxes for students who file in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Students who file in other states are still encouraged to come in for help on their federal taxes. International students will not be able to take advantage of this service and instead are directed to another service offered through the Carlson School of Management . âÄúIâÄôm excited about the program because it has strong potential to be more active and expand with another site in St. Paul,âÄù said Pulford. MSA intends on handling between 800 and 1,000 returns this tax season. âÄúWe want to help them find as many ways to reduce taxes and receive breaks as possible,âÄù said MSA Campus Relations Chairman Dustin Huibregtse , who is organizing the UniversityâÄôs VTAP program. âÄúItâÄôs an excellent staff, a lot of really qualified studentsâÄù Students appear to be on board with the new service. âÄúYeah, IâÄôm interested,âÄù said first-year journalism major Michael Zittlow when asked about the program. âÄúItâÄôs free and would be really helpful.âÄù Appointments can now be made at UofMTaxes.org . Preparers will begin reviewing their friendsâÄô taxes the first week of February as part of the programâÄôs soft opening. This is done to assure any necessary fine tuning is taken care of. Following the soft opening, the service will open up to all eligible students from the second week of February through April 15 âÄî the due date for income taxes.