Lakeland tax service benefits local taxpayers
Academics - posted on 5/15/2006
Lakeland College students helped local taxpayers collect over $450,000 in tax refunds this spring through the federal government's Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
This is the second year Lakeland accounting students and other student and adult volunteers have prepared and electronically filed returns for taxpayers in the area through the VITA program.
The VITA program is provided under special oversight of the IRS to encourage and enable low-income (under $40,000) taxpayers free income tax return preparation and access to low income tax credits, including the Earned Income Credit and Wisconsin Homestead Credit.
Lakeland students prepared and filed 350 returns this year that helped taxpayers collect $463,073 in refunds this year, more than doubling last year's totals of 143 returns and $196,058 in refunds. Students volunteered their time from Jan. 26 through April 8, working at the Salvation Army at 710 Pennsylvania Ave. in Sheboygan.
The average total refund was $1,395 with a federal average of $925 and a state average of $470.
"Think for a moment about the impact of bringing nearly half a million dollars back into the pockets of low income taxpayers," said Rick Gaumer, an assistant professor of accounting at Lakeland and the faculty member guiding the students through the program.
"We view this as a way for Lakeland and our students to provide a valuable service to this region. Our students get the invaluable experience of working with real customers on real tax returns that bring what they're learning in the classroom to life. Plus, our students love bringing smiles to people's faces when they learn the amount of their refund."
There were 70 total volunteers involved in VITA this year; either directly preparing or e-filing these returns or indirectly as support resources. In addition to income tax preparation services, students were involved in providing social services resource information (the Lakeland College Psychology Club) and providing computer technology support.
M&I Bank was onsite to provide immediate opening of a bank account for direct deposit purposes, and Ross Inc provided free use of a copier. Considerable support was provided by the Salvation Army staff in making their facility available.
Another 50 returns were completed by Angel Belchev for campus non-resident students requiring special tax preparation assistance. Belchev is a native of Bulgaria and his ability to work thru various international tax and treaty issues was a big aide for Lakeland's international students.
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