Frequently Asked Questions

VITA at Virginia Law cannot and does not warrant or guarantee the completeness or accuracy of the information provided. Taxpayers should consult the IRS and/or their state tax/revenue authority for complete and accurate information. Most answers assume that the taxpayer is a U.S. citizen, except for "What to Bring to Your Tax Appointment," "How Much Does It Cost" and "Resident Aliens and Nonresident Aliens" sections.  Please be aware that VITA at Virginia Law is unable to provide any tax assistance or advice by e-mail or phone.



- What to Bring to Your Tax Appointment -


Do I need to bring my Social Security card?  Do I need to bring Social Security cards for my spouse and/or children?

Yes. You will need to bring a Social Security card for everyone who will be listed on your tax return, including yourself, your spouse, and your children (or any other dependents).  If any person on your tax return (including yourself) does not have a Social Security card available, you will need to obtain a Social Security Number verification letter from the Social Security Administration.* You may obtain this letter by providing your Social Security Number with one form of identification at the local Charlottesville Social Security Administration Office. They are open from 9:00am to 4:00pm on weekdays, excluding federal holidays.

NOTICE: Regulations require that we cannot accept other forms or documents in lieu of a Social Security card or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration. This means that we cannot accept previous year tax returns, passports, driver's licenses, state identification cards, W-2s, or 1099s as proof of Social Security Number or any form/document that is not a Social Security card or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration. Copies or facsimiles of Social Security cards are not acceptable.

How many forms of identification do I need to bring? What are valid forms of identification?

In addition to your Social Security card or Social Security Number verification letter (see above question), you will need to provide at least one form of valid photo identification. Generally, any government-issued document with your name and photograph on it will suffice. This includes passports, driver's licenses, state identification cards, and permanent U.S. resident cards (i.e. "green cards").

What tax documents should I bring?

Anything that seems relevant or was mailed to you as an "important tax document." This includes, but is not limited to: W-2s, 1099s, 1098-Ts, property tax information, vehicle tax information, contributions to a retirement account, amounts paid to a child daycare provider (including the SSN or EIN of the daycare provider), and your previous year's federal and state tax return (if available). We'll be able to help you figure out what matters and what doesn't for tax purposes.

You should also know the birth dates of all persons listed on your tax return. If you would like to directly deposit your refund (federal and/or state) or would like to directly debit payment to the IRS or state revenue authority, you should also bring your checking account information, notably the routing number and your account number.  A check from your checkbook will have all of the information you need.



- How Much Does It Cost -


How much do your tax preparation services cost?

Nothing! They're absolutely free. No fees, no "suggested donations," no catches, no tricks. We do not offer any paid services. All of the tax assistance and preparation we provide is free.

How do you manage to provide your services for free?

VITA at Virginia Law is grateful for the financial support provided by alumni of University of Virginia School of Law, the University of Virginia Law School Foundation,
and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) through their VITA matching grant program. CASH at Madison House also receives support from Madison House and the University of Virginia.  

We are also grateful to 
Human Resources and the Human Resources Service Center at 
the University of Virginia for providing us with use of their facilities and computer equipment during the tax season and for handling appointments made by phone.

Finally, we would not be able to offer free services if it were not for our corps of dedicated law and undergraduate student volunteers.

Are any of you paid for your time and assistance?

No, aside from the satisfaction of a job well done.  Both the student tax preparers and the student site administrators volunteer their time and knowledge; none are paid. Our site at U.Va. Human Resources is unique in the fact that it is one of the only entirely volunteer-run and volunteer-managed VITA sites in the United States.



- Resident and Nonresident Aliens -


Do you serve resident or nonresident aliens for tax purposes?

 We regret that we are unable to provide any tax assistance to resident or nonresident aliens this year. Please note that this is a change from previous years.



- Students -


Is my scholarship/stipend/fellowship/grant taxable? If so, how much of it is taxable?

Maybe. Any amount of educational grants (e.g. scholarships, stipends, fellowships, etc.) that exceed the cost of tuition plus mandatory fees (or fees, books, supplies, and equipments required by your courses) that is otherwise not reported on a W-2 is subject to taxation as ordinary income. IRS guidance is available here.

Example:
Alex is a graduate student at the University of Virginia. He receives completely free tuition (valued at $20,000), has a TA job that pays $8000 a year (and his TA income is reported on a W-2), and receives a $10,000 stipend for personal expenses. Only the $20,000 in free tuition is non-taxable. The $10,000 in stipend money is taxable as ordinary income; the $8000 from his TA job will be also be taxed as wage income and will probably have already been subject to withholding. The stipend and TA money are taxable even if his 1098-T form contains contrary, misleading, or erroneous information. Alex's federal income tax liability for the $10,000 stipend will likely exceed $1,000 (which may be offset by adjustments to income, deductions, and credits).

