Ins and outs of taxes could

John Adams

Third-year law student David Fuller is working an unpaid internship through a clinical Law School class. With a wife and two kids, tuition expenses and no income, tax season can be one of the few profitable times of the year for him.
Through the tax rebate programs of the federal and state government, the Fullers receive about a $2,000 rebate.
There are other rebates for students who know where to look.
The Fullers are eligible for one rebate through the Working Family Credit program from the state, and another through the Earned Income Credit from the federal government. But, unlike many students, the Fullers are not eligible for a renters’ rebate because they live in University housing.
Only students who rent off-campus housing and are not listed as dependents on their parents’ tax form can file for a renters’ tax rebate, about 3.8 percent of their rent paid in 1998.
Donna Bailey, head of the Families that Work Program in the College of Human Ecology, oversees the University’s outreach program, which notifies low-income families about the tax rebates available to them. The outreach program extends to 80 of 87 counties in Minnesota, Bailey said.
Another University program helping students secure tax benefits is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
For each of the last five years the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program has drawn crowds into the business reference area of Wilson Library. That is where University students can get tax assistance from “the tax guy,” Gary Carter, and his class.
Carter is the director of Graduate Tax Studies in the Carlson School of Management and, along with eight to 10 students from his graduate class, he helps University students file their tax returns. Last year Carter and his students helped file about 900 tax returns. And it’s impossible to estimate how many more students visited his World Wide Web site for advice: www.thetaxguy.com.
Carter estimated about 98 percent of the students seeking tax aid are international students, largely due to the difficulty in filing nonresident returns. Carter has been leading the program since its inception five years ago.
“We get more people in here every year,” Carter said. He said the program helps his students, too. “They get to find out what the real tax world is like.”
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is available to all University students and is open Tuesday nights beginning Feb. 2, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the basement of Wilson Library. Other VITA sites in the metro area can be found by calling 651-297-3724.