SUNY Cortland students continue to make tax season easier by preparing free returns for qualifying community members. Their volunteer work is approaching record levels in 2016 while saving local residents tens of thousands of dollars in tax preparation fees.
This year, 23 business economics majors are doubling as IRS-certified tax preparers with Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Cortland County. Joined by two other community volunteers, they offer free services four times each week for individuals who fall into two categories: those who made $54,000 or less in taxable income last year or those who qualify for earned income credit.
“This is a win-win,” said Raimona Rowe, the local site coordinator for the VITA program. “It’s a good way for students to interact with community members who they might never interact with otherwise.”
To date, volunteers have prepared approximately 550 tax returns — roughly 200 more than at the same time last year. Similar services through a private company could cost between $200 to $300, Rowe estimated. That means collective savings of at least $100,000 for local residents.
Rowe credited the jump in tax returns to a successful grassroots effort that posted flyers at 85 locations across Cortland County. That marketing push was led by community member Jim Kruser and SUNY Cortland business economics major Michael Juresich.
“It’s a great example of what can be done when the community and students work together,” said Rowe, noting that volunteers hope to prepare 700 to 800 tax returns by season’s end.
Throughout the rest of tax season — which concludes Monday, April 18 — VITA preparers will be at the following locations:
To schedule an appointment, people can call 1-877-211-8667 or simply dial 211. Visit cortlandfreetaxes.org for a full calendar and more information.