Most tax filers served by the center are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, said Otis Hightower, a quality-control accountant working at the center. Since 2002, he said, approximately 55,000 tax returns have been filed under the Campaign for Working Families and approximately $86 million has been claimed by low- to moderate-income residents through the Earned Income Tax Credit, and dependent child tax credits.
Every year, volunteers sent from the United Way come and are trained and certified through the Internal Revenue Service in how to prepare taxes, said Anthony Johnson, site coordinator.
This year, the Temple University Ambler Accounting Professional Society, supported by campus faculty and additional volunteers, also is providing the federal and state tax preparation help that many low- to moderate-income families might need.
Nearly every Saturday through April 5, Volunteer Tax Assistors — many of them trained and certified students — will be available at the Ambler Campus Learning Center, from 9 a.m. to noon, to offer free tax preparation assistance through the VITA program.
Like the EARN Center program, the Ambler site tax help is open to those whose income is less than $40,000. Temple students and students throughout the region in need of tax preparation assistance are also invited to take advantage of the program, said accounting Professor Steven Balsam, who also advises the Ambler Accounting Professional Society.
According to Balsam, Ambler’s participation in the VITA program was entirely a student initiative.
Michelle Navitsky, an accounting senior and VITA coordinator, said for the students, participation “is a nice way to give back to the community and a great learning experience.”
Bryan Castrantas, a senior accounting and finance major who is also helping to coordinate the program, equates navigating the tax law to “trying to get through a funhouse maze” for many families who have no familiarity with it.
“There’s one entrance, and one exit, but there’s so many different paths to get there,” he said. “Many people don't have the time and money to properly prepare their own returns, and that’s where we come in.”