Students Offer Tax Services For Low-Income Families

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Bill Carangelo

Contributing Writer

ESU accounting students are working alongside the Pocono Alliance and the United Way of Monroe Country to provide low-income taxpayers with free income tax assistance.

Originally founded by Dr. Sheila Handy, the former Department Chair of Business Management, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), is an IRS sponsored program created to help low-income families with their tax returns.

“[VITA] ran at ESU from 2009-2018, and now it is being run as a joint effort from United Way of Monroe County and ESU,” said Professor David Daniel, Assistant Professor of Business Management. “ESU Accounting students that volunteer must pass an 8-10 hour-long IRS training and testing process.”

The VITA program provides ESU students with an opportunity to obtain firsthand experience within their work field while providing a service to those in need of help. By working directly with the IRS, students obtain the knowledge of what is to be expected within a work environment, as well as practical experience.

As Professor Daniel states, “They are able to gain experience interacting with taxpayers, interviewing them about their tax information, and using professional grade tax software to create their tax returns.”

Through the use of the VITA program, ESU accounting students may uncover a possible future career path in a real-time setting.

The goal behind the VITA program is simple, and that is to provide low-income taxpayers with free income tax assistance. This relief of a financial burden is vital to those that are directly involved.

“This program may even result in a tax refund that families use for essentials, ranging from new tires, to propane for winter heat,” said Professor Daniel. During these times of climactic weather, every bit of income is important.

According to DataUSA, the median household income in East Stroudsburg, PA is $41,744 with 26.4 percent of the population being below the poverty line. With one out of four people suffering from poverty, the VITA program offers an opportunity for free tax preparation, rather than having to pay for this same service, that will ensure an accurate tax return.

“Some people actually earn little enough money that they qualify for earned income credit – a refundable tax credit that essentially serves as income support that raises many people above the poverty line,” said Sarah Jacobi, director of Bridges Out of Poverty of the Pocono Alliance.

The VITA program runs from now until April 15, 2019. The program is eligible to those earning under $54,000 per year and do not have self-employment, or rental income.

Three separate locations will be hosting the tax assistance service:

The Pocono Alliance Office, 301 McConnell Street, Stroudsburg, PA

The United Way of Monroe County office, 135 Warner Road, Tannersville, PA

The Mountain Center, 5800 Memorial Boulevard, Tobyhanna, PA

Appointments are mandatory to participate in the VITA program. To make an appointment, contact Administrative and Project Officer and IRS VITA Program Coordinator, Lucas DeBartolo, at 570-629-5657 ext. 117.

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