Students Help Residents Prepare Taxes

Student accountants from Boston College once again are volunteering their services this tax season to help elderly and low-income citizens prepare their returns.

"It's a great feeling putting your talents to work and giving back to the community," said Fergus O'Donoghue '98, a coordinator with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program that has dispatched student tax preparers to neighborhood centers in Waltham and across Boston.

"It's nice to be able to help someone with your college education," he said. "The look on their faces is great when you can save people a few hundred dollars."

The Internal Revenue Service runs the VITA Program, supplying tax-preparation training materials for students to use. Since Boston College began participating in VITA in 1990, the number of student volunteers has grown to approximately 135, most of them accounting undergraduates from the Carroll School of Management, with several MBA and Law School students also taking part. The program is coordinated in the Accounting Department by Asst. Prof. Louise Single (CSOM).

Between four and eight student preparers staffed tables at more than 20 sessions in neighborhood centers in Allston-Brighton, Dorchester, Roslindale and Waltham over the past month. O'Donoghue estimated the VITA volunteers helped prepare about 100 returns for elderly or low-income residents in that time.

"These are people of modest means who can't afford to spend a couple hundred dollars to go to a professional tax preparation office," said O'Donoghue, who recalled helping one elderly man save $1,000 in withholding taxes.

"Every situation is different," O'Donoghue said. "It's like putting a puzzle together, trying to save people as much money as possible while keeping within the confines of the law."

O'Donoghue, who will begin a full-time job with Price Waterhouse in New York City this fall, said his involvement in the VITA Program the past three springs has offered invaluable experience - and more.

"You're helping out the community," he said. "Your education is helping you help people."

- Mark Sullivan

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