College Students Offer Free Tax Prep Assistance for Qualifying Locals

2-14-19
Photo from Getty Images

 

NEW ORLEANS – Last week, University of Holy Cross (UHC) students in the tax accounting program began offering free, tax preparation assistance to low-to-moderate income New Orleans-area residents. 

The workshops were made possible by UHC’s seven-year partnership with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). 

“As an educator, I wanted to provide the opportunity for students to apply their tax training to real life situations,” Lillian Grose, assistant professor of accounting at UHC. “The VITA program provided an ideal way for students to provide a community service while learning firsthand how to prepare tax returns.” 

Learning about tax preparation is especially important at the moment, since there were changes in the tax law for 2018, said Grose. Participants will see firsthand how the revised tax laws will affect taxpayers.

The free sessions take place on Fridays and Saturdays until April 13, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (with the exception of March 8 and 9, since the university is closed for Mardi Gras); they are held on the university’s campus (4123 Woodland Dr., Room 1034).

Grose believes the workshops benefit both the students and the taxpayers. 

The UHC students begin the program with extensive training, which allows them to pass the required IRS certification exams. But although they are certified, they are often apprehensive about preparing tax returns for the first time, she said. 

“Faculty and mentor supervision and support allows students to quickly become comfortable interviewing taxpayers and preparing their returns,” she said, emphasizing that the best way to learn is by doing. Textbooks show examples, but not the “multiple forms” that may become part of the complicated process.

“At the end of the term, students are always surprised by how much they enjoyed the experience,” said Grose. “Seeing students gain confidence and expertise in tax preparation, customer service, and office procedures is a pleasure.”

Some students continue to volunteer their expertise as an instructor, after they graduate from UHC, or participate in the session as a client.

“Watching students begin their careers, buy their first home, return with their new spouse, or new baby is always a joy,” said Grose. “New taxpayers often remind us of how they appreciate the free service when they paid several hundred dollars to a paid preparer in the past.”

 

Those qualifying for assistance should bring the following items: 

•    Proof of Identification
•    Social Security Cards for the individual, their spouse and any dependents
•    Birth dates for the individual, their spouse and any dependents on the tax return
•    Current year’s tax package (if one was received)
•    Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R from all employers
•    Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)
•    A copy of last year’s federal and state returns, if available
•    Bank routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit
•    Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identification number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Identification Number)
•    To prepare a married-filing jointly return, both spouses must be present

 

For more information on the program, contact Lillian Grose, Assistant Professor, at 504-398-2230 or visit uhcno.edu.

 

Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor at Biz New Orleans

Categories: Around Town, Finance, Today’s Business News