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Milligan again offering free tax preparation, Feb 2-April 15

MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (Jan. 12, 2015) — Milligan College’s VITA tax preparation program marks its seventh year offering free, IRS-certified return preparation for the 2015 tax prep season starting on Feb. 2 through April 15.

For the second year, Appalachian Community Federal Union (ACFCU) signed on as a major sponsor for the program and will be a host site for return preparation on Tuesday nights. Online registration, testimonials and more information is available now at www.milligan.edu/vita.

Led by Milligan 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 offer. In 2014, volunteers completed 835 returns, saving clients more than $200,000 compared to if they had used fee-based services and producing more than $1,200,000 in refunds. This year’s program features five sites, with services offered Mondays through Thursdays and Saturday mornings (see schedule below).

Taxpayers eligible for VITA services include: people with annual incomes of less than $60,000; anyone with a physical disability; non English-speaking citizens; and people older than 55. In addition to electronic filing for quick deposit of returns, VITA preparers can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as earned income tax credit, child tax credit and credit for the elderly or the disabled.

Milligan’s VITA program has come a long way since it began seven years ago, completing only 35 returns in its first year.

“We have grown exponentially serving this region,” Branstrator said. “We see this as a ministry to low and moderate-income taxpayers. Our volunteers (mostly Milligan students) are competent, courteous and respectful, and we have a near-zero error rate, much lower than the average paid tax preparers.”

Under the supervision of Branstrator, a former IRS employee, returns are prepared by students who have completed VITA’s standard three-week certification process, leaving them prepared at the high level expected by the IRS. Branstrator says the class will help students not only serve their community and put classroom skills into practice, but also attract potential employers.

“Following Milligan’s mission of servant leadership, I believe this approach is what has caused our rapid growth, which includes many repeat customers,” Branstrator added. “The fact that we’re saving the average client a couple hundred dollars or more certainly plays a role as well ― people like to keep their own money.”

Milligan President Dr. Bill Greer said the VITA program has become a highly effective example of the college’s strong emphasis on servant leadership.

“VITA is a practical, hands-on way for our students to make a positive difference in the community,” Greer said. “It’s been inspiring to see so many students grow to share Dr. Branstrator’s passion for helping taxpayers. This program’s growing popularity with clients and host sites shows there has been a great unmet need in the community for this type of service.”

Sites and days of operation include:

Mondays: Visitors Center, 117 Boone Street, Jonesborough, Tennessee, 37659, 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Tuesdays: Appalachian Community Federal Credit Union, 5034 Bobby Hicks Highway, Suite 2, Gray, Tennessee, 37615, 5-9 p.m.

Wednesdays: Milligan College, Derthick Hall, Room 109, Milligan College, Tennessee, 37682, 5-9 p.m.

Thursdays: Elizabethton Carter County Public Library, 201 North Sycamore Street, Elizabethton, Tennessee, 37643, 4-8 p.m.

Saturdays: Grandview Christian Church, 300 University Parkway, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37604, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

There will be a hiatus during Milligan’s spring break, March 9-13.

To learn more, visit www.milligan.edu/vita, or call 423.461.8700.


Returning VITA volunteer Amanda Sheppard with client Tommy Parker


MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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