Manhattan College Students Provide Free Tax Preparation To Bronx Residents

University Neighborhood Housing Program also to host mobile tax date on College’s campus on Feb. 20

As part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, Manhattan College business students are helping to provide free tax preparation at the Refuge House in the Fordham Bedford section of the Bronx during the current tax season. The College is partnering with University Neighborhood Housing Program (UNHP), Fordham Bedford Community Services and Ariva Inc., for the third consecutive year to make the service available to qualified Bronx residents.

UNHP will also hold a mobile tax date on Manhattan College’s campus on Monday, Feb. 20 from 1-4 p.m. for qualifying staff, students and local community residents in Miguel Hall, room 209. Space is limited for the event, and those arriving earlier will be waited on first.

“Along with being a great learning experience, it feels good to use the skills you have to help out people who are less fortunate,” said Kimberly Mohn, a senior accounting and finance major, and the program’s student leader. 

The VITA program offers free tax preparation assistance nationally to qualified families and individuals who have an income of $56,000 and below. By way of volunteer aid, the free income tax preparation service allows for clients to avoid typically expensive tax preparation fees and interest rates associated with refund anticipation loans (RALs). This is especially crucial in the Bronx with residents of the west Bronx area paying the highest percent of income taxes on rent of any borough in New York City.

In addition to serving local Bronx residents, the program provides valuable accounting experience for the student volunteers. All volunteers complete an IRS certification program, which develops the necessary skills required to complete tax preparation, and a software training covering a range of tax credits and New York State tax filing. The number of Manhattan College student volunteers has also more than doubled in the past two years to 40 students. 

“There is nothing like firsthand experience, and this may be the first time they are getting that if they haven’t filed their own taxes,” said Gregory Bucci, CPA, visiting instructor of accounting. “A lot of the time, the volunteers take away just as much, if not more, than the people they help.”

In 2011, the VITA program resulted in more than $1.3 million worth of tax refunds to Bronx residents. A total of 1,942 Bronx residents have also received free tax preparation assistance through the Refuge House’s VITA location since Manhattan College started volunteering with the program. 

With the 2012 tax season at its peak, free income tax preparation is available for qualified Bronx residents on select Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Refuge House at 2715 Bainbridge Ave., Bronx, N.Y., through April 14 by appointment only. Contact UNHP by phone at (718) 933-2539 for more information.