Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Volunteers help take the headache out of tax time

For the fifth year, members of DU’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter — an honorary organization for Financial Information students — volunteered to help international students with the complex task of filing federal and state returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

This year for the first time, the group also offered their services to all DU students.

“DU’s VITA project began as a service project in conjunction with the International House to help students with tax advice and visa compliance,” says Jason Walters, Beta Alpha Psi VITA director. “The program was so successful that we decided to open it up to all students.”

For 10 days in February and March, 25 student preparers, 20 administrative support volunteers and more than 15 professional reviewers gave their time to help with the program. Each return took up to an hour-and-a-half to complete, depending on the complexity. Every student-prepared return was reviewed by a professional CPA.

“This is a great way for accounting students to learn about tax issues they wouldn’t already have known, especially involving international tax treaties,” Walters says. “Even our CPA reviewers see things they don’t see on a day-to-day basis.”

This year, the volunteers completed 230 tax returns, up from 141 in 2007.

DU’s VITA program receives funding and support from the International House and the School of Accountancy at the Daniels College of Business. The IRS provides training and support materials.

“The VITA program provides a wonderful service to DU students and especially to the international students and scholars,” says Mary Boevers, director of International Student and Scholar Services in the office of internationalization. “Having a trained set of volunteers to sit with the student and help them complete the forms is just fantastic, and the feedback from international [students] on campus is always positive.”

While DU’s 2008 VITA site is now closed, low- to moderate-income taxpayers can still find assistance by contacting the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to locate another area VITA site.

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