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Frostburg Students, Faculty Volunteer to Help Taxpayers for the Past 25 Years
04/15/2015

Frostburg Students, Faculty Volunteer to Help Taxpayers for the Past 25 Years
FSU accounting majors Jessica Moser of Woodbine, left, and Emily Mills of Frederick, prepare tax returns for residents participating in the free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. FSU has been part of the Internal Revenue Service program since 1989.

When the tax man cometh, Frostburg State University accounting students are here each year to help the community file tax returns.

FSU faculty and students have been a staple of the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program since 1989, providing free assistance to area residents who are filing their federal and state taxes.

Students helped prepare more than 100 tax forms and volunteers assisted dozens more with general inquiries.

Associate Professor of Accounting Connie Groer led the way for FSU to become a VITA site in 1989 with students first preparing taxes in 1990. This year marks the 25th tax season of VITA at FSU.

“It benefits the community but mostly I did it for the students to get experience,” Groer said. “Just do a couple returns and you’ll see almost every W-2 is different. You can read about these things in class but to actually do them is quite different. And it’s a lot more fun.”

Students and staff are trained and approved as volunteers by the IRS each year. Residents set up appointments and show up on Saturdays between Feb. 1 and April 15 while students work on the forms during the week, said Dr. Joyce Middleton, associate professor of accounting.

“Most of our folks have been here year after year,” Middleton said. “They start bringing in their families, their neighbors and friends.”

FSU accounting majors Jessica Moser of Woodbine and Emily Mills of Frederick are two of the seven students who prepared taxes for residents this year. This is their second year preparing returns as part of ACCT 425 Tax Practicum.

The hands-on experience helped both Moser and Mills with course work and preparing for a career.

“It gave us an insight of what we would be doing during the tax class. It lets you apply what you’re learning,” said Moser, who graduated from Glenelg High School in Howard County, Md. “It’s beneficial because it’s actual experience you can say you have when you go out in the real world and apply for a job.”

Moser and Mills are using that experience as interns at Hohing & Lewis CPA firm in Cumberland this semester, too.

Showing off a certification helps, too, Mills added.

“You’re actually VITA certified, and that’s something people can’t really take away from you,” said Mills, a graduate of Tuscarora High School in Frederick County, Md.

As Mills and Moser found out, there are always changes each year for taxes. They learned new software this year, switching from TaxAct to TaxWise, and saw how the Affordable Care Act affects tax returns.

Of course, being accounting majors means plenty of questions this time of year from family and friends. Moser is a resident assistant in Edgewood Commons where she distributed a brochure she created to help fellow students with basic tax information. That still doesn’t save Moser from some tricky questions from her father back in Woodbine.

“My dad’s asking me, ‘What if I sell my house, what would I do?’ I don’t know that yet; I haven’t gotten that in-depth with it yet,” Moser said, laughing.

Most of the taxpayers who come in are low-income residents, while others may have a fear of doing their own taxes or struggle with math, Middleton said. The VITA program has a strict scope of the type of the tax returns volunteers can help prepare, limited to those who file the 1040 EZ, 1040A and basic 1040 forms. That eliminates most people who own small businesses, are landlords or have complex investments.

Middleton and Groer interview residents to make sure they are eligible for the help, meeting face to face with many of them. It touches the volunteers, hearing the stories from residents and seeing how they’re able to get by.

“They’re hardworking people," Groer said.

FSU’s Department of Accounting is part of the College of Business, which is accredited by AASCB International, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. For more information about the department, call 301-687-4297 or visit www.frostburg.edu/dept/acct/.

Situated in the mountains of Allegany County, Frostburg State University is one of the 12 institutions of the University System of Maryland. FSU is a comprehensive, residential regional university and serves as an educational and cultural center for Western Maryland. For more information, visit www.frostburg.edu or facebook.com/frostburgstateuniversity. Follow FSU on Twitter @frostburgstate.

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For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu