Hundreds of Filers Benefit From Students' Free Tax Assistance

Published 06.12.2008

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The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, in which Pennsylvania College of Technology students and the Salvation Army partnered to aid hundreds of lower-income individuals and families in preparing their returns, helped local residents receive nearly $240,000 in total refunds during the just-concluded 2007 tax year.

According to statistics compiled by Phillip D. Landers, professor of business administration and accounting in the college's School of Business and Computer Technologies, nine Internal Revenue Service-certified students participated in the program this year. They prepared 299 federal returns, more than 280 state returns and 250-plus local returns, resulting in total refunds of $238,402 a 30-percent increase over the previous year's figure.

While Penn College and its predecessor, Williamsport Area Community College, have provided free tax assistance for more than 25 years, the institution has been associated with the VITA program led locally by the Salvation Army only since 2006. That affiliation has enabled use of the IRS' training regimen, as well as the ability to electronically file taxpayers' returns.

VITA focuses on lower-income taxpayers the average adjusted gross income of participants was $14,080 during 2007 and particularly on helping them access applicable provisions such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.

The service was offered two hours daily on Mondays through Thursdays from Feb. 4 to April 9 at a first-come-first-served walk-in site on the first floor of the Madigan Library. The Salvation Army provided a by-appointment site downtown, and students traveled to the North Campus near Wellsboro for a one-day visit on March 28.

Landers, who also serves as the local VITA administrator, noted that the college/Salvation Army collaboration was chosen by Pat Healy, IRS senior stakeholder relationship tax consultant, as one of only two "outstanding" VITA sites among the 17 under her supervision.

"One of the benefits of utilizing volunteer students was that the majority of the students had an educational interest in taxes and as a result, they were committed to quality and service," said Pamela Hicks, the Salvation Army's social service director/programs coordinator. "Having an off-site location at the college library helped us in increasing the number of volunteers we had, and we were able to prepare more taxes and better serve the community. We are looking forward to bigger and better next year with Phil Landers and the students' help."

Participating students were Elizabeth A. Anzalone, of York, business administration: banking and finance; and accounting students Elizabeth M. Calvin, of Smokerun; Michelle A. Camp, of Montoursville; Karen L. Confer, of South Williamsport; Ashley E. Gummo, of Tyrone; Gina M. Indelicarto, of Jersey Shore; Joanna E. Prusak, of Jersey Shore; and Ashley M. Ward, of Canton. Derek R. Botts, a business administration: banking and finance student from South Williamsport, worked at the Salvation Army site.

Landers singled out the Madigan Library staff for freeing up classroom space for the VITA program; resolving scheduling issues; supplying materials, storage and signage; and answering a multitude of questions from the public.

For more information about accounting or other majors in the college's School of Business and Computer Technologies, visit online or call (570) 327-4517. For general information about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.