LHU senior Megan Youells assists with filing an income tax return.
LOCK HAVEN, Pa. - Every Monday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. – 12 noon, the Mill Hall Fire Company hums with activity as student volunteers from Lock Haven University assist the elderly in completing their tax forms at the Mill Hall Fire Company. The group of students, under the faculty supervision of assistant professor William Lloyd, is now nearing the end of the tax season. These students are all completing internships with the Tax Counseling for Elderly program.Lock Haven University is a member of the Pennsylvania State
System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the largest provider of higher education in
the commonwealth. Its 14 universities offer more than 250 degree and certificate
programs in more than 120 areas of study. Nearly 405,000 system alumni live and
work in Pennsylvania.
During their winter break the students spent a week of intensive class training learning about tax preparation, followed by two weeks of computer training. They did this so they could gain real-world experience in completing tax returns. The intensive training has paid off. “I really have gained a great amount of real world tax experience,” said LHU student Matt Martz.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program is a program sanctioned by AARP and run in cooperation with the IRS. “The IRS supplies the program materials and instruction,” stated Virginia Crosby, who is a certified volunteer and the district coordinator for Centre and Clinton counties. Crosby, who was the Director of Office of Aging for Lycoming and Clinton counties, got involved with the program when she retired in 1988, and she has been involved ever since then. Crosby stated, “All the volunteers do it because they are able to help others do things they cannot do for themselves.”
Ten years ago Nancy Galgoci, who was then an associate professor of accounting at LHU, began volunteering for the program. She brought the idea back to the students in her classroom, and they were excited. Golgoci stated, “That led to the beginning of the internship program in Spring 2003. Since then LHU has always had several students volunteer their time to work filing the tax returns.” She added, “In 2003 all returns were done by hand. In 2007 they started using computer software to file the returns.” Golgoci has since retired but continues to volunteer her time to train students and as a tax counselor.
Golgoci and Crosby agreed that the program meets a need in the county. “I think it’s been a very successful program and good outreach into the community,” stated Crosby. “Students are trained in how to handle all aspects of filing tax returns, including, death of a spouse, property tax rent rebate, and amended returns. In addition, they learn how to deal confidentially with people and how to work with senior citizens.”
The students are required to complete the training and pass all three parts of the test to become tax counselors. They are expected to perform as all other tax counselors. “We are sort of history making in the western PA region in qualifying our interns as tax counselors,” said Crosby.
Lloyd, who took over the program when Galgoci retired, emphasized that it’s quite a rigorous program. “It’s a competitive program for the accounting students,” said Lloyd. “I consider their performance in class, their GPA, work ethic, personality, and how they work with others. I also consider how well they work in a high-pressure environment.” “There are currently six students doing internships this semester. This is the largest group of students that we’ve had yet,” he added.
Krystal Agostinelli, an LHU student doing the accounting internship said, “It has been a great learning experience for myself. It has shown me that I want to pursue the tax side of accounting and that it is a lot of work as well.”
Lloyd pointed out the benefits for the students, “The internship enhances their tax knowledge. The students gain practical experience with taxation and with clients. It helps build their resumes so much.” He continued, “I work with a CPA firm to help recruit students for their internship program. When they see this tax experience on a student’s resume, they think highly of it.”
For Megan Youells, senior accounting major, the experience has been amazing. She said, “A class can only teach so much. You need to go out and get experience to learn what it’s like.”
She enjoys the interaction with the elderly and has learned that she is interested in going into public accounting even though she knows the hours will be much longer. Crosby summed it up, “It’s all about the value of doing for others.”
The program is geared to taxpayers with low-and middle-income, with special attention to those age 60 and older. The program runs through April 7.