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UConn Law Students Help Last-Minute Tax Filers
(Released: 04/06/01)

By Allison Thompson, Office of University Communications

STORRS, Conn. --For the second consecutive year, students from the University of Connecticut School of Law are helping taxpayers struggling with income tax forms and a rapidly approaching filing deadline.

Approximately 20 students are running a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, site in Hartford's federal building at 135 High St. It's the only volunteer tax assistance program housed in the building, says Michael O'Reilly, taxpayer education manager for the IRS.

VITA is an IRS-sponsored volunteer program designed to provide free tax preparation assistance to low- or moderate-income individuals who are unable to prepare their own tax returns or pay for professional assistance. The
program is part of the IRS' mission to provide taxpayers with top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities.

For the next two Saturdays, student volunteers will staff the site from 8:30 a.m. until noon. On Thursday, they will be at the site from 1 to 5 p.m. The site is one of only two volunteer locations in Hartford with the ability to file returns electronically, O'Reilly says.

When taxpayers go to the federal building in search of help with their tax forms, they can go to the IRS's walk-in office or UConn's VITA site, O'Reilly says.

"It's very convenient for the Hartford taxpaying population," says Diana Leyden, assistant clinical professor of law and volunteer faculty coordinator of the site.

Since the site opened in February, the volunteers have helped about 200 taxpayers, says Bill Kambas, a second-year law student and co-coordinator of the site.

"People are very happy for our assistance," Kambas says. "We take the time to explain their tax liability and try to get them all of the credits, deductions and exemptions they deserve."

Taxpayers might appreciate the fact that the students aren't associated with the federal government, Leyden notes.

"Some people, for various reasons, seem to be more comfortable listening to advice from a knowledgeable student who doesn't work for the same agency that might be reviewing their return," she says.

Leyden hopes the site will familiarize the general public with the law school's tax clinic. Opened in July 1999, the clinic provides low-income taxpayers with free legal representation in federal and state tax matters.

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