For the 10th straight year, students from Temple University are assisting low-income members of the community by filing their income-tax returns for free.
Accounting students from Temple’s Fox School of Business give their time and offer their expertise each Saturday, from Feb. 4 to April 8, to assist members of the local community in filing their state and federal income tax returns. (The 2017 tax return deadline is Tuesday, April 18.)
Temple’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program operates on Temple University’s Ambler Campus. In 2016, more than $437,000 in tax refunds were issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Pennsylvania Department of Revenue to the 379 clients supported by Fox School accounting majors.
“Over the years, we’ve established relationships with our clientele, many of whom come year after year,” said Dr. Steven Balsam, Professor of Accounting and Director of the VITA program. “In some cases, our service does not end with tax season. Our clients contact me about letters they receive from the IRS, state, and local authorities throughout the year.
“In one particularly memorable case, while doing his tax return, we discovered an elderly client had not filed for several years. Two volunteers went beyond the call of duty and met with him several times into May to file back tax returns and get him thousands in refunds.”
To qualify for the VITA program, a client’s annual household income must not exceed $54,000 (whether filing independently or jointly). A client also is not eligible if he or she owns rental property or owns a business. Clients can schedule an appointment by visiting fox.temple.edu/vita, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 215-326-9519.
Fox School of Business students submit to several weeks of training in order to participate in the VITA program. In exchange, they receive a valuable learning experience – and the gratification of helping those in need.
“Last tax season, I got to know my clients while I prepared their returns, which only increased the level of satisfaction I took away from my experience,” said junior Jacob Zenisek. “It was uplifting to hear how they benefited as a result of our service.”
The customer service provided by Fox students, said Dorothy Middleton, is unmatched.
“Last year, I met a student who was doing everything he could for me,” said Middleton, who has used the VITA program for a number of years. “He was researching and calculating over and over again. Later on, another student told me that he had skipped his lunch to help me on my return. That is wonderful customer service.”