By Gene Stowe
Students from the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and IU South Bend, along with faculty members and local accountants, are offering free tax preparation assistance for people with low incomes or with disabilities.
A longstanding Vivian Harrington Gray Tax Assistance Program (TAP) now involves more than 90 student volunteers from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s who staff eight locations in South Bend and Mishawaka.
The program, started in 1971, was endowed in 1999 by a family member of Vivian Harrington Gray, the mother of two Notre Dame alumni, who helped low-income people prepare tax forms. It served more than 2,000 people and prepared more than 4,000 returns last year.
“Four of the sites will have CPAs providing service and/or guidance,” said Ken Milani, a Notre Dame accountancy professor and a founder of the program. “Taxpayers with more complicated tax problems (e.g., capital gains and/or losses, business income or losses, death in the family) are encouraged to bring their information to these centers.”
The additional experts are at the St. Joseph County Public Library’s Main, River Park, and Western branches and the Mishawaka-Penn Public Library. Other locations are the Center Branch, Notre Dame Center for Art & Culture at the Hansel Center, the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns, and Saint Mary’s College.
IU South Bend hosts United Way's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program in classrooms and computer labs at Wiekamp Hall. Last year, the site processed almost 6 percent of all VITA returns in slightly more than four days.
“The VITA returns prepared at IU South Bend have helped thousands of hard working families, and saved an estimated million dollars in preparation and loans fees over the years of our partnership,” said Dawn Chapla, Director of Labor and Financial Stability at the United Way of St. Joseph County.
P.N. Saksena, assistant dean at the Judd Leighton School of Business and Economics at IU South Bend, said the program started in 2009.
“The number of students who volunteer has grown over time, with a number of our students playing leadership roles in the program,” he said. “We are proud to be actively involved in a United Way program that has a direct and measurable impact on the financial well-being of members of our community.”
IU South Bend will be a VITA site again on March 15th, 2014. To make an appointment, visit http://unitedwaytaxhelp.org or call 2-1-1.
Notre Dame’s TAP program will offer services, first come, first served, through April 15, with different hours at different locations. Participants should bring identification, Social Security cards for each person on the form, and tax-related documents. For more information, call 574-631-7863 or visit the TAP website, http://taptax.nd.edu.
The TAP program provides FREE income tax preparation service (Federal and Indiana forms) to individuals whose income is $40,000 or less.