SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: N.Y. high school students help prepare taxes through volunteer program

July 29, 2019 at 12:37 p.m.
SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: N.Y. high school students help prepare taxes through volunteer program
SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE: N.Y. high school students help prepare taxes through volunteer program


By Emily Benson| Catholic News Service

ALBANY, N.Y. – High school junior Paul Barber shuffles through tax forms in the basement of the diocesan Pastoral Center in Albany. At Catholic Central High School in nearby Troy, Barber is like any other student; here, he's an accountant.

"I get to actually come here and help people which is great," Barber told The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper. "Coming from a Catholic school and a Catholic family, getting to help people is great."

Barber is one of many student volunteers who help locals in the Albany Diocese file their tax returns under the Catholic Charities Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, known as VITA.

VITA works in collaboration with the CA$H (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Coalition of the Greater Capital Region. It offers free tax preparation services from Internal Revenue Service-trained and certified volunteers to individuals or families with a maximum household income of $54,000.

VITA has collaborated with Catholic Central students since its inception almost 15 years ago. The program allows students to gain hands-on experience in the accounting field.

Mary Olsen, VITA program director, said students from the College of St. Rose, Siena College and SUNY Albany also volunteer. The program teaches students a level of professionalism, she said, so clients can feel comfortable having their taxes done by someone so young.

"One woman said earlier, 'These are high school kids?'" Olsen said. "And I said, 'Oh yes, and they are certified by the IRS, and they've been doing this for a long time.'"

George Hannah, accounting and business teacher at Catholic Central, said all students enrolled in his accounting class are required to volunteer with VITA. Students also receive training from a VITA member before they can volunteer.

While Catholic Charities oversees the program offered in the Pastoral Center, the CA$H Coalition offers numerous VITA sites around the diocese, such as at St. Matthew's Church in Voorheesville, as well as the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

In 2016, the program helped 887 people file their taxes, saving them more than $240,000. Last year, the program helped nearly 1,000 taxpayers.

All volunteers help clients with preparing their tax returns and determine if they are eligible for valuable tax credits. Student volunteers work in pairs, and every return is checked by an advanced certified accountant.

Olsen said that most clients taking advantage of the service are returnees. "When they leave you say, 'OK, I'll see ya next year!' And we do."

Jean Dobbs, who has been getting her taxes done by Catholic Charities for four years, said the savings she has realized helps pay for food and bills.

Dobbs, who was a program director with Catholic Charities for more than 30 years, adds that coming to VITA lets her revisit old friends in retirement.

"It's like coming home," she said.

Benson is a staff writer for The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

                 

[[In-content Ad]]

Related Stories

By Emily Benson| Catholic News Service

ALBANY, N.Y. – High school junior Paul Barber shuffles through tax forms in the basement of the diocesan Pastoral Center in Albany. At Catholic Central High School in nearby Troy, Barber is like any other student; here, he's an accountant.

"I get to actually come here and help people which is great," Barber told The Evangelist, Albany's diocesan newspaper. "Coming from a Catholic school and a Catholic family, getting to help people is great."

Barber is one of many student volunteers who help locals in the Albany Diocese file their tax returns under the Catholic Charities Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, known as VITA.

VITA works in collaboration with the CA$H (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Coalition of the Greater Capital Region. It offers free tax preparation services from Internal Revenue Service-trained and certified volunteers to individuals or families with a maximum household income of $54,000.

VITA has collaborated with Catholic Central students since its inception almost 15 years ago. The program allows students to gain hands-on experience in the accounting field.

Mary Olsen, VITA program director, said students from the College of St. Rose, Siena College and SUNY Albany also volunteer. The program teaches students a level of professionalism, she said, so clients can feel comfortable having their taxes done by someone so young.

"One woman said earlier, 'These are high school kids?'" Olsen said. "And I said, 'Oh yes, and they are certified by the IRS, and they've been doing this for a long time.'"

George Hannah, accounting and business teacher at Catholic Central, said all students enrolled in his accounting class are required to volunteer with VITA. Students also receive training from a VITA member before they can volunteer.

While Catholic Charities oversees the program offered in the Pastoral Center, the CA$H Coalition offers numerous VITA sites around the diocese, such as at St. Matthew's Church in Voorheesville, as well as the Saratoga Springs Public Library.

In 2016, the program helped 887 people file their taxes, saving them more than $240,000. Last year, the program helped nearly 1,000 taxpayers.

All volunteers help clients with preparing their tax returns and determine if they are eligible for valuable tax credits. Student volunteers work in pairs, and every return is checked by an advanced certified accountant.

Olsen said that most clients taking advantage of the service are returnees. "When they leave you say, 'OK, I'll see ya next year!' And we do."

Jean Dobbs, who has been getting her taxes done by Catholic Charities for four years, said the savings she has realized helps pay for food and bills.

Dobbs, who was a program director with Catholic Charities for more than 30 years, adds that coming to VITA lets her revisit old friends in retirement.

"It's like coming home," she said.

Benson is a staff writer for The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany.

                 

[[In-content Ad]]
Have a news tip? Email [email protected] or Call/Text 360-922-3092

e-Edition


e-edition

Sign up


for our email newsletters

Weekly Top Stories

Sign up to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every Sunday

Daily Updates & Breaking News Alerts

Sign up to get our daily updates and breaking news alerts delivered to your inbox daily

Latest Stories


February 2024: LENT
Lent is traditionally a time for prayer and fasting. This year, I am especially drawn to these words from my reading: “Fasting is the soul of prayer...

February 2024 In Focus: Catholic Schools Week
Catholic Schools Week fills school communities with lasting memories...

January 2024 Seasons & Celebrations: Let Us Adore
The 2023 celebrations of Advent and Christmas showcased the anticipation, beauty, reverence and hope the seasons evoke...

Funeral services announced for Dr. Eileen Marie Hoefling, former Chancery staffer
Dr. Eileen Marie Hoefling, a former associate director of the diocesan Office of Religious Education (now Department of Catechesis), died Feb. 19 at age 77.

Mercer CYO crowns six champs and reveals award winners in basketball championship
It was Championship Sunday at the Mercer County CYO Center in Trenton Feb. 18 ...


The Evangelist, 40 North Main Ave., Albany, NY, 12203-1422 | PHONE: 518-453-6688| FAX: 518-453-8448
© 2024 Trenton Monitor, All Rights Reserved.