Greeneville – East Tennessee residents who would welcome assistance completing their 2020 tax returns have a free option available from the College of Business at Tusculum University.

The university is participating for the fifth year in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Tusculum will provide tax preparation services on its Greeneville campus and at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Johnson City in February, March and April.

The program serves individuals with a gross income of less than $57,000, as well as anyone older than 65, those with a disability and others who do not speak English as their primary language.

Tusculum students and community volunteers, trained by Dr. Harold Branstrator, an associate professor of management at the university and a former Internal Revenue Service revenue agent and current IRS enrolled agent, provide customized service for each person. The IRS certifies the preparers.

“We are thrilled to engage with community members and help them navigate what can sometimes be a complex tax preparation process,” Dr. Branstrator said. “When you prepare a return yourself, you might not be aware of some credits or deductions available to you that could reduce the amount you owe or increase your refund. We are here to help you identify them.”

The VITA program is funded by multiple sources – the IRS; Truist; Westminster; and Blackburn, Childers & Steagall. Truist, formed by BB&T and SunTrust banks, is the newest source of funds, providing $10,000 as part of its community service initiative. Through outreach, Dr. Branstrator has collected about $23,000 to support the program.

Volunteers will provide tax preparation services in Rooms 001 and 005 on the bottom floor of the Meen Center on Tusculum’s Greeneville campus Thursdays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Available dates are Feb. 18, Feb. 25, March 4, March 11, March 18, March 25, April 1 and April 8.

Clients also have access to these services Mondays from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Westminster, 2343 Knob Creek Road, Johnson City. The dates are Feb. 22, March 1, March 8, March 15, March 22, March 29 and April 5.

To schedule an appointment, please call Dr. Branstrator at 423-636-7414. Community members should bring their W-2 and 1099 forms, dividend and interest statements, tax documents related to their small business or rental property and any other items required for a complete filing.

Appointments are 45 minutes, but additional time is available, if necessary. All appointments are in-person, but preparers will take all safety precautions to reduce the potential for spread of the coronavirus. Clients must wear a face covering.

Dr. Branstrator is seeking additional tax preparation volunteers to supplement the team he has already assembled. Those who are interested are encouraged to call Dr. Branstrator. He will hold training sessions from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays on Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and Feb. 13 in Meen 001 and 005.

“Tusculum is committed to civic engagement as part of our mission statement and appreciates the opportunity to serve the region with high-quality tax preparation,” said Dr. Jacob Fait, the College of Business’ dean. “We are grateful to those who have financially supported this annual initiative and thank Westminster for hosting us again this year. This is an excellent program, which we are focused on growing to serve those in need.”

For more information about the program, please visit https://web.tusculum.edu/vita/. To learn more about the university, please visit www.tusculum.edu.

Building on a rich Presbyterian heritage and a pioneering spirit, Tusculum University provides an active and experiential education within a caring Christian environment to inspire civic engagement, enrich personal lives and equip career-ready professionals. Tusculum is the first higher education institution in Tennessee and the 28th oldest in the nation. Students are enrolled on the main campus in Greeneville, at facilities in Knoxville and Morristown and in online programs.