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ND program offers tax assistance

Amanda Shropshire | Monday, February 12, 2007

This time of year is stressful for wage-earners across the country as they scramble to file their tax returns by April 15 – but with the help of the Notre Dame Tax Assistant Program (TAP), life for members of the greater South Bend community is just a little bit easier.

For nearly 40 years, the TAP volunteer corps – made up of students, faculty, staff and Certified Public Accountants – has been committed to helping local taxpayers who are eligible for assistance, file their returns on time.

Before they can offer their services, volunteers must prove their knowledge of U.S. tax law by completing a two-credit pass/fail course. The four-week course is open to both Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, allowing them to gain academic credit as well as valuable experience in accountancy and community service.

“It just feels so good when you give someone a $5,000 refund, because that money means so much to them,” said Stefanie Broderick, a senior accounting major at Saint Mary’s who has been a TAP volunteer for two years.

Matt Adams, chair of the TAP student administrator group, said one of TAP’s primary goals is to help families with significant financial need.

“One of the main benefits we provide is calculation of the Earned Income Credit [EIC], which is a special credit for low income individuals,” Adams said. “With the EIC, a family with two children and around $10,000 in yearly income can receive up to a $4,000 refund on their tax return, meaning we can provide a family with up to 40 percent of its yearly earnings.”

TAP is funded by the Mendoza College of Business, making it possible for the program to file over 1,000 tax returns each year at no cost to the taxpayer.

According to TAP’s Web site, the program serves the needs of both domestic and international taxpayers who are eligible and equipped with the appropriate forms.

Domestic clients must have made less than $35,000 in the past year to be eligible for the service. All international faculty members, researchers, students and visiting scholars are able to receive assistance.

Taxpayers seeking assistance must bring copies of their federal and state tax returns from the past year and other relevant documents such as medical bills, personal property taxes, real estate taxes and charity donations to one of the 10 locations where TAP services are offered six days a week. The largest of these include the South Bend and Mishawaka public libraries, Adams said.

This year, as the program volunteers prepare for a busy season, Adams said their goals are measured not in numbers, but in quality.

“We try to make ourselves available to the community in as many ways as possible,” he said.