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A tax assist for international classmates

For most college students, the process of filing taxes is an unwelcome—though often not overly elaborate—task to wedge in as spring semester’s assignments are piling up. Yet for international students, the process can be even more complicated. That’s why a group of student volunteers from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business is spending Saturdays this month helping their global classmates file their taxes.

Most American-born college students must fill out the 1040-EZ form, but international students use the more complex 1040-NR form, which requires more detailed documentation and other information than the average tax form, according to Michaele Morrow, an assistant professor of accounting. Morrow worked with Beta Alpha Psi—a professional fraternity for financial information students, to assemble and train a team of accounting and business students who are volunteering time on Saturdays this month to work one-on-one with international students seeking tax help.

“It was really great watching these students—a lot of them freshmen or sophomores who may have never before taken a tax class, or even done their own taxes before this year—take on this responsibility and ensure that everything worked out for their classmates,” Morrow said.

Throughout the month of March, the student volunteers will have filed 100 tax returns (both federal and state), completing the forms by hand rather than online. It’s a process, Morrow said, that will pay dividends for these students not only when they take tax courses in the future but also as they begin recognizing the importance of developing relationships with their clients.

“They took this real sense of ownership that, ‘This is my client and I’m going to take care of them,’” Morrow said.

Tarig Khairalla, a second-year business major with a concentration in marketing, is originally from the United Arab Emirates; his family now lives in western New York. He said the volunteer experience was good exposure to tax filing, a topic he hasn’t yet covered in his classes.

“It was great training for the skills I’ll need to perform,” Khairalla said. “The clients aren’t familiar with any of this, so it felt good to help out.”

The tax deadline is just over a month away. Athough the business school’s tax assistance program is already filled up, Morrow noted that online services like TurboTax are a good option for most filers, herself included. She said her best piece of advice is for students to ensure their taxes are being properly withheld throughout the year.

“You’ve got to do some digging to find out exactly what should be withheld, but it’s a lot easier to make a change to your withholding early before you find out down the road that you owe a lot of money,” Morrow said.