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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

Puzzled by the tax law or which credits and deductions to take? Need assistance with your tax return at no cost to you?

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an IRS program designed to assist low income taxpayers ($54,000 and below) file their tax returns. Volunteers are Monmouth College students that have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare tax returns. They can help you with special credits, such as the Premium Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit, education credits such as the American Opportunity Tax and Lifetime Learning Credits, and the Savers Credit.

In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, we offer free electronic filing. You can expect refunds in half the time compared to returns filed on paper – even faster if you have your refund deposited directly into your bank account.

The service is provided on a first-come, first served basis and your returns are prepared while you wait. We can prepare and electronically file both your federal and Illinois state returns.

Of Interest for the 2016 Federal Tax Return

  • Delays of Refunds.

    • The IRS can’t issue refunds before February 15 for tax returns with claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This applies to the ENTIRE REFUND and not just the credit amounts. All social security numbers used to claim the EITC must be issued on or before the due date of the return (including extensions). You may not later claim the credit on a late original return or an amended return (an identity theft feature).
  • New IRS Tax Software

    • The IRS has contracted with a new commercial software provider, TaxSlayer. Since this will be the first year using this provider, the software will not have carryforward information from taxpayers from the prior year. All personal information must be re-entered. This may increase the time needed to prepare your return. Taxpayers must bring the social security card for each person listed on the return. The taxpayer and spouse must have photo identification. Taxpayers should bring last year’s return with them to the site.
  • Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
    • Taxpayers must have minimum essential health insurance coverage for each month of 2016 for: taxpayer, spouse, and dependents. If not, a shared responsibility payment may need to be made on this return. Taxpayers may also have received a Premium Tax Credit (subsidy) for the purchase of health insurance if purchased through the Marketplace. That credit will be reconciled on this return (for example, if you did not apply for the subsidy, and you are eligible, you can get it on this return).
    • Taxpayers will receive one of the following forms to verify their minimum essential health insurance coverage:
    • Form 1095A – if insurance was purchased through the Marketplace
    • Form 1095B – if insurance was purchased through an Insurance Provider
    • Form 1095C – if insurance was purchased through an Employer
  • Exemption Amounts Increase from $4,000 to $4,050.
  • Standard Deduction Amounts Increase. 
    • The amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind, and whether an exemption can be claimed for you by another taxpayer. The basic standard deduction amounts for 2016 are:
      • Head of household -- $9,300 (up from $9,250)
      • Married taxpayers filing jointly and qualifying widow(er)s -- $12,600 (same as prior year)
      • Single and Married taxpayers filing separately -- $6,300 (same as prior year)
    • The standard deduction amount for an individual who may be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer is the smaller of the taxpayer’s normal standard deduction (per filing status) or the sum of $350 and the individual’s earned income, but not lower than $1,050.
  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit Available for 2016.
    • It is available for the first four years of post-secondary education. The maximum amount of credit is $2,500 per eligible student and includes required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses (in addition to tuition and fees). In addition, 40% of this credit (limited to $1,000) may be refundable, meaning that if the taxpayer does not have a tax liability, a refund is still possible. Expenses are deemed paid by the taxpayer taking the dependency exemption for the qualified student. Phase out of the credit begins at $80,000 (single) and $160,000 (joint).
  • Tuition and Fees Deduction Available for 2016.
    • It is available for tuition and fees in a post-secondary education institution up to $4,000. If the expenses are not for the taxpayer or spouse, the taxpayer must be claiming a dependency exemption for the student. Nondependent students can claim the deduction on their own returns even if paid by another person: deemed gift. Phase out of the credit begins at $60,000 (single) and $130,000 (joint).
  • First Time Homebuyer Credit No Longer Available after 2010.
    • However, for those who bought a home in 2008 and received a credit, the taxpayer should have begun repayment in 2010 that will continue over a 15-year period. Form 5405 is used to determine the repayment.
  • Definition of Qualifying Child.
    • To be a qualifying child, the child must be younger than the taxpayer, unless the child is permanently and totally disabled. If the parents of a child can claim the child as a qualifying child but neither parent claims the child, no other eligible person can claim the child as a qualifying child unless that person’s AGI is higher than the highest AGI of any parent of the child. A taxpayer’s child is a qualifying child for purposes of the child tax credit only if the taxpayer can and does claim an exemption for the child.
  • Rules for Children of Divorced or Separated Parents.
    • This applies to the noncustodial parent in situations where a couple is divorced or legally separated after 2008. To claim a child as a dependent, the noncustodial parent must attach Form 8332 (signed by the custodial parent) to his or her tax return, rather than certain pages from the divorce decree or separation agreement. For pre-2009 divorces and separations, the noncustodial spouse still has the option of attaching those pages.
  • Increased Earned Income Credit Benefits Depending Upon Earned Income and Filing Status.
    • $3,373 with one qualifying child (up from $3,359)
    • $5,572 with two qualifying children (up from $5,548)
    • $6,269 with three or more qualifying children (up from $6,242)
    • $506 with no qualifying child (up from $503)
    • Those whose investment income is more than $3,400 cannot claim this credit.

Please note: The information covered on our web site is not intended as tax advice nor should it be construed as tax advice. Monmouth College volunteers are not professional tax advisors and cannot give tax advice. For tax advice assistance, contact a professional tax advisor.

Contact Information

Faculty advisors and coordinators:
Judy Peterson
Connie Mersch

Student Assistants:
Michelle Ravel
Lexi Sierens
Luke Kreiter

Mailing Address:
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
Monmouth College
700 E. Broadway Ave.
Monmouth, IL 61462

Email:
vita@monmouthcollege.edu

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