Students Prepare Tax Returns for Low-Income Residents

When a family of four or more has to get by on less than $41,000 a year, every dollar counts; every opportunity to save money is welcome; and every dollar refunded by the IRS is a blessing. Just ask a dozen or so accounting students at Notre Dame College who have made it their goal to save low-income families and individuals money by preparing their tax returns for free.

From Jan. 24 to April 15, the students are offering their services three days a week to those who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The credit is available to adults without children earning up to $13,660, and families with at least two children who have a household income of as much as $40,964, according to the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition.

Those who qualify can stop by the College’s Regina Hall on Tuesdays (4 to 7 p.m.), Thursdays and Saturdays (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to file their tax returns at no charge. They can schedule their appointment by calling United Way’s 211.

In highly urban areas, it is estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of those eligible for the credit do not claim it. The credit can be as large as $5,751, according to the Cuyahoga EITC Coalition. 

Check out this Fox 8 news story about the EITC program at Notre Dame College.

For the clients, it’s a chance to save money; for the students, it’s an opportunity to use their education to give back to the community.

“What we are doing relates directly to Notre Dame’s mission of making an education affordable to us,” says senior Erin McGrath, the free tax preparation site’s coordinator. “Now we are making it affordable for these families to get their taxes done.”

The students, all of whom have been certified by the Internal Revenue Service, will provide the same kind of professional service clients would expect from any other accountant. Many of them have participated in the program in the past, but this is the first time the students will operate a tax site on campus.

In 2010, NDC students completed the second highest number of tax returns in Cuyahoga’s EITC program, which handles nearly 10,000 returns a year.       

“We could serve anywhere between 12 to 24 families a day,” McGrath says. “Last year, we did about 754 returns. I expect that number to double this year.”

To accomplish this, McGrath has set up a team that includes site coordinators, day managers, those who prepare the returns as well as greeters. “I feel like I’m running a business with 14, 15 employees,” she says.

What’s certain is that the students will have a business-like experience using tax software, communicating with clients and working in a team. The program is a great résumé builder for those who look to include volunteer experience in their field of study or those who want to use the program as an internship. Students have to work 135 hours to fulfill Notre Dame’s three-credit internship requirement.

What’s most important to McGrath, however, is that the students view the program in light of the College’s mission to educate for personal, professional and global responsibility.

“We are providing a service for the most vulnerable in our community,” McGrath says. “Hopefully they will trust in us students and come back next year.”


May 21
4:00 AM
Monday May 21, 4:00am
E.g., 06/21/18
E.g., 06/21/18