DSB Hosts Tax Prep Office on Campus
For the first time, Fairfield University’s Charles F. Dolan School of Business will host an office that prepares and files income tax returns free for individuals and families with annual household incomes of up to $60,000. The office will be open on Fridays, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., starting Friday, February 14 and ending Friday, March 14, 2014.
Open to the Fairfield University community, the office at the Dolan School is by appointment only and will be located in the DSB Dining Room. Please contact Patricia Pivarnik at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-254-4307 to schedule an appointment.
Part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, the project is in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service, in collaboration with the Connecticut Association of Human Services, United Way and local community organizations.
Dolan School of Business students volunteering at the VITA site on campus and at other sites in the area are mostly senior accounting majors who take the elective course, ‘Individual Taxation: Socioeconomic Applications,’ which includes a service-learning component. “The Accounting Department is offering this service learning course [AC 344] dedicated to the VITA service, and students taking the course volunteer at VITA sites, including at the Dolan School,” said Ahmed M. Ebrahim, CPA, Ph.D., associate professor of accounting.
There are VITA offices in the Greater Bridgeport area, Norwalk, Stamford and additional offices throughout Connecticut. (For locations and hours, please visit http://www.cahs.org/programs-vita.asp#Find). All volunteers in VITA sites have to complete both a technical and professional conduct certification process under the I.R.S. supervision.
Dr. Ebrahim, who is overseeing a VITA office located at BICC Al–Manar Center, 525 Clinton Avenue, in Bridgeport, said students gain real world experience and a career ready skill set, while taxpayers save money on having their returns prepared and learn of valuable deductions. The office helped to generate over $1,000,000 of federal and state refunds during the tax season of 2013. “I have five students volunteering at my site this season, and we open every Friday and Saturday, from 3 to 6 p.m. starting on Friday, January 24, 2014. Last year, my site alone prepared over 350 tax returns,” said Dr. Ebrahim.
Seeing the program as an opportunity to serve the community, Dolan School of Business Accounting students have volunteered to staff sites on weekends and between classes.
For student Xin Li, volunteering at a VITA site in Bridgeport has been an opportunity to learn TaxWise, the professional tax software, and master filing 1040 forms. “I really enjoy working at the VITA site because I have a chance to practice my tax skills in real life, and I can help low-income taxpayers and our community,” said Li, who is from China. “As I know from my experience during tax season, taxpayers who come to our site usually have a tough time and they can't afford to hire someone else to file their tax returns. I feel so happy that I could help them when they need me.”
Dolan School graduate Angela Gallagher still volunteers for the program, because she has found it very fulfilling. She said VITA clients work very hard for not a lot of money. “I think these individuals recognize that the VITA program is there to help them in a small but big way, so they know that their challenges are recognized and this must give them some hope in a tough situation,” she said.
VITA services offered include electronic filing (federal and state); direct deposit refunds; and retired and self-employed income tax return preparation. Tax preparers have also been trained to screen customers for special tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit, which can lead to significant tax refunds. Roughly $52,000 is the income limit to qualify for the EITC, and $6,044 is the maximum EITC families can get this year.