University of Akron and Kent State University volunteers are reaching out to the community by providing a free tax service for low- to moderate-income taxpayers.


The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, also known as VITA, is IRS-sponsored, and volunteers adhere to strict qualifications. The VITA Program offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.


At the University of Akron, it is the third year that the George W. Daverio School of Accountancy is a VITA site, but only the second year it is open to the public, said Kristina Melomed, an adjunct instructor at the school and VITA site coordinator.


The UA volunteers are students and staff. Volunteers must complete at least a three-credit college course in Federal Taxation as well as six IRS certifications.


The UA site prepares 1040s and 1040NRs, as well as 8843s (forms required for international students and teachers to remain in compliance with their visas), 4868s (forms used to file for an extension), and 1040Xs (amended returns). Volunteers can prepare 2010 as well as 2011 returns. This year, the site is also offering self-service kiosks for those people who want to file their own returns, but would like a knowledgeable person nearby if they have any questions.


The UA site is located in the College of Business Administration Building, 259 South Broadway St., Room 105.


Appointments are accepted online only at www.uakron.edu/cba/vita. However, this Saturday is “Super Saturday” and walk-ins will be accepted. Hours are Saturdays only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a one-hour break for lunch from noon to 1 p.m. The site will be open every Saturday through April 14, 2012, except for March 10 and 17.


Kent State’s VITA is offering the service for qualifying individuals this tax-filing season on the Kent Campus.


Paula DiVencenzo, business and finance tax manager at Kent State, said this is the second year Kent State is participating in the IRS-sponsored VITA program. Volunteers include members from Beta Alpha Psi, the Accounting Association, the university’s payroll department and the Office of Global Education, as well as five interns completing the master’s program in the College of Business Administration.


DiVencenzo said some volunteers are involved to gain experience, but most are community-minded students who want to help people.


Kent State student Tianjun Shen, a VITA volunteer, said he got involved while interning for Kent State’s International Student and Scholar Services.


“I offered to help and found it quite rewarding to be able to help international students, scholars and their family members,” Shen said. “Also as an international student myself, I was confused about how to file my taxes, and I just wanted to offer my helping hand.”


International students use the services more than any group, but it is open to all students and community members, said DiVencenzo.


To qualify for free preparation and e-file services, taxpayers’ gross income must total $50,000 or less for individual and joint filing. The service is available to students, university employees and the public. Certified volunteers prepare U.S. 1040 forms for residents and 1040NR forms for nonresidents.


The VITA tax preparation site is located in Rooms A224 and A226 in the Business Administration Building located at 475 Terrace Drive in Kent. Weekday sessions are available by appointment. The VITA site is open for walk-ins on the following Saturdays: March 10 and April 7 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and March 31 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Although Saturday walk-ins are welcome, appointments are encouraged.


All appointments can be scheduled by contacting DiVencenzo at 330-672-8622 or via email at tax@kent.edu.


Taxpayers must provide proof of identification and specific documentation. Visit www.kent.edu/tax/kent-state-vita.cfm for a list of required items and for more information.


Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisher and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty