YOUNGSTOWN - Accounting students are volunteering free tax preparation Saturdays at Youngstown State University.
"Student preparation was thorough," Professor Ray Shaffer, site coordinator, said. "We have more restrictions than a paid preparer program has. We run the training that the IRS has set up, including certification."
The eight-week Volunteer Income Tax Assistance - VITA - program of the Internal Revenue Service gives teams of accounting students credit for helping citizens with their tax forms. VITA provides free services to taxpayers who generally earn $54,000 or less, or with disabilities or limited English-speaking ability.
On Saturday, 17 computer stations at the Lariccia School of Accounting and Finance at YSU were covered by about 50 volunteer students and quality control reviewers. The sessions continue 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays through April 8 on the first floor of Williamson Hall on the YSU campus.
Moe Al Khateeb, 22, of Boardman, a junior finance major, said he is glad to be part of learning something connected to his field of study.
"Working with the Tax Slayer program online makes it possible for us to get credit for helping residents " Al Khateeb said.
The preparers worked on federal, state and even local taxes using software to collect additional forms and assisting area clients in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"We have the students find the forms so when the clients leave, they are done," Tiffany Buck, 31, of Salem, a quality reviewer said. "The most they have to do is mail it in, but we try to get them to email it in."
Buck, in her 11th year working in the program, said the certification required each year provided by the IRS on the website also helps to speed up the process for experienced tax preparers.
Doug Falk, 43, of Salem, a former YSU student in his eighth year as a quality reviewer, said he's "just giving back what people taught me."
He said the training process, using the tax tools, and the software and materials gets easier.
"Each year, you have to make sure you are up to speed because IRS officials visit the sites," he said.
Clients said students gave professional level assistance.
"They are very knowledgeable,work with you through your taxes and answer all your questions," Dianne Carlisle, 64, of Youngstown, said.
Carlisle, who returned for the fourth time to the VITA program at YSU, said it's convenient and the no-charge benefit helps many on fixed incomes.
She said she also like visiting with the students.