CUH students help low-income individuals file their tax returns

CUH students help low-income individuals file their tax returns

Dyon D. Auguste

Students from a Tax Concepts class lead by professor Wayne Tanna help low-income individuals in the community file their tax return.

After a full year of working it is now time to file your taxes and with the help of Chaminade University’s tax students it can be made easy.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program was started in 1970 by the Internal Revenue Service to help low-income individuals fulfill their legal and civic duty of filing their taxes. The students help the homeless because most homeless individuals have worked within the past year but don’t have access or the means to tax help.

Professor Wayne Tanna of the business school has been working with the V.I.T.A. program for 29 years and has helped a few thousand people and trained a few hundred. His influence as a professor has brought the program to Chaminade for the past 20 years. Incorporating the need of the community through class instruction has made it possible for students to receive the hands-on learning along with the lecture.

“Students learn technical skills and interview skills,” Tanna said. “They learn that working with working with the poor and homeless is no different; they learn empathy.”

The students that are volunteers in the V.I.T.A. program are all in the Accounting 306 Tax Concepts class. To ensure that the students have the adequate education to handle the tasks of filing taxes for others, they undergo the certification process through the IRS They must complete and pass the seven exams to receive the IRS certification. After they have finished the exams, students volunteer their time during the evenings and weekends for a series of training activities.

“It is a great learning experience to work with Professor Tanna, he has a lot of knowledge that I learn from,” said senior Erick Paul, one of the volunteers with the V.I.T.A. program.

Justin Tuiasosopo is a senior participating in the program for the first time and believes people should try to volunteer in the community for the greater good. He also participated in the Free Application for Federal Aid in conjunction with Kaimuki High School. Tuiasosopo has helped approximately 10 people since he started volunteering this spring.

“Giving back makes me feel like I’m part of something important,” he said.

The students volunteer at 15 homeless shelters around Oahu. Some of the locations they serve on the island include: Manoa, Molilihili, Waianae, Kapolei and the women’s prison at Dillingham. With the move of most of the homeless individuals to the west side of the island, it is hard for Chaminade students and Tanna to reach everyone due to the lack of transportation. But each spring, each student helps on average 20 individuals. The numbers of people they assist vary according to the sites they visit. Some of the students work as a group when helping people, but it is not a requirement.

V.I.T.A. is the fourth-largest tax preparer in the United States and it’s free. The program helps each individual receive at least a $100 to $300 on his or her return. Through the V.I.T.A. program, volunteers also help individuals catch up on their taxes, up to three years prior. At the sites that the students visit to help the homeless file their taxes they interview the client they are helping in order to know what specific tax form they would need to use.

If you need help filing your tax return:

• Visit Hawaii Tax Help

• Call 211

Tips for individuals file their taxes:

• Pay your taxes

• Keep good records

• File electronically

• Make sure your employer knows your most current address

• Keep your past returns for up to three years

• Keep track of your taxes because they it helps students file their FAFSA