It’s Tax Season. Here’s How You Can Get Free Help

Feb 10, 2020

Credit Courtesy JMU Accounting Dept.

The IRS started accepting tax returns on January 27.  And low-to-middle income filers in our area can get free help preparing and filing their returns at several locations.  WMRA’s Bob Leweke reports.

Dr. Nancy Nichols is an accounting professor at James Madison University.  She says many filers make some pretty common mistakes.

Dr. Nancy Nichols says one of the most common filing errors is entering the wrong social security number on the form.
Credit Courtesy JMU

DR. NANCY NICHOLS:  Actually one of the most common mistakes that taxpayers make is to enter the wrong social security on their tax return.  And believe me, that simple error causes major headaches with the Internal Revenue Service.

Then there’s wrestling with all the deductions in the tax code.

NICHOLS:  So, you know, every year taxpayers either claim credits and deductions they are not eligible for, or they forget to take credits or deductions that they should take.

Every year since 2017, business students at JMU have offered free tax prep and filing advice for filers with an annual income of $65,000 or less.

NICHOLS:  The first year we helped about 150 taxpayers.  That number grew in our second year to 250.  And last year we helped over 450 taxpayers.

Dr. Nichols says last year’s project netted more than $600,000 in refunds for those who got help.  It’s all part of an IRS-supported program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA.  It’s offered every weekend on campus.  And the JMU program isn’t the only one in our area.

Augusta County also has a VITA program for those with incomes under $56,000, at locations in Staunton, Waynesboro, Stuarts Draft and Fishersville.  The programs at JMU and in Augusta County will be available through early April.