On February 28, Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Tax Policy Colloquium, hosted this year by my colleague David Gamage, welcomed Vanessa Williamson from the Brookings Institution. Vanessa presented a report that is due to be released at the end of March on a “Filer Voter” experiment she conducted at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites in Cleveland, Ohio and Dallas, Texas.
For those who may not be familiar with it, VITA is an IRS-run program that offers free tax return preparation (generally federal and state) for taxpayers who made $54,000 in income or less (for 2018) and meet certain other requirements. An IRS web page provides training materials and certification tests for volunteers. The IRS works with local groups in that it provides VITA grants to partner organizations. For example, in Bloomington, the VITA program is run by United Way of Monroe County.
Vanessa’s Filer Voter experiment involved offering some taxpayers who come to VITA sites for tax-return preparation the opportunity to register to vote. The experiment was structured as follows: Each VITA session was divided in half by time, and within each session, the first half or second half was randomly assigned the treatment of offering voter registration, and the other half of the session was the control. The study included collection of demographic information and consent forms from taxpayers in both the treatment and control groups. Continue reading “IU Tax Policy Colloquium: Williamson, Filer Voter: An Experiment Testing Voter Registration at Tax Time”→
Adam C. Mansfield
Staff Attorney, Legal Services for Students, University of Kansas
The first time I logged into the TaxSlayer training lab I knew that this tax season was going to be a problem. It became obvious when I typed “1040NR” into the form lookup box in the upper left corner of the TaxSlayer screen and the search came up empty. Next I tried “1042-S” and “8843.” Same result. Now I’m not some old fuddy-duddy that doesn’t like change. I love working with new gadgets, software, or operating systems—as long as it does what it is supposed to do.
I work for Legal Services for Students at the University of Kansas. The main target population for our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant is nonresident alien (NRA) students and scholars. Every tax year we help hundreds of international students and researchers determine their residency status, calculate any applicable tax treaty benefits, and prepare their federal and state returns. In the past, TaxWise has worked just fine for this purpose. I had no problem preparing a return for the student from Bangladesh who had income in both Kansas and Missouri or the Chinese student who has multiple 1042-S forms for scholarships and awards but still needs to apply treaty benefits to his or her wages. This year, TaxSlayer is just not up to the task.
I feel bad for Whitley, a member of TaxSlayer’s customer support squad, who is left with the task of informing me that they are aware of the “issue” that prevents their software from properly applying and reporting a tax treaty benefit on a nonresident alien return. She proceeded to tell me that they could only handle “simple” state returns in conjunction with an NRA return. This means that I can’t make any adjustments to the state return in order to properly apportion income. They are “working diligently to iron out the wrinkles.” Not being able to prepare a pretty basic nonresident alien return is a little more than just a wrinkle. Continue reading “TaxSlayer: Technically Acceptable for VITA Returns?”→
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy
We celebrated Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in Las Vegas … and the numbers are impressive. Almost 200 volunteers spent 12,000 hours generating over $25 million in federal refunds that have and will continue to exponentially benefit our local communities and working families, including thousands of children. But for anyone who has served as a VITA volunteer, the personal rewards and deep fulfillment from helping others are priceless. If you are a tax professional looking for something more out of work-life-balance (or are curious about Woody Allen’s antihero advice and afterlife plan) … read more about encore tax opportunities here. Details about VITA programs and generous grant opportunities with fast-approaching deadlines (June 1) follow the fold …