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Accounting students to offer free tax preparation to community

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Accounting students in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at UNG are offering free tax preparation through the VITA program sponsored by the IRS.

Accounting students in the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Mike Cottrell College of Business (MCCB) are gaining valuable tax preparation experience while serving the surrounding communities.

They are providing free tax preparation for community members and fellow students as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program sponsored by the IRS.

VITA offers free tax services to people who generally make $54,000 or less. The students prepare basic 1040 tax returns, schedules, and related credits. Lisa Nash, lecturer of accounting at UNG and a CPA, reviews all returns before filing. Federal and state returns are prepared while taxpayers are present.  The tax returns are filed electronically with direct deposit available, if desired.

Edita Lilic, a senior from Cumming, Georgia, majoring in accounting and finance, is grateful to be part of the class where students have trained for and passed an IRS test to be able to prepare taxes.

"This is a really beneficial thing for students to do because we often just focus on learning in the classroom," Lilic said. "Now we're getting the opportunity to actually prepare tax returns for real people instead of the theoretical person we learn about in the classroom setting."

Nash said this is the third year she has supervised the program at UNG. With so many changes to tax law affecting 2018 returns, Nash knows people will need assistance. Among the changes are substantial increases in the standard deduction, which means fewer people will itemize on their tax returns, loss of deduction for personal and dependency exemptions, but increases to the child and dependent tax credit.

"The tax code changes were numerous," Nash said. "People are going to have many questions."

Victoria Shand, a senior from Monroe, Georgia, majoring in accounting, said the tax code changes add to what the students need to know before helping people with their taxes.

"That's something that we're going to have to learn how to explain to the clients," Shand said. "We can help them know what will work best for them."

Lilic said the communication skills she and her classmates will learn through preparing people's taxes will be important. The hands-on element is also valuable.

"When you learn something that's new, you understand it better for the future if you're actively doing it while you're learning it," Lilic said.

She is eager to get started.

"I never knew it was an option until I got later into my college education," Lilic said. "It's a way to give back to the community and learn more as an accounting major."

The tax preparation services are available by appointment only from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Feb. 5 through March 7 in room 109 of Newton Oakes on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. Appointments can be made by leaving a message for Nash at 706-867-3082.

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