Susquehanna students offer free remote tax preparation assistance | Education
Selinsgrove, Pa. — Susquehanna University’s accounting students are continuing to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, working around the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by working remotely.
Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service, VITA offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited-English-speaking taxpayers who find it challenging to prepare their tax returns. Locally, the program operates through the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency.
This year’s work is being conducted entirely remotely, facilitated by Richard Davis, professor of accounting. Davis picks up clients’ information from the CAA and ferries it to his students at the Sigmund Weis School of Business and then back to the CAA.
“It has certainly required more logistics for us to continue our work with the program this year,” Davis said. “But this experience is so important, not only because it is directly relevant to our students’ career aspirations, but it’s also a valuable way for them to use their professional skills to give back to their community.”
Students who enroll in Davis’ four-credit course also have their credits count toward their 150-hour requirement for CPA certification.
“The ability to earn college credit while helping the local community is what prompted me to participate in the program this year,” said Mariah Guiswite ’21, a accounting major from Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. “In addition, it is providing me with hands-on tax preparation experience that will prove to be valuable throughout my future career.”
The one constant for VITA volunteers has always been the student-client interaction, said Kevin Bowser ’21, an accounting major from West Chester, Pennsylvania, who is volunteering for the second year.
“By far the best part is talking to the clients,” Bowser said. “Many of our clients don’t have a lot of people to talk to so it was nice to have conversations with them.”
In addition to filing their clients’ tax returns, VITA volunteers also help qualifying clients apply to the state’s Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program and claim their Earned Income Tax Credit – all of which puts money back in their clients’ pockets, said Andrew Cooney ’21, an accounting major from Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania.
“When you’re on campus you rarely see someone who is struggling to make ends meet, but through VITA we see some who are living solely on Social Security, which is way below the poverty line,” Cooney said. “It means a lot to be able to help them.”
All three seniors have secured jobs after graduation: Bowser at GMS Surgent; Cooney at McKonly & Asbury; and Guiswite at Baker Tilly.