Students from the Dolan School of Business now have an opportunity to put their studies to good use with the addition of a service-learning component to the elective course Federal Income Taxation II taught by assistant accounting professor Kathleen Weiden.

Students in the course will work until April 14 with the Bridgeport Campaign of the Internal Revenue Service’s National Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which is run by the Greater Bridgeport Family Economic Security Coalition.

Students work on site at various locations in Bridgeport, including Family Services of Woodfield, ACORN, Stratford Community Center, Hall Neighborhood House, Career Resources, Burroughts Community Center, and Casey Family Services.

Gina Scarpetti ’07, a student in the course, said that the class is a great idea way to get involved.

“It’s so much easier to learn hands on than just reading a dry textbook,” she said.

Since the average cost of tax preparation is $55 to $130, VITA’s combined efforts with Fairfield students are a huge help for low-income families.

“I have been involved with the VITA program since I came to Fairfield in 2002,” said Weiden. “For the first three years, I tried to get VITA off the ground here as a volunteer program. However, while many students were interested, it seemed that time pressures for the seniors prevented them from being able to do it on a volunteer basis. The feedback from the students who did do VITA as volunteers seemed to indicate that VITA could be a great experience for all my students.”

Students help these families obtain federal and state tax benefits which most working-class families don’t claim because they are not aware that they exist. While the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that a single person without children can receive is $412, a married couple with children can receive up to $4,536.

For the first four weeks of the semester, the accounting class was held in a traditional classroom setting where they worked on advanced income tax topics and preparing for the IRS volunteer exam, which every volunteer must pass before working with VITA.

The students passed the IRS exam in early February and now split their time between a classroom setting and the service site.

Weiden said, “Students have been exposed to these credits from a tax policy perspective, but now they will actually get to see policy in action, as well as meet taxpayers who benefit from these specific tax credit policies.”

Overall, Weiden said that the course was a great experience because it reworks a traditional course so that it benefits the community.

“Along with the actual service at service sites, we have also been doing some reading and reflecting on tax policy as a form of welfare policy, the role of service in the citizen’s life, and economic diversity and ethnic diversity,” she said. “So, while I planned for this course to be something of a ‘journey’ for my students, it has also turned into a journey for me and that was an unexpected gift to me.”

Students within the accounting major have been very willing to lend out their services for a good cause.

“I’m majoring in accounting and interested in tax preparation, and planned on doing VITA anyway,” Nicole Krupa ’07 said. “I love doing it. It’s really helpful applying policy to doing personalized returns.”

“It’s really interesting,” said Scarpetti. “I was nervous going to Bridgeport at first because we were all separated and we didn’t know anyone at the different sites, but it’s been great. Everyone there is really nice and it’s a different experience.”

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