SJU Students Bring Tax Assistance to Those in Need
Monday, February 23, 2009
PHILADELPHIA (February 23, 2009)—As tax season goes into full swing, the Saint Joseph’s University Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) begins its 14th year. The program trains Saint Joseph’s students in tax return preparation and then allows them to connect with members of the community who are in need of their services.
Last year, Dennis Raible took the reins from Accounting Professor Richard Sherman, Ph.D., who founded VITA and ran it for 12 years. Raible, a visiting professor of accounting who came to Saint Joseph’s to teach after a long career with the Internal Revenue Service, was a logical replacement for Sherman.
“The aim of VITA is to assist the elderly, the underprivileged, or anyone who can’t access or afford paid tax services,” says Raible. About 20 members of the community are helped per evening at VITA, and time slots are nearly booked until tax day.
“It isn’t necessary to do much marketing-- most of our clients are repeat business or come to us through word of mouth,” Raible adds. “Last year we aided about 200 clients, yielding roughly $240,000 in returns.”
Raible stresses that although VITA’s staff is mostly comprised of undergraduate students, the standard for quality is very high. “The IRS scores us based on error, so everyone on the staff works to make sure everything is done just right.”
The 50 students involved with VITA are selected based on academic performance and teacher recommendations. They are trained for several weeks to use the latest web-based tax software in preparation to serve VITA’s clients.
“VITA is a great opportunity to help out in the community while applying what we learn in class,” says Emily Sanders, a senior accounting major and three-year VITA volunteer. She cites the friendly atmosphere as the reason clients repeatedly come to Hawk Hill for their taxes. “It is incredibly rewarding to be able to reach out to those who may not be able to afford paying someone to do their taxes,” Sanders adds.
The Saint Joseph’s University Volunteer Tax Assistance program will take place now through April 9th, every Wednesday and Thursday evening between 5:15 and 7:30 in Mandeville Hall, located on the corner of 54th Street and City Avenue in Philadelphia. For additional information, please contact Raible at 610-660-1131 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call University Communications at 610-660-1222.