UA Students Secure $5.8 Million in Tax Refunds for Alabama Families through SaveFirst
May 14th, 2012 - Filed under: News
University of Alabama students recently worked at free tax preparation sites across the state to prepare more than 3,200 returns for working families to secure $5.8 million in tax refunds and save almost $1 million in commercial tax preparation fees.
The statewide initiative, sponsored by the UA Center for Ethics & Social Responsibility and Impact Alabama, is the largest campus-based volunteer income tax assistance initiative in the country, according to the CESR.
As part of SaveFirst, a nonprofit tax preparation and financial literacy initiative sponsored by CESR and Impact Alabama, 137 UA undergraduate and law students collaborated with 300 additional students from 16 Alabama campuses to assist low-income, working families. In total, SaveFirst students assisted more than 5,100 families who claimed $9.2 million in refunds and saved $1.5 million in commercial preparation fees.
More than 60 students enrolled in a service-learning poverty course, taught by Stephen Black, CESR director, which combined academic coursework with a requirement of service at SaveFirst sites. Enrolled students discussed and reflected on issues such as perceptions and misperceptions of those living in poverty, current policies affecting working families and the intersection of faith and poverty. An additional 30 students participated in an honors accounting service-learning course taught by Lisa McKinney, accounting instructor at UA.
SaveFirst is a collaborative effort among universities and community-based organizations throughout the state. From its first year to its sixth year, SaveFirst has increased the number of community-based partnerships from 20 organizations in two cities to over 200 organizations in 13 cities.
Practices such as payday loan schemes, check-cashing operations and predatory lending often target low-income individuals and can erode their earnings. Individuals who rely on commercial tax preparers to access the Earned Income Tax Credit or other tax credits to which they are entitled may reduce the efficacy of these programs, especially if they use refund anticipation loans, often called “rapid refunds.”
The CESR has found that SaveFirst students play an essential role in providing a better alternative to ensure that low-income families receive their full tax benefits and credits.
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