January 29, 2020

IRS-certified volunteers provided $215,038 in benefits to local families through VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) in 2019.

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J., Jan. 29, 2020—Qualified area residents are eligible for free tax preparation by IRS-certified student volunteers through Centenary University’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. This initiative is offered in partnership with the United Way of Northern New Jersey.

Last year, Centenary’s student volunteers completed 149 tax returns for clients, generating $215,038 in benefits through $174,063 in refunds and $40,975 in saved tax preparation fees. The University’s VITA program was also responsible for $42,040 in Earned Income Tax Credits.

To participate in VITA, all volunteers must pass an online certification exam offered by the Internal Revenue Service. This year, Centenary students achieved a 100% pass rate on the IRS exam, with 18 earning advanced certification and two attaining basic certification. VITA volunteers must repeat online certification annually to keep up with changing tax codes.

During the fall semester, Centenary students complete a two-credit class called Foundations of Income Tax Preparation to prepare for the IRS exam. While VITA attracts many accounting majors, it provides benefits for any major, according to Assistant Professor of Business Joseph Downey, who directs the Centenary program.

“VITA brings a lot of benefits to the community, but also to the students,” Downey explained. “Students learn important career skills. Our accounting majors find it easier to get jobs because they already have experience working directly with clients. VITA provides great leadership training for all students, even those who are not going to become tax accountants. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to give back to the community.”

Tax preparation appointments will begin in early February and will be held on Centenary University’s Hackettstown campus in the Tutoring Center, located on the ground floor of the Edward W. Seay Administration Building. VITA is available to clients who meet IRS eligibility requirements, including earnings of $56,000 or less annually, those who are disabled, or taxpayers who speak limited or no English. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit UnitedWayNNJ.org/FreeTaxPrep or call (973) 993-1160, ext. 5.

Founded in 1867 by the Newark Conference of the United Methodist Church, Centenary University’s academic program integrates a solid liberal arts foundation with a strong career orientation. This mix provides an educational experience that prepares students to succeed in the increasingly global and interdependent world. The University’s main campus is located in Hackettstown, N.J., with its equestrian facility in Washington Township. The Centenary University School of Professional Studies offers degree programs at two locations, Parsippany and Edison, as well as online and at corporate sites throughout New Jersey.

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