The Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, commonly known as VITA, brings federal and state income tax benefits to people with low and moderate incomes by providing free income tax preparation and e-filing.
St. Bonaventure accounting students participate in a New York state/IRS VITA program geared toward preparing tax returns for low-income workers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
The St. Bonaventure VITA program is a high-volume, innovative approach that simulates an accounting firm. The program operates Mondays through Fridays for 8 weeks in a local shopping mall, and takes to the road to visit other parts of the county on Saturdays.
The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable income tax credit available to low-income workers with “earned” income — wages or self-employment income.
Given the current emphasis of work over welfare, the EITC has overtaken other transfer programs in the amount of benefits provided to eligible claimants from federal and New York state governments. Approximately 15 percent of individual federal tax returns have claimed the credit. A significant portion of federal EITC claimants have been VITA clients.
Cattaraugus County, N.Y., with a population of about 80,000, is considered part of Appalachia, a region stretching from southern New York to northern Alabama, which has long been the target of government programs to alleviate poverty.
Service learning projects that are geared toward meeting the needs of the poor are consistent with integration of Franciscan values in the curriculum. Service learning can also fulfill the Franciscan commitment to community, as the students create a community among themselves, as well as reach out to the community outside of the University campus.
Finally, service learning provides opportunities for the application of knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom to help those in need, addressing the Franciscan view of education as a means to make the world a better place.
Exerpt from "A Student Perspective on the IRS’s VITA Program," The CPA Journal, February 2005:
“Volunteering is one of the best things anyone can be involved in for the local community. We signed up as VITA volunteers to provide low-income members of the community with tax relief and obtain some hands-on experience preparing tax returns. Helping those who are in need is one of the best feelings in the entire world. Looking back, as much as we were able to give to the community, the experiences that we in turn received have proved to be priceless.”
The authors: Patrick E. Doyle, Michael W. Matt and Bradley T. Owens, May 2006 graduates of St. Bonaventure's five-year dual BBA/MBA accounting program.
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