Confusion counselors

2/5/2008 - By: Brandon Stewart

More than 70 qualified students from the College of Business will gain real, hands-on experience as they help low-income Washoe County residents file their taxes.

The partnership between the College of Business and the Community Services Agency (CSA) is in its second year.

Low-income families can file their taxes for free at the agency until April 12. Volunteers will be available Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 to 8:30 p.m. as well as Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. The agency is located at 1094 E. Eighth Street in Reno.

Richard Mason, associate professor of the accounting and information systems department in the College of Business, sees this volunteer opportunity as a good way for students to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom while serving their community.

“I believe that real hands-on experience is a great teacher,” Mason said. “By volunteering, business students will be exposed to a variety of taxpayers, they will sharpen their skills, utilize what they have learned in the classroom and give back to the community they live in.”

CSA’s Earned Income Tax Credit Coordinator (EITC) Kelly Hugunine values the relationship her organization has with the University.

“The fact that the number of student volunteers has doubled in the past year is incredible,” Hugunine said. “Students can build their resume by volunteering, prepare themselves for the workforce and help people in need.”

Amy Butler, an accounting senior, learned valuable skills as a volunteer last year and decided to return and volunteer this year.

“Last year I did not know what to expect,” Butler said. “I had the opportunity to work with tax-filing software, enhance my interpersonal skills and was able to assist several families in need. I look forward to helping more people this year.”

Butler added, “It is extremely meaningful to assist people who do not have a lot of money learn about tax credits they may be eligible for. I was able to help one woman identify three tax credits she qualified for. The woman then took the extra money she received and was able to purchase new clothes for her children. These are the meaningful rewards I was able to take away from my experience.”

All student volunteers are properly trained.

Students must successfully complete the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Tax Preparer Exam and must complete the Taxwise training program. Students completing the above criteria, as well as those who volunteer 10 hours of their time, receive exemption from the first midterm exam in their Accounting 410, Federal Income Tax, class.

“The students have all been through IRS training and are registered with the organization,” said Gary Jansen, Community Services Agency finance director. “They sit down with clients, and before the return is electronically filed, it is reviewed by more experienced tax preparers.”

During the 2006 filing year more than 400 tax returns were filed by student volunteers. CSA estimates that more than 550 returns will be filed during the 2007 season.

“Students will complete anywhere between 20-30 tax returns a day with each return receiving an average refund of approximately $1,800 to $2,000,” Hugunine said.

“We are proud of the University and these students for stepping up to help out their community in such a viable and important way,” Jansen said. “The impact on the families is amazing.”

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