Honor students at Granby High School in Norfolk, Va., are helping area residents prepare and electronically file federal and state tax returns.
Under a pilot program of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), eight Granby students have been trained to be volunteer tax preparers. The pilot is part of the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA/TCE) program, which provides free tax help to communities across the country.
The Granby office is the first in its area to be staffed entirely with high school students and is also the only one to be dedicated exclusively to filing returns electronically.
The Granby students typically deal with people who earn less than $20,000 annually and who are filing returns using 1040EZ, 1040A, or 1040 forms–normally the least likely forms to cause major headaches when being prepared.
“It gets [the students] comfortable with taxes,” said local IRS tax education specialist Patsy Carroll. “It’s a part of life.”
Local IRS officials last September approached Granby business teacher Michael Lynch to see if she was interested in training students to be volunteers. Lynch has been teaching basic tax preparation to high school students for several years. She solicited the all-honor student crew from the school’s International Baccalaureate program and advanced accounting classes.
After several hours of training, the students completed a mock return online. Once Lynch and accounting teacher Janet Yankes were satisfied the students had mastered the material and the computer program, the Granby Tax Center was officially open for business.
The students file tax returns every Tuesday between 3 and 6 p.m. in the school’s career center. They will continue to do so until April 13.
So far, about three dozen residents have taken advantage of the free service.
Phyllis Robertson, a part-time cashier and student, heard about the service and figured she could get good, friendly tax help from the students. She first met Lynch and Yankes, who determined that Robertson qualified for the service.
Robertson then sat down at a computer terminal with student volunteer Chawanta Williams, who guided her through CNET’s TurboTax online filing program.
The company donated the program to help moderate and low-income taxpayers.