More than 75 Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) students attended their final Internal Revenue Service (IRS) software certification training for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program on Thursday, January 19.
An IRS representative from the Food Bank for New York City led the training session in a Fiterman Hall classroom. Students who successfully completed the program received IRS certification to provide free tax preparation at Food Bank for New York City locations throughout the metro area, according to Joel Barker, BMCC Accounting Professor who oversees the program along with Accounting Professor Angela Jervis. Other instructors who work with the program include Accounting Professors Barry Cooper and Sharon Brickman.
Over the past 15 years, the Food Bank for New York City’s free tax preparation program has put more than $1 billion in tax refunds back into the pockets of New Yorkers who are unable to afford accountants and tax services.
The VITA training workshops are held each year at BMCC during the winter break. After passing the VITA/CTE Basic or Advanced Certification Exam, students volunteer as tax-preparers with the Food Bank for New York City.
After one year of volunteering to prepare tax returns at the advanced level, “students are eligible to obtain paid employment not only preparing tax returns but in other positions that would benefit from the transferable skills learned,” says Professor Jervis.
Students who participate in the program also have the opportunity to improve their verbal and critical thinking skills, she says. “They have to apply tax laws to unique situations in ways that will be most beneficial to the taxpayer, and they have to determine what kinds of questions to ask the taxpayer, in order to identify the correct positions that should be taken … There is nothing more gratifying than to see the enthusiasm and the eagerness of the students who are willing to help their fellow low-income New Yorkers obtain the largest refund to which they are entitled.”
That enthusiasm, says Professor Barker, is found in students with many different career goals and majors.
“In years past, the students who participated in the program were mostly Accounting and Business majors,” he says. “However, this year, students from a wide variety of disciplines registered to be part of the program. We had Math, Computer Science, Liberal Arts, Business Administration, Business Management, Nursing and Art History majors taking part in the training."
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