Accounting students pitch in to help with tax returns for low-income earners.

For some, preparing their tax return is a simple, albeit not enjoyable, exercise. For other people, help is sorely needed.

This past tax season once again, accounting students from the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU) helped low-income earners complete their tax forms. The students participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a free service established by the Internal Revenue Service in 1980.

In 2011, 35 FIU students completed a total of 231 returns at VITA locations in Sweetwater, Miami, West Miami and Corpus Christi. The students amassed over 700 volunteer hours.

Luis Meurice with Ana M. Raposo, senior tax consultant, IRS and Prisca Barreto, City of Sweetwater commissioner, at the event recognizing the contributions of FIU to the 2011 VITA program.

“Such work is beneficial on a résumé but what’s more important is helping members of the community who need it,” said volunteer Luis Meurice (BACC ’10). “The people were very grateful for the assistance and, of course, happy if they learned they were eligible for a tax refund.”

Meurice said the majority but not all of the people needing assistance were senior citizens. He found it very interesting to learn about their lives.

“I’ll always remember one lady who was a ballerina in Cuba many years ago,” he said. “It was a pleasure to get to know her and the others.”

Under the direction of School of Accounting program advisors Connie Ricardo (MS ’00, BBA ’83), program coordinator, and Tessie Brunken (EMST ’86, BBA ’81), administrative director, the volunteers completed basic and intermediate IRS online training, passed a qualifying exam certifying them to prepare free income taxes for the VITA Program and then attended training programs on three Saturdays in January.

A group of the hard-working VITA volunteers

The communities thank students for their help.

The School of Accounting and members of the communities thanked the students at a recognition ceremony held in mid-May.

Volunteers received t-shirts and certificates of recognition. But the satisfaction of helping those in need was the best reward.

The volunteers received t-shirts at the recognition ceremony.

“To tell you the truth, I wish I had participated in the VITA program earlier,” Meurice said. “The volunteers’ work is so important. Some people even said after watching us, they can do it on their own next year.”

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