Temple Owls know a little something about supporting their communities.

In 2023 alone, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered at Temple University Ambler and Temple Main Campus has claimed about $500,000 in federal and state tax refunds for their clients. The expertise and guidance the VITA assistants 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 — processed more than 500 returns in 2023," 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 $60,000 they are eligible for this program."

VITA will be offered for its 17th year on Saturdays from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Ambler Campus Learning Center from February 10 through April 13, 2024. VITA will begin providing tax assistance at main Campus on Wednesday, February 7. 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."

According to Balsam, the VITA program for the past 17 years has been an almost entirely student-driven initiative. 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."

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 and Main Campus is by appointment only and space is limited. I addition to doing in-person returns, VITA will also allow clients that can't make the available hours to drop-off their materials at Alter Hall, Main Campus, Room 360 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (no appointment necessary, but they advise clients to check the list here to know what to bring).

Learn more about the program, including how to make an appointment.

Qualifying families, individuals and students are asked to contact 215-326-9519 or vita@temple.edu to schedule an appointment.