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LU serves the community with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

Whether you have a mind for numbers or a personality for people, if you have a heart for volunteer work, you can be part of a program that each year takes the sting of poverty from the lives of hundreds of working families. It’s the Beaumont area’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

The program is managed by Lamar University’s community relations department and includes nearly a dozen
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
LU volunteer, Debi Derick, interviews a client for tax assistance. 
agencies or businesses that partner together to provide free tax preparation for qualified low- to moderate-income residents in Southeast Texas.

Last year, 42 VITA volunteers staffed six sites. Nearly 700 returns were prepared, resulting in total returns of more than $620,000. Since its inception in 2009, the program has brought in more than $11 million in returns which includes Earned Income Tax Credits as well as Education Credits. By providing tax preparation free of charge, filers save an average of $250 in filing fees, meaning they keep all of their refund.

“This is not your ordinary volunteer role,” said Norman Bellard, assistant to the president for community relations. “It requires certain levels of skill and a true commitment to serve.

He added that program growth is pushing the need for a larger pool of volunteers for the 10 weeks it operates, beginning in February. Multiple sites and varying hours mean volunteers will have some choices.

“This year, we have added new partners and new sites,” Bellard said. “All of our volunteers will receive training and certification for whatever role they may take, whether handling tax preparation or working in other areas, such as intake and reception, which are essential in facilitating the program.”

The VITA program is under a division of the IRS and functions through local partnerships and coalitions. Tax preparation will begin the second week of February with extensive training using instructional and testing materials provided by the IRS to begin in January.

The local program began with a partnership of two—Lamar University and Entergy Texas, Inc. It has grown to include Catholic Charities, United Way of Beaumont and North Jefferson County, St. Vincent DePaul of Raywood, and the Jackson Center in Orange.

New partners coming on board this year include the City of Beaumont, which will assist with marketing efforts; ExxonMobil Credit Union, which will provide financial education to those receiving assistance; Lamar University’s Small Business Development Center where a site to serve the South Park area will be set up; and Lamar University’s Economics Department, which will offer VITA as an elective for credit with students encouraged to become certified volunteers.

Volunteer times are:

Saturday, January 11 - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Galloway Building, room 246.  This class will focus on Volunteer Standards of Conduct, Intake/Interview and BASIC Certifications.  This class is for all volunteers and the deadline to register is Jan. 6. 

Saturday, January 18  - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
This class is to review the Affordable Care Act, review Basic certification answers and provide additional software practice.

Saturday, January 25 - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.  
This is a special class to cover foreign student non-resident VITA certification.  This class is for volunteers that have passed Basic certification and will volunteer to prepare student tax returns.  Foreign student taxes will be prepared on Tuesdays, on campus, beginning Feb. 25.

Be Prepared!
Returning volunteers please have your user name and password from last year to access the Link and Learn training system.

Register to become a volunteer by calling or emailing John Korejwa, the VITA program director, at 260-385-8720 or contact him by email at jkorejwa@gmail.com.