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UI students aid locals with taxes

BY ALISON KEIM | JANUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Starting next week, students from the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business’ Beta Alpha Psi chapter will volunteer through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. The chapter will help low- and moderate-income taxpayers file their taxes.

“It helps students learn how to explain complicated methods in a simple language, which is a really important business skill and really hard to learn in the classroom,” said UI accounting Professor Joyce Berg, a Beta Alpha Psi faculty adviser.

Each volunteer is a UI accounting major and a part of the Tippie College of Business or students in the College of Law. In order to become certified to participate in the program, each volunteer must take an accounting class, complete numerous exams and quizzes through the IRS, and participate in additional training. The organization hosts help sessions three days a week.

The tax program will begin helping families this year from Jan. 30 through April 14. After last year’s success, the members hope to expand this year’s class to allow more students to participate.

The organization began pairing with Johnson County five years ago to help prepare residents with filing their taxes. The step enabled students to help a larger number of people.

“We used to do 100 to 125 returns a year, just for students [at the UI],” Berg said. “After pairing with Johnson County, we are doing more than 1,000 returns for community members.”

Last year, the program helped more than 11,000 taxpayers and had around 101 volunteers who donated more than 3,000 hours of their time. At the end of the period, the taxpayers received more than $1.4 million in refunds. Berg said that since partnering with the county, the organization has been focusing on helping the community.

The families aided the students in preparing for their careers.

“The program itself is not only to help out the families, but it also really helps out the students that are hoping to become accountants,” said Logan Sump, the program coordinator.

Berg said the program aims to combine the class curriculum with real-life situations to close the gap between the classroom and a professional atmosphere.

“It is experience with actually helping out people, and we are able to work firsthand with what we are hoping to accomplish in the future.” Sump said.

The organization now aims to improve overall financial awareness for the members in Johnson County.

“We hope to improve financial literacy in the community and help others become aware on how to save tax dollars,” said program participant Megan Cerney. “We want to spread the word about why it is important to have knowledge about financing.”


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