Temple University Ambler offers free tax preparation assistance

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

Temple Owls know a little something about supporting their communities.

Since its inception, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered at Temple University Ambler has claimed well over $3 million in federal and state tax refunds for their clients. The expertise and guidance the VITA assistance are able to give is all provided with no expense to the individuals and families seeking assistance.

“Our certified volunteers — most of whom are Temple students — have processed more than 3,900 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 or individual’s income is less than $56,000 they are eligible for this program.”

VITA will be offered for its 13th year on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Ambler Campus Learning Center from February 8 through April 11, 2020. VITA is offered in association with the Internal Revenue Service.

“Over the years, we’ve established relationships with our clientele, many of whom come year after year,” said Balsam. “In one particularly memorable case, while doing his tax return, we discovered an elderly client had not filed for several years. Two volunteers went beyond the call of duty and met with him several times into May to file back tax returns and get him thousands in refunds.”

Volunteer training and certification will take place on Saturdays, January 18 and 25 and February 1 from 9 to 5 p.m. in the Learning Center — volunteers must attend all three sessions. 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 2020 semester — visit the VITA volunteer information page to learn more.

According to Balsam, Ambler’s participation in the VITA program for the past 12 years has been an almost entirely student-driven initiative. Volunteers during the 2019 tax season, for example, completed more than 400 tax returns and claimed over a half million dollars in 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 —Professor Emeritus David Ryan and Adjunct Instructor Judith Flaxman — are also helping to coordinate the program, which has grown extensively since it began. Also assisting are alumni Dominique Kliger, Director of Online Graduate Programs for the College of Science and Technology; Alison Doyle, CPA; Lung Li;  and Lisa Torre.”

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,” he said. “The VITA program also helps raise awareness about the Affordable Care Act, 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. There were, for example, extensive changes in the tax code due to the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017.”

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 to schedule an appointment.