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Shippensburg students offer tax help for needy

February 10, 2008|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Throughout the income tax season, 32 students from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pa., and their teacher, Deborah Hocking, will be offering tax return services to those in need.

Five students volunteered their time Saturday to assist low- to moderate-income individuals and families with their tax returns as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a nationwide nonprofit tax preparation program set up by the Internal Revenue Service. The free service is available to families and individuals with incomes of less than $40,000 per year.

Saturday's program was held at the Coyle Free Library in Chambersburg, Pa.

Katie Smith, a senior at Shippensburg University, said she enjoys doing taxes and is good with numbers.

"I like helping the people and it's great experience for going into the real world," said Smith, an accounting major and plans to go into auditing. "A lot of people don't understand how to do their taxes and we should help. It's stuff we're learning every day in class."

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In order to help people with their tax returns, the students had to take basic and intermediate certification tests through the IRS, Smith said.

All the students involved are upper-level accounting and business students in the John L. Grove College of Business at Shippensburg University. Many of them also take courses with Hocking, an assistant professor of accounting at Shippensburg and the program's director. Hocking also is a certified public accountant.

"All we're trying to do is build a better community," said junior Koleman Dudek, an accounting major. "It's a lot of fun - you get to help people out."

"The real benefit (students) get is experience," Dudek said. "It has gotten me a job offer (and) saved me from doing training."

Doris McDonald of Mercersburg, Pa., came in Saturday for help with her returns. McDonald, 71, was laid off in December 2006 and now relies on Social Security.

"I'd recommend it to people," McDonald said. "I came because a lot of AARP places had long lines. I really can't stand very long (and) they took me right away here."

"It's a good hands-on experience for the students to learn," McDonald said.

Fayetteville, Pa., resident Carlos Caguias praised the work of the students and their teacher.

"This is one of the best services for people who can't afford to have their taxes done," Caguias said. "Tax (laws) change every year and I really appreciate the help."

"(Deborah's) been a great help to me - not only to me, but to my family," said Caguias, who has a wife and three children.

Hocking began offering the VITA program with her students in January 2007. The services are being offered this year until April 15, she said.

"I thought it would be a great thing to get students involved in," said Hocking, who has been teaching at Shippensburg since 2001. "I wanted to infuse some real life in the classroom."

This year's goal is to complete 500 tax returns. Last year, 100 were completed, Dudek said. The group has filed 50 tax returns since Jan. 15, Hocking said.




What to bring

Items to bring when coming to have taxes prepared:

1. Proof of identification

2. Social Security Cards for you, your spouse and dependents and/or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration

3. Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return

4. Current year's tax package if you received one

5. Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers

6. Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099)

7. A copy of last year's Federal and State returns if available

8. Bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit

9. Total paid for day-care provider and the day-care provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security number or the provider's business employer identification number)




Where to go

VITA tax return services are being offering through April 15 at the following locations:

· Shippensburg Area Senior High School Library

201 Eberly Drive

Shippensburg, PA 17257

5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays

· Shippensburg Public Library

73 West King Street

Shippensburg, PA 17257

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

· Coyle Free Library

102 North Main Street

Chambersburg, PA 17201

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays

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