Organized by Lubin’s Iota Lambda chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), Pace students have been preparing federal, state, and local tax returns free of charge for low- and moderate-income individuals, families, and senior citizens in the local community for approximately 15 years through the IRS VITA Program.
“Most people can’t afford to pay a few hundred dollars to get their taxes done,” says accounting and finance major Diana Cano ’12, who is the current director of the VITA Program and runs the lab. The student volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS, and the finished forms are reviewed by another person and the IRS before being submitted. “We’re pretty much an H&R Block—minus the cost,” Cano says.
The program is open to anyone whose income does not exceed $50,000, no matter what state you file in. Steven Berry ’11, president of Beta Alpha Psi and former director of the VITA Program, notes he’s even seen someone come from as far as Hawaii. In addition to helping students, faculty, and staff members, VITA often sees many people who are unemployed or retired.
“People come in and tell me how much they need this service. It’s very important and one of the more meaningful community services I’ve engaged in,” says Berry. At their peak, VITA filed 700 tax returns in just one season. “Last year, we filed 276 tax returns. We gave out a quarter of a million dollars in refunds to the local community,” says Berry.
And this isn’t just a great opportunity for the community. It’s practice-based learning at its finest. “This isn’t just a course. Being able to prepare tax returns is real life,” Cano says.