Am I a full-year resident of Virginia for tax purposes?

Yes, if you spent more than 183 days in Virginia or if Virginia is your state of legal domicile/residence. This is true even if the University of Virginia does not consider you an in-state resident for tuition purposes. Virginia Department of Taxation guidance is available here.

Examples:
Amy is a first-year student at the University of Virginia. She moved to Virginia from Oregon in August of the tax year. Amy spent no more than 183 days in Virginia during the tax year. Amy is not a full-year resident of Virginia for tax purposes; Amy is either a part-year resident or a nonresident of Virginia.

Billy is a second-year student at the University of Virginia. He moved to Virginia from Alabama before starting his first year at the University and has no intention of staying in Virginia after graduation. He also pays out-of-state tuition. He was present for both the spring and fall semesters during the tax year, spending more than 183 days in Virginia. Even though Billy has no intent to stay in Virginia and pays out-of-state tuition, since Billy spent more than 183 days in Virginia during the tax year, Billy is considered a full-year resident of Virginia.

Charles is a junior undergraduate student at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, MA. Charles grew up in Charlottesville, VA and plans to return to Virginia after graduation; Charles considers Virginia to be his state of legal domicile. Even if Charles did not spend any time in Virginia during the tax year, he is still considered a full-year resident of Virginia. He may also be considered a full-year resident of Massachusetts.

Can I be considered a full-year resident of more than one state?

Yes. If this is the case, then you must file as a full-year resident for each state for which you are considered a full-year resident. Please note that VITA at Virginia Law can prepare one (1) state tax return for each client.

Example:
Charles is a junior undergraduate student at Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, MA. Charles grew up in Charlottesville, VA and plans to return to Virginia after graduation; Charles considers Virginia to be his state of legal domicile. Even if Charles did not spend any time in Virginia during the tax year, he is still considered a full-year resident of Virginia. He may also be considered a full-year resident of Massachusetts.



- After Your Return Has Been Prepared -


How long does it take for the IRS and state revenue authority to receive my tax returns?

Generally, we electronically file ("e-file") your returns the same day that we prepare them, unless discrepancies or errors are discovered before we e-file. After your return is e-filed, it usually takes 1-4 business days for the IRS and state revenue authorities to process and accept your e-filed return. If your return is e-filed and rejected, we will contact you and try to work with you to correct and re-file the return.

Over 97% of the returns we prepare qualify for e-filing. In certain limited instances, it may be necessary to file a paper return. If so, we will provide you with all of the necessary completed documents and addresses so that you may mail in your paper return. In most instances, we will be able to let you know during your appointment if you will have to file a paper return.

How long will it take for me to receive my refund?

It usually only takes 1-2 weeks to receive a refund via direct deposit; it usually takes 4-6 weeks for a refund to be issued by paper check. Some states may take longer to issue refunds than other states.

Do I have to have my refund directly deposited into my bank account?

No, you may elect to receive a check if you so choose. Nevertheless, we do encourage taxpayers to have their refund directly deposited into their bank account. It usually only takes 1-2 weeks to receive a refund via direct deposit; it usually takes 4-6 weeks for a refund to be issued by paper check.

Do I have to have my tax payment directly debited from my bank account?

No, you may elect to pay by check or other payment method if you so choose; you will generally receive a printed voucher slip (which we will provide you with) to mail in with your check/payment. Nevertheless, there are often advantages to having a payment directly debited, including postage costs and possibly lower penalties if you are subject to penalties.  You can schedule a direct debit payment date that is later than the date that you file your return.

What if my return is e-filed and rejected?

If we e-filed your return and your return is rejected, we will contact you and try to work with you to correct and re-file the return. The vast majority of returns we e-file are accepted the first time we e-file the return.

If you e-filed your return yourself or someone else e-filed your return for you, we will be unable to provide any assistance.

Who is responsible for the accuracy of the information listed in my tax return?

You, the taxpayer, are ultimately responsible for all information listed in your tax return. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial that you provide us with complete and accurate information and review your tax return after it has been prepared.

What if I am audited?

We do not provide any audit support or assistance, including returns that we prepared and filed. Make sure you keep copies of all your tax documents for at least three years. You may also want to consult a tax accountant or tax attorney if you are audited.

What do I do if I need to amend my return?

We can only amend the return if we e-filed the return within the past 120 days and if the tax filing deadline has not yet passed. If it has been more than 120 days, or if the tax filing deadline has passed, or if the return was filed by someone other than us (or was filed by mail), we will not be able to amend the return.