Temple University Ambler offers free tax preparation assistance

Temple University Ambler will offer free volunteer income tax assistance to low-to-moderate income families

More than $3,000,000.

To anyone, that’s a lot of zeroes. For the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program at Temple University Ambler, it’s also the total amount in federal and state tax refunds claimed for their clients since it began on campus nine years ago.

“Our certified volunteers — most of whom are Temple students — have processed about 2,800 returns overall,” said Temple University Accounting Professor Dr. Steven Balsam, who coordinates VITA at Temple. “VITA is a program for those with low-to-moderate incomes. If a family’s income is less than $53,000 they are eligible for this program.”

VITA will be offered for its 10th year on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Ambler Campus Learning Center from February 4 through April 8, 2017. VITA is offered in association with the Montgomery County Tax Coalition. 

Student volunteers may request to receive course credit for completion of their VITA volunteer work by registering for ACCT 3581, section 101, during the spring 2017 semester — visit the VITA volunteer information page to learn more.

According to Balsam, Ambler’s participation in the VITA program for the past nine years has been an almost entirely student-driven initiative. Volunteers for the 2016 program completed 379 tax returns and claimed almost $428,604 in federal and $9.024 in state tax refunds.

“We are always seeking more volunteers and we’d like to have more alumni — particularly students who volunteered for VITA while they were here — return to serve in mentoring and supervisory roles,” he said. “Two other accounting faculty members — Associate Professor David Ryan and Adjunct Instructor Judith Flaxman — are also helping to coordinate the program, which has grown extensively since it began. Also assisting are are Dominique Kliger, adjunct professor of Human Resources and, Nerisa Lyn Rasing, Department Coordinator in the Department of Finance.”

Balsam said while VITA provides an important community service, “it also provides our students an excellent experiential learning opportunity.”

“They are working with actual clients through tax scenarios that they will face regularly as professional accountants. The Affordable Care Act is integrated into the federal tax return so our students will be working through all of the issues related to it — coverage, exchanges, subsidies, penalties,” he said. “The VITA program also helps raise awareness about the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and other important issues that people getting ready for tax time might not be aware of.”

Temple University students and students throughout the region in need of tax preparation assistance are certainly invited to take advantage of the program, Balsam said. About one third of their clients are students, he said.

“Our Volunteer Tax Assistants can help students and community members in claiming any special credits and deductions for which they may be eligible,” he said. “It’s certainly a valuable service for the public. Whereas it might cost $100 or more for tax preparation elsewhere, here they are able to get the help they need for free.”

The VITA Program at Temple University Ambler is by appointment only and space is limited. Learn more about the program, including how to volunteer or make an appointment. Qualifying families, individuals and students are asked to contact 215-326-9519 or vita@temple.edu or fill out the online form to schedule an appointment.