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Touro Undergrads Provide Free Tax Assistance to Those in Need

What better way to receive practical career experience than through community service?

April 26, 2016

A team of 17 students from Touro’s Lander College of Arts & Sciences in Flatbush (LAS) prepared the 2015 personal tax returns of New Yorkers as part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. This is the fourth straight year that the school offered the service—free of charge for low-to-moderate-income individuals and families in the tri-state area—and each year the number of community members seeking assistance with their tax returns has increased.

According to Faigie Horowitz, the director of alumni affairs and program coordinator for Touro’s Office of Career Services and the program organizer, the training requirements and numerous review processes eases the minds of taxpayers concerned with depending on students for such an important task.

“The proof is that so many of the taxpayers are repeat customers, many of whom come from out of the borough—some even come from the Bronx—and others who know about it from word of mouth,” said Horowitz.

The students, most of whom are studying in Touro’s accounting program, have undergone rigorous training that includes completing specialized IRS tax courses and passing the required IRS examination. Some are certified tax preparers and others are reviewers, who check their work.

“It’s a win-win for the taxpayers and for our students,” Horowitz said. “The taxpayers get great service and our students gain valuable experience. The program has helped previous volunteers land jobs after graduation, some even in the Big Four accounting firms.”

It’s a point echoed by the student volunteers.

“There’s nothing better than hands-on experience,” said co-site coordinator Aaron Rumpler, ‘16. “After completing the VITA program, a volunteer basically has all the experience necessary to prepare a personal tax return.”

A total of eight sessions were held this season. Co-site coordinator, Rivka Rubin, ’16, said that on average they prepared close to 40 returns each week.

“Whether the returns involved capital gains, IRA distributions, HSA accounts or just a simple W2, the tax preparers worked through each return with care and dedication,” she said. “I consider the first-hand experience not just as a path to a career but as a journey to an adventurous challenge.”