Lakeland spreads the wealth during 2007 tax season
Academics - posted on 4/30/2007
Lakeland College helped hundreds of local taxpayers enjoy some relief for the third straight spring as the college's Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program posted record numbers.
From January 27 thru April 16, the student VITA volunteers prepared and filed 453 tax returns, up from 350 in 2006, at the Salvation Army in Sheboygan. The average total refund was $1,510 (up from $1,395 last year) and the total amount of refunds was $683,832 (up from $463,073 last year).
The VITA service 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.
Other notable numbers from this year included (2006 figures in parenthesis):
- Average Adjusted Gross Income, $13,661 ($13,025)
- Average Total Federal Refund, $1,043 ($925)
- Average Total Wisconsin Refund, $567 ($470)
- Total Earned Income Credits, $178,170 ($127,174)
- Total Child Tax Credits, $59,001 ($45,952)
- Total Wis. Homestead Credits, $58,661 ($57,728)
Lakeland, through its accounting students and a variety of other student and adult volunteers, electronically files the returns. There were 65 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 Psych Club) and providing computer technology support. Also, M&I Bank was onsite to immediately open a bank account for direct deposit purposes, and Ross Inc provided free use of a copier. Considerable support was provided by Salvation Army staff in making their facility available.
Another 40 returns yielding $12,000 in refunds were completed by international accounting students Mariya Simidchieva and Kyung-Jun Ahn for campus non-resident students requiring special tax preparation assistance. Simidchieva is a native of Bulgaria and Ahn is from South Korea. They worked through various international tax and treaty issues.
The work comes under the leadership of Rick Gaumer, VITA site coordinator and associate professor of accounting at Lakeland.
"We hope to have the VITA site open again next year," Gaumer said. "Our students appreciate the opportunity to serve the community while also getting practical and meaningful experience."
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