Accounting students take part in VITA program this month

Sean Schmoyer, Asst. News Editor

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Throughout February, accounting majors and other students from the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership are working to provide members of the community with free tax preparation.

Students will be helping community members with tax returns every Saturday throughout the rest of the month with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

While the service has been going on for the first two weeks, it will continue to be offered on Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 by appointment. The times for appointments are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in room 134 on the first floor of the University Center on Main, 169 South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre (corner of South Main Street and West South Street).

Cynthia Chisarick, associate professor of accounting, spoke about the benefits of the program.

“I believe there are a number of reasons why the program is beneficial. The first is that students are able to provide a service to the community.”

She explained that students are required to both take a tax course on campus and take an exam to be certified by the IRS before they can partake in the program.

“The students gain real-world experience when they sit right with a client, get information from the client and complete the return all in one setting,” said Chisarick.

Kacee Diehl, junior accounting major, decided to join the program this year.

“I got involved because I thought it would be a great opportunity to gain experience dealing with electronic tax returns. It is really nice and rewarding to talk and work with [community members]. Some of them are very open to share stories and it is so nice to talk and help them.”

The VITA Program offers free tax help to people with a household income of less than $56,000 and who file basic federal, state and local tax returns.

Those interested in the service need to bring the following items to the VITA site:

A form of photo identification.

Valid social security cards for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents.

Wage and earning statements (Form W-2) from all employers.

Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099).

A copy of last year’s federal and state returns (if available).

Other relevant information about income and expenses.

Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit.

The total paid for a daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number.

Both spouses must be present for taxpayers who are married and plan to be file joint returns.

Students prepare around 200 tax returns every year on average with the VITA Program.

“This is my second year doing this, the opportunity came from professor Chisarick and it is just a way to give back to the community. It is not just helping the community, it is also taking what we learn from class and applying it,” said Edward Lukowski, senior accounting major.

“It is like a warm feeling, that you are doing something good. We do not have a lot of time because we do a lot of school work, any chance to give back is a great feeling and you leave here in a better mood knowing that you came and you helped someone,” he continued.

Submitted by Wilkes Marketing
From left to right, Edward Lukowski, Nick Schepis, Taylor Akmal, Garret Gagliardi and Kacee Diehl, all student volunteers with the VITA Program.

Chisarick said, “I think compliments go to the students, they give up their Saturdays. They give up every Saturday in February and we know how important and busy students are during the week.”

“Saturday and Sunday are sometimes opportunities to catch up on work or relax a little bit and have some fun, but they are dedicated individuals in that they feel strongly enough about learning and growing to give up their Saturdays and provide this community service,” she continued.

Members of the community can schedule appointments by calling (570) 408-4710 and leaving a message with their name and phone number. They will then be contacted to schedule an appointment.