For the 10th consecutive year, students, faculty, and alumni of the Fox School’s Department of Accounting assisted low-income members of the Philadelphia community by filing their income-tax returns for free through Temple University’s chapter of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
VITA is a nationwide organization regulated by the IRS that works with families that make less than $53,000 a year. Temple’s VITA program launched in 2007 to help the community in central Montgomery County, where no similar programs existed at the time, according to Steven Balsam, an Accounting professor and the director of the program.
Based at Temple’s Ambler Campus, participants have offered their expertise on Saturdays from January through the end of the busy season in April. This year, more than 60 preparers claimed nearly half a million dollars in refunds on behalf of their more than 400 clients.
“Over the years, we’ve established relationships with our clientele, many of whom come year after year,” said Dr. Balsam. “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 of dollars 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 a business.
Students submit to several weeks of training to participate in the VITA program. In exchange, they receive a valuable learning experience, as well as 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 student 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.”
Accounting alumni are encouraged to help support the department’s efforts to have a significant, positive impact in the Philadelphia region by becoming a volunteer for a future tax season. Learn more and get involved.