Students Offer Tax Assistance

Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.
Photo by Robin Weinstein.

The SUNY New Paltz School of Business is offering free tax help to people with a gross income below $50,000.  This service is a part of the of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

Victoria Hansen, an assistant professor in the School of Business, said setting up this program came from originally getting approval from the IRS.  In order to get approval, she said the site needs to have a person act as the coordinator to ensure that the site is run correctly, and that the students have passed their certification exams and have been trained in the software that they are going to be using.

Chih-Yang Tsai, the interim dean of the School of Business, said this program allows students to have first-hand experience of what they are learning, as well as be able to serve stakeholders in the community.

Hansen said this program helps both the students and the community.

“It has benefits for the taxpayers, obviously because they can get their taxes done for free when they don’t make a lot of money,” she said.  “From our students’ point of view, it gives them a great practical experience of one: doing taxes when they’re accounting majors, which they’ll probably have to do, but also dealing with the general public.”

Hansen said places such as H&R Block charge about $200 for tax assistance.

Currently, there are 34 students who are a part of the program, Hansen said.  29 of the students are signed up for the course, VITA, where they receive one credit for being a part of the program.  The other five students are volunteers who have previously taken the course and still want to help.

In order to prepare the students for assisting with taxes, Hansen said it’s encouraged that they take the undergraduate income tax class that is offered on campus.  Also, students must pass an ethics exam on preparing taxes for free in addition to tax knowledge exams to receive certification from the IRS.

Hansen said it’s great that the School of Business has so many students who take advantage of the first-hand experience they receive from doing tax assistance.

“It says a lot that our School of Business wants to be involved,” she said.   “We want to give our students this great learning experience that they can’t get elsewhere, but we also want to be a part of the community and provide the community with something that the community needs as well.”

Tsai said in addition to the tax assistance the school provides, every year employees from the IRS come to the school and run training programs for tax preparers to benefit people in the region.

Hansen said they’ve been working with the American Marketing Association group to help spread the word about the free tax assistance in order to have more people take part in the service.

Tsai said the school has been receiving a lot of calls from people who are interested in participating.  He also said more people usually come in as it gets closer to the deadline to have your taxes in.

Campus walk-in hours will be held Monday throughFriday in Van den Berg Hall until April 14.  In order to receive assistance, people must bring their ID, Social Security Card, W-2s and 1099s, bank routing and account numbers for direct deposits and last year’s tax return, if available.