PLYMOUTH, N.H.-19 year-old Abby Hackett of Bristol doesn’t have much money, though it’s not for a lack of trying. Hackett works at a Bristol restaurant, hoping to save enough money to return to New Hampshire Technical Institute in Laconia. She’s determined to make more of her life, but there are some things she needs a helping hand with, like filing her income tax forms. Because of her financial status, she has never had to file before, and she’s confused by the paperwork. But a program offered by Plymouth State University is helping her and dozens of other central New Hampshire residents file their taxes free of charge.
PSU participates in the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, in which accounting students are professionally trained in federal income tax preparation skills, offering the free service to those with low-to-moderate incomes, including those with disabilities, limited-English proficiency and seniors. The VITA program is based at the Whole Village Family Resource Center, a local social service agency on Highland Street.
The students help those eligible for the program to navigate through the confusion of tax law, credits and deductions, allowing them to receive all they are due. Abby Hackett said the VITA program is just what she needed.
“I’m grateful for it, I needed the help and the students are providing me something I
had to have but couldn’t afford, so this is really good,” said Hackett. “I’ve never made enough money to file a return, so this is a great way to introduce me to the concept.”
The program is limited to those earning less than $50,000 annually. Those wanting to use the program should bring their tax return forms, wage and earnings statement (W-2’s), interest income statements (1099’s) and a copy of last year’s return. The Volunteer Return Preparation Program starts at the beginning of the spring semester, continuing through mid-April. The students meet with clients every Monday and it takes an average of one hour to complete a return.
PSU’s Ryan Dobens, a Hollis, N.H. senior majoring in accounting, said the VITA program will process up to 100 returns over the next six weeks. Dobens noted the satisfaction of helping someone is the biggest benefit for the students involved in the VITA program.
“It’s really is nice to know you’re giving back something to community based on something you learned in the academic environment, so you’re using what you’ve learned in school and being productive in the community,” Dobens said.
Hundreds of PSU students have volunteered their tax preparation expertise over the course of the 30 year-old program, according to Roger Babin, the PSU business professor who manages the PSU VITA program.
“It’s been a win-win situation,” said Babin. “The program has been very beneficial to both students and members of the Plymouth community that have taken advantage of the opportunity to get skilled tax preparation assistance.”
Angela Allard, a Lebanon, N.H. senior accounting major, believes her VITA experience is opening doors beyond the classroom.
“It’s a great experience, and yes, it’s a resume’ builder, but it’s not all about money,” Allard said. “Above everything else, it’s a warm feeling knowing you’re taking skills you’ve learned in the classroom and benefiting someone who needs it.”
“I appreciate it greatly,” said Hackett.
To schedule an appointment or to get more information about the VITA program, call the Whole Village Family Resource Center at (603) 536-3720.
For more information about this release, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., (603) 535-2775 or Bruce Lyndes