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Students volunteer to assist local residents with tax returns
Many people choose to have their taxes prepared by professionals rather than enduring the stress of doing the work themselves. However, this help does not often come cheap, and for low-income households, the expense can be crippling.
Fortunately, for low-income residents in the Hamden area, Quinnipiac’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) group is here to help.
Professor Matthew Maron, who is the coordinator of the program, explained how the VITA program started at the university.
“The program was started by Dr. Nelson Alino, the chair of the accounting department in the School of Business,” Maron said. “The VITA program at his prior school was very successful, which led him to start the program here at Quinnipiac.”
Quinnipiac’s VITA program is entering its 10th year of existence and its third year based at the M.L. Keefe Community Center in Hamden, according to Maron.
All tax returns are prepared by the student volunteers and reviewed by Maron, who is also a certified public accountant, or Professor Nick Mesenti, who is a certified public accountant and attorney.
Maron said the program is aimed at helping those in the Hamden area that may not be able to otherwise afford an accountant, as well as some Quinnipiac students and staff who may find themselves in the same position.
“The taxes are prepared for taxpayers with annual household income of $54,000 or less. Just a handful of students have their taxes prepared, but a vast majority are local residents of greater Hamden,” Maron said. “We have many taxpayers who walk or take the bus to the center to have their taxes prepared. But the VITA program is available to QU students and staff who meet the $54,000 VITA requirement.”
Maron described the predicament that many of VITA’s clients face.
“These taxpayers cannot afford to have their taxes prepared, even struggling to keep food on their table, as many utilize the food bank at the Keefe Center,” Maron said.
Junior Elizabeth Kloos, a VITA member, explained some of the benefits of taking part in the program.
“I think the QU VITA program is a wonderful opportunity for students, like myself, to gain real life experience in the tax field,” Kloos said. “Professor Maron and all the other reviewers at the site are so helpful and encouraging to all volunteers and clients turning what could be a daunting task into a perfect learning opportunity.”
Freshman Carly Klimek also feels that the program benefits both Quinnipiac students and the local community.
“I think it’s a really good thing. It helps both [the community residents] and Quinnipiac students, and that’s what [the students] will have to be doing very soon,” Klimek said.
Sophomore Nicole Savas, also a VITA member, said how the program benefits both community residents and Quinnipiac students.
“Anyone can walk in and we check to see if they meet the requirements, and if they do then we can do their taxes for them. This program is very beneficial for them because it is of no cost to them, so they do not need to worry about paying,” Savas said. “The program benefits us, the volunteers who are doing the taxes, because we get real-life experience and practice.”
According to Maron, there are 59 students who are volunteering in the program this year. Maron explained the impact that participation has on the university’s reputation.
“This is the VITA site in the Greater Hamden/New Haven area with the most volunteer preparers. This says a lot about the Quinnipiac students, and their commitment to service to the community,” Maron said.