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Tufts Volunteers Help Ease Tax Woes

Tufts Volunteers Help Ease Tax WoesAstax season approaches its feverish conclusion, some of Somerville'slow-income families are breathing easier thanks to the hard workof a dozen Tufts students.Medford/Somerville,Mass.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [04.15.05] Tax season is a stressful time for anyone, but forthose most in need, it can be much more difficult. Thanks to theefforts of a group of Tufts volunteers, some Somerville residentsare getting their taxes filed for free – and reaping additionalsavings in the process.

"I'veenjoyed it because it's something you can do for someone thatis actually tangible," Lisa Fishlin – a 2004 Tuftsgraduate with a double major in child development and environmentalstudies who coordinates the Somerville branch of National StudentPartnerships (NSP) in conjunction with AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteersin Service to America) – told the Somerville Journal.

Besides filingreturns for free, the staff also provides information about localbanks and effective budgeting, providing literature that Fishlincalls a "financial literacy packet."

The grouphas also used its time with tax clients to promote the NSP's otherservices, which include counseling on employment, public services,health care, affordable housing and more. "It's been a greatway to do outreach," says Fishlin.

Twelve outof the 28 Tufts students who volunteer at the NSP's Somervilleoffices are providing the tax services. All but one are undergraduates,coming from academic programs as diverse as engineering, childdevelopment and classics.

In preparationfor their task, the student volunteers took an intensive trainingcourse offered by the Internal Revenue Service on filing tax returns.

Jen Bokoff,a Tufts freshman, says that she and her fellow volunteers maynot be CPAs, but they are knowledgeable and provide a qualityservice.

"We putout good returns," Bokoff told the Journal.

With a fewdays left before April 15, the group had filed free returns for70 individuals. By the time the tax deadline passes, they expectto have completed 80-90 returns.

In addition,they have discovered that at least 17 of their clients are eligiblefor the Earned Income Credit tax deduction, netting them morethan $50,000 in refunds, the Journal reported.

In one situation,an immigrant family did not have Social Security numbers for theirthree children and were planning to not claim them on their taxreturn. The volunteers, knowing that the parents would be eligiblefor a larger refund if they claimed their children as dependents,helped them obtain Social Security numbers for their children.

"Theparents were very excited," said Fishlin. "Their refundwas increased substantially."

















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