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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Western students provide free tax help for fellow students and other low income community members

Free tax assistance from Western students will be available to anyone in Bellingham.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is an IRS-sponsored program to help people file tax returns. The program is geared toward students and lower income community members.

“It’s usually tailored to people that have less than $54,000 in income and need assistance filing their basic tax returns,” Site Coordinator Tyler Piper said. “The people that we have staffed at the site are mostly Western students who have passed IRS basic training and can help electronically file federal tax returns.”

The IRS provides the necessary materials like computers, printers and the training, but volunteers, most of them accounting students, staff the program.

“We take Western students in the accounting department or any volunteers from campus,” accounting professor and former Site Coordinator Ryan Dales said. “They volunteer to spend a few hours every week preparing tax returns for individuals who might need it.”

Two issues the program helps with are filing for dependents and helping students with tax credit.

While most of the focus is on students, tax assistance is available to non-students as well.

The upper income limit is $68,000 and even past that, there’s some wiggle room, Dales said.

“It’s usually tailored to people that have less than $54,000 in income and need assistance filing their basic tax returns.”

Tyler Piper

“That’s what the IRS sponsorship is about. It’s not just students who come in and use it who have a job and are worried about how they can maximize their return,” Piper said. “Anybody in the community who can’t afford to go and pay a couple of hundred dollars for someone to go file a tax return at H&R Block. That’s what it’s for really.”

Piper is coordinating the program as part of his masters of business administration.

“I graduated here in finance,” Piper said. “I’m doing the one year accelerated MBA program. The program offered graduate assistant positions for anybody that was looking, like a research or teaching assistant or like what I’m doing.”

Piper said the Western office is expected to receive more traffic than in previous years due to other tax offices being closed around the county.

Assistance will be available Monday through Wednesday in Parks Hall 336 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 6 to Apr. 17, Piper said.

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