For those whose every day is a financial struggle, Tax Day can be especially daunting. Affording accounting services may not be feasible at all and some commercial preparers prey on filers with low-to-moderate incomes.
Through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project, students at Rutgers Law School in Camden are working to address this issue for hundreds of New Jersey residents this tax season by preparing and filing tax returns, including costs that relate to new Affordable Care Act claims, at no charge. Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service, the project provides volunteers with comprehensive training to deliver this highly valuable service, which is now underway at Rutgers University–Camden and available through April 8.
The Rutgers Law project is in its second year of partnership with the Campaign for Working Families (CWF), a Philadelphia-based non-profit agency specializing in free financial literacy and tax preparation services. The CWF provides expert training and supervision to student volunteers.
Rutgers Law volunteers help clients complete their income tax returns on time, or early, and work to identify as many deductions, exemptions, and credits as possible. According to Jill Friedman, associate dean for pro bono and public interest programs at Rutgers Law School, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) bring critical refunds back to Camden families living in poverty.
“Recent studies show that the EITC and CTC promote child health and nutrition; result in better educational outcomes for kids whose families receive them; and nationally have lowered the child poverty rate by fully 6.3 percentage points,” notes Friedman. “In 2016, our pro bono volunteers helped recover over $450,000 for nearly 350 New Jersey families.”
The project also provides law students with ample opportunities to sharpen their interviewing, counseling, and conflict resolution skills.
The Rutgers Law School’s VITA project will be offered at the Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez branch of Camden County Library on the Rutgers–Camden campus on Wednesdays (from 4 to 7 p.m.), Fridays (from 1 to 5 p.m.), and Saturdays (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). The site operates on a first-come/first-served basis and offers in-person and drop-off services.
Additional information is posted at camden.rutgers.edu/pdf/TaxPrep.pdf.
For more information about the VITA program at the Rutgers Law School in Camden, contact Director for Pro Bono and Public Interest Programs Pam Mertsock-Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 856-225-6406.