Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) will continue its partnership in VITA, a free, IRS-certified tax preparation program, with Tusculum College as a new partner this year. Returns will be pre-pared by trained volunteers Monday nights at ACFCU’s community room in Gray, Thursday nights at Tusculum and Saturday mornings at Greeneville Light & Power, starting Jan. 30.
Led by Tusculum professor Dr. Harold Branstrator, the IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program offers a free alternative that provides the same fast refunds as paid preparers do. Volunteers have completed an average of roughly 1,000 returns annually since 2014, saving clients an average of more than $200 compared to fee-based services.
Taxpayers eligible for VITA services include: people with annual incomes of less than $54,000; anyone with a physical disability; non English-speaking citizens; and people older than 55. Registration is easy and available by phone at (800) 378-3778 (wait for the operator) or online at web.tusculum.edu/vita/ (click the red “sign up now” button).
“The regional VITA site in partnership with ACFCU has become one of the strongest in the Southeast,” Dr. Branstrator said. “We see this as a ministry of justice to low and moderate-income taxpayers, our volunteers (mostly Tusculum students) are competent, courteous and respectful and we have a near-zero error rate, much lower than the average for paid preparers.”
Under the supervision of Branstrator, a former IRS employee, returns are pre-pared by Tusculum students who complete a three-week certification process that is standard with VITA and leaves them prepared at the high level expected by the IRS.
ACFCU CEO Ron Scott said the program mirrors ACFCU’s mission of reaching the financially underserved.
“Our schools and families do not discuss finances or prepare people for financial matters as generations before us did,” Scott said. “This pro-gram provides the basic need of any American taxpayer, and it is provided professionally and caringly.
“Our members and others will not only receive good service with a completed tax form, they will be more knowledgeable about what their options are and what is good for them.”
Appointments are required. Sites and days of operation include: Mondays: ACFCU, 5034 Bobby Hicks Highway, Gray, TN 5:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Thursdays: Tusculum College, Niswonger Commons, 60 Shiloh Road, Greeneville, TN 5:30-8:30 p.m. Saturdays: Greeneville Power and Light, 110 N. College St., Greeneville, TN 9 a.m.-noon.
To schedule an appointment, call (800) 378-3778 and wait for the operator, or register online at web.tusculum.edu/vita/.