Accounting department offers free tax return service

 T’Keyah Alford prepares her taxes at H&R Block with the help of employee Carylon Ivy.

Every year, the working citizens of the United States must collect W-2s, receipts and paperwork in order to file their taxes by the deadline in April.

In order to ease the stress for first-time filers, or taxpayers who are looking for an easier, cheaper alternative to file taxes, UNA offers a free program provided by trained UNA accounting students.

“Through the accounting department, we work with a group called Impact Alabama,” said Dr. Gregory Carnes, an accounting professor at UNA. “Our students do tax returns for free. The focus is to determine the earned income credit for families that qualify.”

Impact Alabama is a program based in Birmingham that sets up sessions all over Alabama that are open to everyone, Carnes said. The programs are open to everyone for six weeks prior to April.

Carnes helped train people for AARP’s tax-aide program. There are five locations in the Shoals area alone, including the Florence Lauderdale Public Library. These sessions also offer free tax preparations for students.

“My advice would be to go to one of these free programs because the preparers are trained and have to pass a test from the IRS,” Carnes said.

If a student has a simple tax return, such as a single filer with income only from wages and few deductions, free online tax services such as Turbo Tax and TaxACT are sufficient, Carnes said. The online alternatives offer free federal filing with step-by-step instructions.

Carnes said one of the biggest problems that appears while filing student taxes is the dependency issue. Because many students work and receive money from their parents, figuring out who can claim what can be confusing.

Carnes said it is valuable to find education credits for students who are filing and determine if they are applicable.

“International students’ returns can get complicated,” Carnes said.

Carnes said international students should go to a free center to get their taxes prepared instead of attempting filing themselves.

Some UNA students use local accountants for their taxes.

“I just go to Robert Witt in downtown,” said Vance Parrish, a film and digital media major at UNA. “I give them my W-2 and they do the rest.”

Parrish said Witt’s preparers asked for his school expenses, such as book costs, supplies and technology costs, such as his new laptop. They charged him $20, but because of an error with how his employers withheld taxes, he won’t be getting money back this year.