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VITA program gearing up for 2010

October 30, 2009

The Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program recently hosted the 2009 Financial Education Summit, sponsored by the Asset Building Coalition of Southeast Louisiana.

Each spring, the Loyola University New Orleans College of Law offers free tax preparation help to hundreds of low-to-moderate-income clients through the VITA program. The Internal Revenue Service-designed program is offered from January through April each year, with sessions staffed by volunteers three days per week.

The summit, employing the ‘Train the Trainer’ concept was an opportunity for all VITA partners servicing the low to moderate taxpayer in greater New Orleans and its surrounding areas to learn about important financial topics and programs to offer and discuss with their clients and to train other workers and volunteers.

Presenters at the summit included representatives from the Internal Revenue Service, United Way, State of Louisiana Department of Revenue, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and ASI Credit Union.

Attendees included volunteers and staff from Loyola’s VITA and members of the Coalition. Coalition members include Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, the Internal Revenue Service, Total Community Action, Catholic Charities, United Way, VIET, St. Roch Church, Hispanic Apostolate and Dillard University among others.

Topics included predatory lending, credit counseling, budgeting, changes in federal and state tax laws, savings programs and the benefits of participating in mainstream financial institutions such as credit unions. During Loyola’s VITA program in 2010, plans include having an area set aside for the financial education portion of the program while clients are waiting their turn for tax preparation.

Loyola College of Law student and VITA volunteer, Tracy Tran, who attended the summit, came away with new and important information that will be beneficial in her work next spring.

“I learned that change can happen. It is important that we teach our clients about asset building and financial planning. We should show them that it is possible to build savings, slowly but surely and to think before spending,” says Tran.

“A tax refund is not free money, it is money that they’ve worked hard for and earned, and it should be spent wisely.”

Loyola’s VITA Program also received a recognition award from the American Bar Association Law Student Division during their annual meeting in Chicago in July.

Each year, the ABA LSD recognizes the achievements of individual law students, law school organizations and law schools on a national level through the division’s annual awards program. The LSD accepts applications for awards in several categories including volunteer income tax assistance programs.

Loyola’s application for the award this year highlighted their accomplishments including the formation of a tax law society at Loyola as a key component of the VITA program, the increasing number of tax returns prepared over the last few years culminating in the program’s highest output in 2009 and VITA’s first formal outreach to St. Bernard parish, which was hard hit by Hurricane Katrina.

In 2009, 46 students at Loyola’s VITA site helped file returns under the direction of College of Law Associate Professor William Neilson and Budget Director and VITA Site Coordinator Andy Piacun. The prepared tax returns produced more than $110,000 in earned income tax credit for taxpayers and $488,000 in total refunds.

In 2010, plans include expanding the reach of Loyola’s VITA program by offering assistance in New Orleans East with the assistance of Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation.

For more information on the VITA program, contact Piacun at 504-861-5668 or apiacun@loyno.edu.

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Loyola at a Glance is written and distributed for the faculty, staff, students and friends of Loyola University New Orleans. It is published by the Office of Public Affairs, Greenville Hall, Box 909, 7214 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70118. (504) 861-5888.

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