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February 20, 2009

ULM College of Business students offer free tax services to low and moderate-income households

This past weekend, several University of Louisiana at Monroe business students joined several other volunteers in Bastrop to help low and moderate-income household complete their tax returns.

“As the tax-filing season gets into full swing, more and more students will be spending at least two hours a week helping citizens in the community,” said Patricia Roshto, accounting program coordinator at ULM.

Their work is part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program – a program sponsored each year by the IRS to offer free tax help to those whose annual income is around $42,000 or less, and who would like help in preparing their own tax returns.

Certified volunteers, including the ULM students, are sponsored by various organizations and receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. Forty-one College of Business Administration students completed the classroom training in January and, so far, 27 have successfully completed the certification process by passing the online exam.

Roshto conceived of the idea to recruit ULM students during her involvement with the ABC Coalition, part of an initiative formed by the United Way of Northeast Louisiana to help low income families more wisely manage their finances. “ABC” is an acronym for Acquiring Assets, Building Hope and Creating a Better Life.
She also credits fellow volunteer, Melinda Mintz, Director of Community Impact with the United Way, for spurring her involvement in the worthwhile cause. Said Roshto, “She is certainly one of the great ones who inspired me. This has truly been one of her passions, to help underprivileged communities.”

Roshto said many low income families are tempted to pay someone an astronomical fee for tax preparation, so the Coalition is interested in making families aware of the free tax services available to help save them money.

Kyia Hamilton, an accounting junior from East Camden, Ark., has already benefitted from the process of volunteering with VITA in more ways than one.

“Volunteering at the VITA site has been wonderful,” she said. “It has given me an opportunity to give back to the community as well as gain valuable experience that will benefit me in my future endeavors.”

To volunteer in the program, students had to complete a classroom workshop in applying a software program called Tax Wise, which is used to file the returns. An online course in basic tax laws must also be successfully completed, as evidenced by passing a test with a minimum score of 80, according to Roshto.

As a part of the initiative, the Coalition collaborates with VITA sites in the region and promotes them through the 2-1-1 program. Citizens call 2-1-1 to locate a site near them, find the hours of operation and get contact information to help them schedule an appointment for the free income tax assistance.

For more information about the program, contact Roshto at (318) 342-1118 or

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