AMHERST, Mass. - Student volunteers from the University of Massachusetts are offering free tax assistance to local residents at the Hampshire Mall in Hadley and to UMass international students, faculty, and staff at the School of Management building on the Amherst campus.
The service to residents is available at the mall storefront, located across from the Ground Round Restaurant and adjacent to Eastern Mountain Sports, on Tuesdays from 3 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays from 3 to 5 p.m., and Thursdays from 3 to 9 p.m. In addition, students offer help for international students, faculty, and staff on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. in room 107 of the School of Management. The program will run through April 15, the final day to file state and federal tax returns.
Some 26 students are working in the "Volunteer Income Tax Assistance," or VITA program this year, according to Michael J. Whiteman, visiting associate professor of accounting and information systems, who is coordinating the effort. Most are undergraduate accounting majors who have studied tax law and see VITA as a way to get valuable practical experience in the field, Whiteman says. Participating students receive one credit for their work, and two students who oversee the project receive three credits, he says.
Whiteman says two sections of the tax laws getting increased attention this year are the federal earned income tax credit, available to low-income residents, and determining the tax status of international staff, students, and faculty. "The demand for tax help in the international area is growing, and the rules are extremely complex," Whiteman says.
The School of Management’s department of accounting has offered the VITA program for the past decade, Whiteman says, as a way to help the local community and to give its students experience dealing with a wide range of issues facing taxpayers and tax professionals. This year, the Hampshire Mall donated space for the off-campus program, Whiteman says.