More than two dozen students from SUNY Oneonta’s School of Economics and Business are teaming up with a program led by the local United Way to offer free assistance with income tax returns to those who qualify, one of those involved said Wednesday.
The student volunteers have been certified by the IRS to help families prepare simple tax forms through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Residents of Delaware and Otsego counties, who earned less than $51,000 in 2013 may be eligible for this free service, which is offered through the United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties-led Creating Assets, Savings and Hope (CA$H) coalition.
The SUNY Oneonta students join a group of trained community volunteers who will help taxpayers fill out tax forms and determine whether they qualify for special credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Credit for the Elderly and education credits, according to a media release. From February through April, volunteers will offer help, by appointment, between 5 and 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays at the First United Methodist Church on Chestnut Street. Appointments can be made by calling 432-0061.
Accounting major Lourdes Paulino, a senior who has worked as a student coordinator for three years, heard about the idea, and enlisted the help of Management, Marketing and Information Systems department lecturer William “Jeff” Weinell to recruit student volunteers.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity for the students and the community,” Paulino said, and will help community members learn about various credits available, while students will get valuable experience. She said she was surprised so many wanted to get involved. “It says a lot that they are taking time out of their schedules,” to provide the service.
“I am delighted to be working with SUNY Oneonta business and accounting students on this venture,” said United Way Executive Director Terry Capuano. The student involvement was absolutely “amazing.” The coalition members had the vision for the program, she said.. “The student involvement help make it possible.”
The partnership came about after Karen Martino, outreach specialist for the New York State Tax Department, one of a number of groups in the coalition, contacted SUNY Oneonta’s Center for Social Responsibility and Community to see if the college could provide assistance. Other coalition members include Catholic Charities of Delaware and Otsego Counties, CDO Workforce, Fidelis Care, SEFCU, Delaware Opportunities, the New York State Office of Temporary & Disability Assistance, and the Internal Revenue Service.
More information on the VITA program is available from Capuano at 432-8006.