The Center for Community Resources opened a new office February 1st that allows students, families and community members who make up to $50,000 per year to get professional tax preparation done for free.
The program is called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and it’s sponsored by the IRS, said SRU management professor, Rhonda Clark. It’s a community service program designed to make it both cheap and easy to prepare their taxes.
“We encourage everyone to use it,” said Clark. “Even if they’ve already done their taxes, maybe they know somebody who needs tax services. This is free, it is for the community, and it’s saving people a lot of money.”
The Slippery Rock Center for Community Resources (CCR) has done taxes for about 64 people since its opening in February, Clark stated. This has caused clients to gain a total of $100,000 in tax refunds.
While appointments are preferred, walk-ins are also accepted, said volunteer tax reviewer, Jo Annette Cynkar. All that the client is required to bring is a valid photo ID, social security card, and W-2 forms. When calling for an appointment, the office will tell you if you need to bring any other special types of forms.
In order to make an appointment, clients must call the office at 724-431-3748. The number is usable 24 hours per day.
Currently the building is open two days per week. The hours are 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Clark said that the hours may be extended next year if the service becomes more popular.
“It’s coming a long way, and going very well,” Clark said. “I think it’s actually exceeded my expectations and it’s really starting to pick up just after the first month of being open.”
The building is located on 164 South Main St., Slippery Rock, where the Pennsylvania Center for Environmental Education (PCEE) building used to be.
The office is able to stay open despite not charging any money by hiring SRU interns. The Slippery Rock Sustainable Enterprise Accelerator (SEA) pays rent on the building and allows CCR to use the office two days per week, Clark said.
The office in Slippery Rock is a branch off of the center in Butler which has been open for almost three years. Clark stated that this is a nationwide IRS program that has recently started to branch out in the Slippery Rock area. There are also locations in Cranberry and Kittanning.
Nineteen SRU accounting majors are currently working at the CCR as unpaid interns, Clark said. While most are working at the center in Slippery Rock, a few students are working in the offices in Butler and Cranberry.
Cynkar said that these accounting majors are extensively trained. They are required to be certified by the IRS for basic tax law training, and some volunteers are also working on their intermediate level certification.
Accounting majors can sign up for an internship with the Center for Community Resources by talking to either Dr. Clark or the head of the accounting department, Dr. Anna Lusher.