Students Lead Tax Assistance and Education Program
January 20, 2012
During tax season, Isenberg accounting students will prepare and file over 1,700 federal tax returns free-of-charge for low-income Amherst area residents and overseas students and scholars. Last year the VITA team secured more than $1.2 million in refunds. A partnership with the IRS, the VITA program is one example of Isenberg's growing focus on providing students with socially responsible experiential learning opportunities. As students learn the nuances of the tax code, they educate their clients about their rights and responsibilities of filing tax returns.
According to the students' faculty advisor, accounting lecturer Catherine Lowry, the students do more than prepare returns-they educate the citizenry. "VITA is a fantastic venue for imparting the advantages and responsibility of filing on time," observes Lowry. "Many lower-income tax-payers aren't sure where to turn for advice. Many are fearful; they ask themselves, What if I file it wrong? So some of them practice avoidance," she says. Through VITA's student preparers, she continues, lower-income filers make uplifting discoveries-tax savings through the Earned Income Credit, the Child Tax Credit, and credits for education. While students learn a great deal about tax preparation, they also learn a lot about life and the personal rewards of using their leaderships skills to promote change in their community. "As business students who have focused on upward mobility, the VITA experience can be humbling." Lowry recalls, "More than a few students tell me, I never realized that so many people struggled so much - the work I am doing is really making an impact. Our students are not just providing a free service, they are changing perspectives and giving people new tools. It's really inspiring."
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
When: February 7 to April 12, 2012, 4:00 - 6:00pm (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays). No service the week of March 19.
Where: Isenberg Room 29 (in basement-wheelchair accessible)