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Tick Tock, Goes the Tax Clock

News Story

Albert Einstein once said “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” Thankfully, Pace VITA volunteers are here to help you file your taxes before time runs out.

As the tax filing deadline looms and our anxiety about the who, what, where, why, and how much of tax returns kicks in, Pace students in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program have three kind words, “let us help.”

Organized by Lubin’s Iota Lambda chapter of Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), Pace students have been preparing federal, state, and local tax returns free of charge for low- and moderate-income individuals, families, and senior citizens in the local community for more than 15 years through the IRS’ VITA Program.

“There are a lot of foreign students at Pace and we process their tax returns, and of course it’s free of charge, so we really do directly help the Pace student body,” says accounting MS student Cindy Belgorod ’14, who is the current director of the VITA Program and runs the lab. All student volunteers are trained with IRS materials and, once your taxes are done, volunteers run your returns through IRS diagnostic software before they are filed. The program is open to anyone whose income does not exceed $52,000, no matter what state you file in.

However, many of the clients that Belgorod has seen are local residents who greatly benefit from the free service. “We process hundreds of tax returns for residents who have low to moderate incomes. Most of the time we see incomes between a few thousand to maybe $20,000. So if we can save these people $68 for a tax return, that’s a lot of money to someone who’s living in New York City on under $20,000 or really under $52,000 a year,” she says.

Wondering why you won’t be getting a fat refund check in the mail? In addition to filing your tax returns, the students can also offer some fundamental advice about why you owe what you owe and what you can do in the future.

Last year they filed more than 500 federal and state returns. “This year we’re seeing double-digit growth compared to last year,” says Belgorod, who is picking up more clients with recent closings of nearby filing centers.

In addition to helping the community, VITA also helps those students participating in the program to prepare for the real world. “It’s the first step in applying academic knowledge,” says Belgorod, who has directly benefited from the skills she’s gained through VITA in a recent job interview. “Having experience with IRS compliance regulations has given me a broader skill set, and that was a real plus,” she says.

And she invites other Pace students to join her. “All students—whether they’re accounting students, whether they’re undergraduate or graduate students—should really look into volunteering for the program. It’s definitely something they should put on their to-do list for the next tax preparation season.”

The VITA Lab is open on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. through April 10, and is located in Room W403 at One Pace Plaza. If you have any questions, e-mail or call (212) 618-6598. For more information about VITA and what you need to bring with you, visit the VITA website.