News & Events
Moritz VITA Volunteers Changing Lives for Low-Income Taxpayers
Moritz VITA partners with OSU African American and African Studies Community Extension Center
February 20, 2007
Moritz College of Law students have partnered with the OSU African American and African Studies Community Extension Center (OSU AAAS) to provide free tax preparation services for low-income Central Ohioans. This is the first year for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at the site, which was chosen by the Columbus City Council because of its accessibility for the residents of the Near East side of Columbus.
The program, which began January 19, provides tax preparation services on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. On average, Moritz students prepare 24 tax returns each week. The program is in high demand and all available appointment times are filled.
The site is managed and operated by Moritz students. All of the volunteers received detailed training in tax law and computer tax preparation software. VITA gives Moritz students the opportunity to prepare federal, state, and school district income taxes for people with incomes less than $39,000. Students apply concepts they learn in business, financial, and tax law classes to the fact patterns of real clients. The site provides its services free of charge, saving many taxpayers more than $200 in preparation fees.
After only five sessions, more than $60,000 in refunds were claimed for taxpayers. The average refund was $2,565, but some refunds have been as high as $6,400. These tax refunds often amount to 25 percent or more of a low-income taxpayer's total income for the year. One grateful taxpayer told volunteers she planned to use her tax refund to purchase a car. By bus, her commute to work averaged two hours; with a car, her commute would be decreased to thirty minutes.
Many of the taxpayers who come to the site qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Because the EITC is a very complex credit, many taxpayers who are eligible for it do not claim it. Statistics show that 20% of the taxpayers in Franklin County who were eligible to claim it did not, losing out on thousands of dollars of refunds.
Taxpayers aren't the only visitors to the OSU AAAS VITA site. Politicians and local media outlets have also taken notice. Richard Cordray, the Treasurer of the State of Ohio, visited the site during its second week of operation and spoke with volunteers on how their services help the community, stressing that EITC refunds stimulate the local economy. The local CBS affiliate recently visited the site to feature the Moritz students' work during a live evening broadcast.