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Every year during tax time, Lakeland College accounting students power the local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax return service for lower-income citizens.
The Sheboygan VITA program, sponsored by Guaranty Bank and Schenck SC, takes place on Tuesdays from 5-9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. starting Feb. 3 at the Sheboygan Salvation Army. For participating Lakeland students, this community work is required as part of their accounting major.
"Not only does involvement in this program give our accounting students hands-on experience with real clients, it also reinforces the need to serve the greater community," said Brett Killion, in his fourth year as Lakeland's assistant professor of accounting. "It's rewarding for our student to see the joy in people's faces and hear them say, 'Thank you so much!'
"There are people out there who are struggling. We provide that free service and hopefully put dollars in their pockets, which positively impacts the local economy."
Last year, Lakeland students — with help from Lakeshore Technical College students — handled 371 state returns and 332 federal returns. The average federal return yielded $1,283 and the average Sheboygan VITA state refund was $581.
In its first 10 years, Lakeland's program has collected close to $10 million in tax refunds for lower-income earners in the area.
Lower-income citizens bring in their paperwork and conduct a short interview with the accounting student assigned to the return. The students use computers set up in the Salvation Army. Most returns take between 60-90 minutes. The returns are then reviewed by the more experienced students and tax practitioners.
People interested in taking advantage of this free service must have a household income under $53,000 a year. Applicants must bring a photo ID; social security cards for themselves, their spouse and dependents; W-2 forms; 1099 forms; rent certificate or 2014 property tax bill; and a copy of their 2013 tax return.
Returns cannot be done for those taxpayers having income from outside Wisconsin sources, those having complex tax returns and those who are non-U.S. residents.
Registered tax return preparers and enrolled agents can earn up to 14 hours of continuing education credits by volunteering as a quality reviewer at a VITA site. Those interested should contact Killion at
Reservations are required for the tax service and will be accepted beginning Jan. 12. To make a reservation, call 565-1000, ext. 2290.
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