Manhattan College Business Students Assist Bronx Residents With Free Tax Preparation Services

Manhattan College business students teamed up with the University Neighborhood Housing Program, Fordham Bedford Children’s Services (UNHP/FBCS) and Ariva, Inc., for the second year in a row to provide free tax preparation services.

Manhattan College business students teamed up with the University Neighborhood Housing Program, Fordham Bedford Children’s Services (UNHP/FBCS) and Ariva, Inc., for the second year in a row to provide free tax preparation services at the Refuge House in Fordham Bedford as part of the IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program.

 “The VITA program has provided a great opportunity for students to help those who are less fortunate, while also offering a valuable experience in the tax field,” said Evan Wheeler, a junior accounting major at Manhattan.

With residents of the west Bronx area paying the highest percent of income taxes on rent of any borough in New York City and the median household income in the Bronx barely increasing since 2000, the free tax assistance helps qualified Bronx residents complete basic tax forms and keep money in their pockets. In addition, the program helps in disputing the fees and interest rate associated with the refund anticipation loan (RAL).

UNHP/FBCS first launched the free income tax program in 2008, and in 2010, started solely depending on VITA volunteers such as Manhattan student volunteers to run the program. The VITA program offers free tax services around the country to qualified families who have a household income of $55,000 and below. In preparation for this year’s tax season, Manhattan students attended training and certification classes in January and February, and 25 students passed the VITA certification exam in time to assist local residents with their tax returns.

“With high unemployment and the current economic crisis, VITA sites are vital to low and moderate income communities,” said Jumelia Abrahamson ’09, UNHP program and outreach coordinator.

Last year’s Manhattan students aided in helping 842 clients with tax return forms with a total refund of $1,079,758 and on average $1,783 per return. The VITA program at the Refuge House runs until April 9 and takes appointments every other Wednesday from 2 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“I am thrilled that our students have taken the initiative to participate in the VITA program,” said Salwa Ammar, Ph.D., dean of Manhattan College’s business school. “Through service, the students learn valuable lessons on tax preparation and tax laws, as well as on how to interact with diverse clients and how to meet their various needs.”