Dr. Debra Johnson, College of Business, 657-1606
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269
February 16, 2009
MSU Billings students lend accounting expertise during tax time
MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — Bob Schultz is a popular guy these days.
It’s not that Schultz is a movie star nor does he hold answers to any of life’s big questions about the federal stimulus package or winners in the upcoming Academy Awards.
Right now, the Montana State University Billings student has something that many residents of Billings really need these days: expertise.
Schultz, a senior accounting major from Cody, Wyo., will be working weekends and some evenings over the next several weeks with fellow students to help citizens prepare their taxes.
The students do the work free of charge for low-income and elderly residents, said Dr. Debra Johnson, assistant professor of accounting in the MSU Billings College of Business. As part of the college’s commitment to service learning, students earn credit for the work and can improve their client-relation skills and their tax-preparation skills, she said.
MSU Billings students have been assisting the needy with tax preparation for the past 25 years, Johnson said.
Students are helping staff the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) in Billings and Roundup this year. They are:
- Harvest Church, Monday nights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Other hours may be available by appointment by calling the church office). Supported by Tax Help Montana.
- Parmly Billings Library, Saturdays from 1-4 p.m., (on the third floor). Supported by Tax Help Montana and the United Way.
- District 7 HRDC, 7 North 31st St., by appointment, sponsored by United Way, American Society of Women Accountants and District 7 HRDC. Call 247-4732.
- South Central Montana Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) office in Roundup, 315 1/2 Main St., every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment. Supported by AARP and South Central Montana RSVP. Call 323-1403.
All the sites are supported by MSU Billings students as well as representatives from the Internal Revenue Service and the Montana Department of Revenue. Anyone who wishes to use the services are urged to bring Social Security cards, proper identification, any W-2 or 1099 statements and other pertinent paperwork. Internet access and printers are onsite so once the tax work is finished, the paperwork can be filed and printed out for people.
This year’s program has been up and running for about a week and students will be at those locations until tax filing deadline on April 15.
Even though it is early in the tax-filing season, the volunteers have already been plenty busy.
Hands grasping a variety of receipts, W-2s and other important documents, about a dozen people were sitting patiently outside a meeting room at Harvest Church last Monday night. A brisk game of pickup basketball was taking place downstairs, but things were more serious upstairs.
Inside the meeting room, Schultz was working through the steps of a tax return for a woman and her child. In a matter of several minutes, the work was done and preparation was made for the next person.
The time spent with individuals depends on the complexity of the tax return, Schultz said. But regardless of the complexity, each person gets undivided attention. And for students, it’s a unique experience.
“From a student’s perspective this is a good thing,” said Schultz. “It’s good to have interaction people and help them through a stressful process.”
For more information on the VITA program through MSU Billings, contact Dr. Debra Johnson at 657-1606.