Business Students Offer Tax Help to USA Community
Posted on February 8, 2018 by Alice Jackson
Accounting students in the Mitchell College of Business at the University of South Alabama are gaining valuable work experience while preparing income tax returns free of charge for USA students, faculty and staff who qualify for the unique program.
Ximena Horness, a graduate student in accounting, recently spent about 90 minutes preparing the first-ever tax return for Adesina Tony Dada, a 20-year-old junior majoring in mechanical engineering.
“This is the first time I’ve made enough money to require filing a return,” said Dada, who worked last year at the USA Medical Center as a research assistant and at the Mitchell Center as an usher. “I had no idea what to do until I heard about this opportunity.”
“Many people like Adesina don’t know how to file taxes, or they can’t afford to hire someone to prepare them,” said Horness, who hopes to become a certified public accountant after earning her master’s degree.
Student participation in the program counts as an internship, a highly valued accomplishment for their resumes.
Dr. Russell Hardin, chair of accounting, oversees the tax preparation program in cooperation with the United Way of Southwest Alabama.
“Each of the student volunteers has to complete 35 to 40 hours of training online with the Internal Revenue Service, then each one must pass five exams before being certified at an advanced level,” Hardin explained. “They can’t prepare every tax return, but they can prepare a lot of different type returns, and they can do electronic filing.”
The IRS also works closely with the program, providing a community liaison officer to answer questions and to resolve any unforeseen problems. The IRS also established eligibility guidelines for the program, which prepares tax returns for households with an income limit of $54,000 or less per year.
Hardin said in the last five years South’s accounting students have completed almost 2,000 tax returns, netting families and individuals $3,250,000 in refunds and saving them more than $600,000 in preparation fees.
“The IRS holds us harm free for any errors, but we’ve never had any errors, and I’m unaware of any audits,” Hardin said. “Besides the advanced training for these students, each return is reviewed by a more experienced student or myself.”
Concurrently, about 40 South students majoring in accounting are volunteering for a tax preparation program underway at the West Regional Branch of the Mobile Public Library. Rather than earning internship experience, those students are receiving extra class credit for their participation.
Hardin said the on-campus tax preparation program, held in MCOB Room 147, is open each Tuesday, 2-5 p.m.; Thursday, 3-5 p.m.; and on Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The program, which continues through April 7, will be closed during South’s Spring Break, March 26-April 1.
For more information on the program and to schedule an appointment, visit http://www.supersaas.com/schedule/southtaxhelp.
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