IRS awards SMWC $20,000 grant

October 27th, 2015 | SMWC

Jamie McCracken
Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business and coordinator of the VITA site at SMWC

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) was recently awarded a $20,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to be used to expand the program to assist more people. The single-year grant will provide new technology including computers and printers and limited funding for marketing to increase participation.

For seven years, SMWC has served as a site for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, a national program to help low- to moderate-income (generally, $53,000 and below) people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. SMWC student volunteers receive training and become certified to help prepare basic tax returns.

Over the last three years, SMWC has increased returns filed by nearly 60 percent each year and increased the net dollars of federal refunds processed from $180,000 to over $500,000. The potential exists for continued growth, but the College reached capacity within the limitations of the current resources. That is, until receiving this grant.

“Receiving this grant will open the doors to who we can help in the community,” states Jamie McCracken, associate professor of business and coordinator of the VITA site at SMWC. “We have grown consistently over the years, and this will allow us to expand our reach.”

In 2015, fourteen SMWC student volunteers prepared 495 returns throughout tax season. The VITA site provides practical tax experience outside of the classroom, while giving them an opportunity to serve the community.

SMWC is currently the only VITA site in Vigo County. SMWC has participated in the VITA program since 1999. Originally, SMWC students worked at three e-file sites in the community. It wasn’t until 2007 that the first VITA site was formed on SMWC campus, and under McCracken, SMWC expanded from a bi-annual site to an annual site and has grown each year since.

With 20 years of experience as a tax preparer, McCracken teaches tax law at the baccalaureate college level. She regularly takes the VITA certification exams. Each spring since 2007 she has completed the Link and Learn training and VITA certification exams at the advanced levels, as well as the coordinator training. This VITA grant also provides funding for McCracken to take the Enrolled Agent exam, to provide extra qualifications as appropriate for the VITA site coordinator.

“This grant will provide a more well-rounded experience for my students,” states McCracken. “We will bring in more clients and the students will see the need in the community.”