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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?


VITA sessions are canceled for spring 2020 – the 2019 tax returns. We are planning to return in Spring 2021 for the 2020 tax return season. Check the IRS website for other VITA locations.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an IRS program designed to assist low income taxpayers file their tax returns.

Income limitations for our site:
Filing Status Income
Single $64,000
Married, Joint $103,000

 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 2019 Federal Tax Return: 

  • Delays of Refunds.
    The IRS estimates that the earliest refunds for tax returns with claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) will be mid-February if direct deposit is selected.  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). 
  • The format of Form 1040 is changed from prior years and may take you by surprise. There is no longer Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ, just Form 1040.  It is simplified if all you have is certain types of income and deductions.  Otherwise, if you have other incomes or specialty deductions and credits, schedules 1 through 3 are now used to supplement the Form 1040.  However, Schedules A, B, C and D are still used. 
  • Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
    Taxpayers may have purchased health insurance from the government marketplace.  If so, they will receive Form 1095A that is to be used on their income tax return.  Taxpayers may have received an advanced subsidy, or be eligible for a subsidy, for their purchase and this is reconciled on the tax return based on their income.  
  • There are no longer exemption amounts. The Child Tax Credit for dependent children under 17 is $2,000 per child.  A social security number for the child is required to obtain the Child Tax Credit.  There is a $500 credit for other dependents.  
  • 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 2019 are:
    • Head of household -- $18,350 (up from $18,000)
    • Married taxpayers filing jointly and qualifying widow(er)s -- $24,400 (up from $24,000)
    • Single and Married taxpayers filing separately -- $12,200 (up from $12,000)           

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 $1,100.   

  • The American Opportunity Tax Credit Available for 2019.
    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 credit for the qualified student.  Phase out of the credit begins at $80,000 (single) and $160,000 (joint).  No change from 2018. 
  • Tuition and Fees Deduction Expired at the end of 2017
  • 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 claim the child as a dependent. 
  • 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.
    • $3,526 with one qualifying child (up from $3,461)
    • $5,828 with two qualifying children (up from $5,716)
    • $6,557 with three or more qualifying children (up from $6,431)
    • $529 with no qualifying child (up from $519) 

Those whose investment income is more than $3,600 cannot claim this credit. 

  • Alimony.
    Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible from the income of the payer spouse, or includable in the income of the receiving spouse, if made under a divorce or separation agreement executed after Dec. 31, 2018. 

This also applies to a divorce or separation agreement executed on or before Dec. 31, 2018, and modified after December 31, 2018, as long as the modification:

  • changes the terms of the alimony or separate maintenance payments; and
  • states that the alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible by the payer spouse or includable in the income of the receiving spouse.
  • On the other hand, generally alimony or separate maintenance payments are deductible from the income of the payer spouse and includable in the income of the receiving spouse, if made under a divorce or separation agreement executed on or before Dec. 31, 2018, even if the agreement was modified after December 31, 2018, so long as the modification is not one described in the preceding paragraph.

    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 Zelnio
McCauley Johnston
Jacob Wenokur

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