Mount Saint Mary College sophomore Robert Lawless of Monroe, N.Y. (right) works with Tax-Aide coordinator Tony Mattaroccia at King of Kings Lutheran Church in New Windsor, N.Y. on Monday, March 25.
With Tax Day looming, Mount Saint Mary College Accounting students and alumni are providing free tax preparation for middle- and low-income families.
More than a dozen Mount students and alumni are volunteering with Tax-Aide, a tax assistance program offered annually by the AARP Tax-Aide Foundation, the Mid-Hudson CASH Coalition, and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region. This season marks the eighth year the Mount has been involved with the program.
Through Tax-Aide, Mount students serve their community in donated spaces throughout the area, including the Newburgh Credit Union and the Newburgh Free Library. In total, taxes are being prepared at 40 locations throughout Dutchess, Putnam, and Orange counties this year.
“Current volunteer students and alum make up about 20 percent of our Tax Counselor volunteer population,” explained Dave Weaving, the Hudson Valley CA$H Coalition coordinator. “Without the help of Mount Saint Mary College and these students, we would not have the vibrant, expanding program that we have.”
Accounting major Robert Lawless of Monroe, N.Y. prepares returns for area residents on Monday mornings at the New Windsor King of Kings Lutheran Church and Friday mornings at the Monroe Town Senior Center. He’s filled in at several other sites this year as well.
Lawless and his peers trained for at least 40 hours through classroom work with AARP certified instructors, then passed an IRS certification exam. It’s been a rewarding ride, he said.
“The best part about volunteering is meeting many new people, helping them understand why they file, and making sure they get the most out of our services,” Lawless explained. “Many individuals come in to doing taxes with no knowledge, but breaking everything down helps them better understand where they are financially, and how to prepare for the future.”
All that experiential learning has helped Lawless in his coursework at the Mount, he noted.
“I decided to volunteer for Tax-Aide because I wanted to gain experience outside of the classroom, and to get a hands-on experience using what I have learned so far,” he said. “The Tax-Aide program helped me understand the tax laws, new tax changes, and how to prepare a tax return with different complexities [such as] retired filers, single filers, families, head of households, stocks, capital gains, retirement accounts, etc.”
Last year, nearly 8,000 residents of Dutchess and Orange Counties received help preparing and filing their taxes though the Tax-Aide program, leading to nearly $7 million in refunds.
As in years previous, the Mount’s Center for Career and Experiential Education was a driving force in the success of the Tax-Aide program. Kathleen O’Keefe, director of the Mount’s Career Center, served on the Tax-Aide Planning Committee, informed students of the program and how to join, helped bring training to the Mount campus, and monitored Mount volunteer success.