Juniors Jennie Chung and Brent Truscott, members of the Boston College Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, help Allston-Brighton resident Richard Crecco with his tax return during a recent VITA session at the BC Neighborhood Center. (Photo by Justin Knight)
"These students wanted to get involved," said Taylor, "and they have really done a lot for the community."
The Internal Revenue Service sponsors the VITA program in conjunction with colleges and universities throughout the nation. The IRS furnishes training and tax preparation materials for students participating in the program.
The BC volunteers have been providing tax assistance four nights a week since the end of February at a number of Allston-Brighton locations, including the Veronica B. Smith Senior Center, the Commonwealth Tenants Association, the Boston College Neighborhood Center, the East End House and St. Elizabeth's Medical Center. With less than a week before the April 16 filing deadline, the group expects its busiest sessions lie ahead.
"We had people coming in here an hour before the students were scheduled to arrive," said Maria DiChiappari, director of BC's Neighborhood Center in Brighton. "They were eager to have the help in preparing their taxes and seemed to be most grateful to our students," she said.
"The kids were very friendly and very helpful," DiChiappari added. "I think we are going to be seeing a lot more people coming in as we get closer to 'Tax Day.'"
Taylor recruited his volunteer group by e-mailing a list of his current and former students and was pleasantly surprised when 80 showed up, laptops in hand, for an all-day training session conducted by IRS officials on a Saturday in February.
"The IRS people told us this was the best and most attentive group they have ever taught," Taylor said. "It certainly says a lot about the students that we have here."
Taylor, who, like the students, volunteers his time for this effort, took over leadership of the campus VITA program last year. "VITA has been active on campus for a number of years," he said, "but our goal was to beef up the service, to energize it.
"The BC students know that they are fortunate to be here and they want to give something back. When word gets out in the community about what we are doing, I think it will be even better next year."
Taylor's prediction certainly seems sound, judging from the results the VITA volunteers have achieved and the favorable reactions of those residents they have helped.
"We had one student who saved a person an extra $4,000 in taxes," noted Olga Kleinman '03, an accounting major from Cliffside Park, NJ, who is student chairwoman of VITA. "As you can imagine, both of them were pretty excited."
Kleinman has brought more assets than her accounting skills to VITA. A native of Russia who came to this country with her family five years ago, she is a translator for the many Russian emigrants who have settled in Allston-Brighton and face a significant language barrier in filling out the often-complicated tax forms.
"People don't expect one of us to be able to speak Russian when they come in to do their taxes," said Kleinman, who estimates that she has spent 10-15 hours per week on VITA. "They are really so thankful when we are able to help them. It has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience."
Kleinman said that several of the BC students are also fluent in Spanish and French, enabling them to assist Hispanic and Haitian residents with their tax returns.
Taylor was hired by accounting giant Peat Marwick upon his graduation from Boston College. Five years into his professional career he began teaching at BC part-time and has now taught more than 70 courses, ranging from Introduction to Accounting to Federal Taxation.
"I derive more satisfaction teaching here at BC than anything in my professional life," said Taylor. "I realize that you can make a difference in people's lives by teaching here. I truly love what I am doing, and am happy to assist BC students in their efforts to help those in need."
-Jack Dunn contributed to this story.
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