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Making Filing Less Taxing

Low-Income Tax Filers Get Assistance From Business MS Students  

Andrew Goldman, a student in the Master of Science tax program at the School of Business, with some of the clients getting tax filing help. (Photos by Adaora Onyebeke)

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 24, 2017) — Low-income families in the Albany area are getting some help with taxes, thanks to graduate students from UAlbany’s School of Business.

Students enrolled in the Master of Science tax program at the School of Business have the opportunity to take an elective that helps the community: Service Learning and Community Engagement in Taxation (ACC 600). It’s an opportunity to earn college credit by volunteering with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA).

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Left to right are Yulia McLaughlin, the site coordinator for the Husted hall VITA site; Norma McDonald, a VITA assistant; and James Manico, the instructor who teaches ACCT 600, a community service elective for students in the taxation program.

Through this community service elective, students receive training, and are provided with options for volunteering. Students volunteer at UAlbany’s Husted Hall and at other sites in the Albany area.

“The goal is to have students become IRS-certified volunteers in the VITA program so that they can provide free basic income tax return preparation to qualified individuals in the Albany community,” said James C. Manico, the lecturer who teaches the course.

Manico has a support team that help run the Husted Hall site. M.S. Tax student Yulia McLaughlin ’14, ’17, a non-traditional student who has been employed as a tax auditor at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, is the site coordinator for the site. “I started in 2014 as a part-time volunteer and have been asked to join as a site coordinator, and have been here ever since,” she said. “It’s an important program because it gives a lot of families and people with lower incomes access to free tax preparation services, and it’s also a great opportunity for students to get hands on experience in tax preparation.”

“UAlbany has been very helpful with our program. They provide us with office supplies, they buy us ink, gave us printers, grant us permission to use their computers and provide us with access to two rooms in the Husted Hall building,” McLaughlin said.

Norma McDonald has been a participant in the VITA program for 17 years. She works with the students and the lower income taxpayers every Saturday at the Husted Hall site. “This program is one of my passions, when I was in the master’s program at SUNY Binghamton I did my master’s thesis about the earned income tax credit , so it’s always been important to me ,” McDonald said. “I think VITA is an important service to provide for our lower income tax payers.”

Graduate student Mark Collins ’16,‘17 is enrolled in ACC 600. “All of us have finished our undergrad degrees in accounting, and are now in the masters in taxation program,” Collins said. “In this course we are able to work with lower income families, fill out their tax returns and get credit for it, which is nice.”

“I would tell any student who is looking to enroll in this class to pay attention during our orientation and to take notes because everything we learn is very beneficial when we start working with the lower income families.”

 

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.