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Free tax services at UB bring more than $3.6 million back to WNY

By JACQUELINE GHOSEN and CHARLES ANZALONE

Published May 14, 2015

Two Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs affiliated with UB helped individuals and families in Western New York obtain more than $3.6 million in refunds this tax season.

The service is available to those with annual incomes below $53,000.

More than 200 IRS-certified accounting students from the School of Management brought $1,284,050 back into the Buffalo community through the VITA program.

Another VITA program at UB’s Educational Opportunity Center provided free tax preparation for the second consecutive year and ended the tax season with 1,234 returns prepared and $2,372,418 in both federal and state refunds.

The EOC, located at 555 Ellicott St. on UB’s Downtown Campus, supplied the supervision and resources for the tax preparation services, including a dedicated staff member and use of the new EOC conference center, as well as any other resources needed.

“Without the support of our volunteers who some gave over 100 hours of service to the VITA site, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish this effort,” says Zachary J. Howe, coordinator of business affairs for the EOC.

The EOC is part of the United Way/Buffalo Federation of Neighborhoods VITA network, which has completed 95,400 returns and brought $129 million back in state and federal refunds since its inception in 2007.

At the School of Management, UB’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, the international honors organization for accounting and finance students and professionals, led the initiative that provided more than 2,600 hours of tax service, preparing 1,084 tax returns.

“What’s great about the program is that we get to help the families that need it most,” says Spencer Gates, a senior in the School of Management and president of Beta Alpha Psi.

Nearly $398,000 of the total was a result of the Earned Income Credit, which targets low-income families in need of additional financial support.

“We are quite proud of our students and the impact they make on the community each year with this initiative,” says Dean Arjang A. Assad. “In addition to their class loads and other responsibilities, they’ve been working virtually every weekend since January to make this program the outstanding success it has been.”

This year marked the first time students set up shop on UB’s Downtown Campus in the UB Gateway Building, in addition to their usual North and South campus locations.

Cumulatively, School of Management student volunteers have brought more than $8 million in tax refunds back into the region over the past eight years by preparing more than 6,400 tax returns. Approximately $1.78 million was from the Earned Income Credit.