Is the thought of the getting your taxes done giving you anxiety? As daunting of a task as it may seem, imagine how much more difficult it can be for those with a disability? Or those who are not native English speakers.
If you or someone you know falls into either of those categories, we may have a solution for you. The Volunteer Tax Assistance (VITA) Program in Worcester offers free tax preparation and electronic filing for those who fall in to one of these categories:
- Low and moderate income families (making $54,000 or less)
- Persons with disabilities
- Limited English speakers who may need assistance with tax preparation.
What do you need to do to volunteer? Volunteers are trained, so you actually don't need any previous accounting experience. Once training is complete, you must pass a certification test in order to be a certified tax preparer and help with tax preparation.
Eduardo Rivas, VITA Program Coordinator at Quinsigamond Community College started by volunteering back in his student days. Eduardo is now an Enrollment Counselor at QCC and has been working hard to expand the program... and it's working.
“Last year we had 24 volunteers in total. When I took over the position it was 10 or 11 volunteers,” he said, noting that they helped approximately 290 families.
Business Administration major Helen Hatzopoulos returned for her 2nd year of volunteer work for the program. She, (like Eduardo) was able to receive prior learning credit for her time spent helping others.
“The training wasn’t too difficult. You have a book and then you get hands-on experience, learning as you go. It looks really good on your resume,” Ms. Hatzopoulos said, adding, “It’s a very welcoming place and giving back to the community is very rewarding. They are very grateful.”
Aside from the increase in volunteers, Eduardo has introduced more aspects to the program. For the first time, this year, business majors can take the training as a program elective, or any major can take it as a free elective. Students who register for the class (ACC 225 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance), must attend training during the first two-weeks of classes and become certified as a tax preparer, which they are able to do in class. Students are then be required to complete 12, three-hour sessions at Main South CDC and attend a recognition ceremony.
On top of all of the training, learning and helping the community, they also have the option of using the experience as straight volunteer time or prior learning credit. There are other area colleges who participate in this program and volunteer training, the difference is that the QCC program will accept all volunteers who are certified to participate. Last year's tax season brought in students from WPI and Assumption, to name a few.
Benjamin Aryeh (QCC Student Trustee) is another big advocate of the VITA program. He's currently in training and working with Eduardo to spread the word. The more people who know they could take advantage of this free service, the bigger the impact on the community.
For those interested in learning how to become a volunteer for the 2018 tax season, email Mr. Rivas at email@example.com.
"I’m passionate about working with people and I have the soft skills that will be helpful in helping people prepare their taxes. I’m a bilingual speaker so I will be able to help translate. I like helping to serve the underrepresented population,” he said.