With tax filing season in full swing, some Manhattan College students are busier than ever.
That’s because these students volunteer with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in conjunction with the Northwest Bronx Resource Center and are helping qualified Bronx residents file their taxes and maximize their returns.
The VITA program offers free income tax filing services to individuals who make less than $54,000, those with limited English speaking ability and people with disabilities. Volunteers are trained and certified so that they can properly assist in tax preparation services. The training includes learning about the income tax filing process, using the preparation software and learning how to interact with the client.
MC volunteers see the VITA program as a way to give back to the community and-for business majors- apply some of the knowledge they’ve gained in the classroom.
For student volunteer Kelly Freeman, getting involved in the VITA program has been a unique opportunity to blend her two passions.
“It’s a perfect mix between business and social action,” Freeman said. “I don’t usually find a bridge between the two.”
While many of the student volunteers partner with the VITA program through Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting, economics and information systems honor society, the Office of Campus Ministry and Social Action opens it up as an opportunity to other students who want to get involved but aren’t studying accounting or economics.
For the student volunteers, the experience has been a way to better understand the needs of the surrounding community.
“It’s humbling,” student Sean Fitzpatrick said. “It’s for people who have low income. It’s almost amazing when you think of how much they live off of in comparison to something like your education which we are so lucky to pay for.”
Julia McKee, student volunteer, had a similar point of view and said that “one of the women who came in had $5,000 in annual income.”
While the learning curve for these student volunteers hasn’t been devoid of challenges, the tangible results their work produces makes it worthwhile. Student Matt King described the Spanish-English language barrier as his biggest challenge in volunteering with the VITA program, but said that Spanish speaking helpers provided by the center allow volunteers and clients to work through that gap.
“You can go on a service trip, but just doing something in your own backyard….is important,” Freeman said. “You don’t have to go far to see the needs [of the community].”