Campus Life

UWF students prepare tax returns for local taxpayers

By Josh Newby, University Communications

Students at the University of West Florida (UWF) helped more than 90 taxpayers file federal tax returns for 2010 at no cost. Eight students, part of a financial and accounting service learning program, in partnership with the United Way of Escambia County and the Internal Revenue Service, gained valuable experience while helping low- to moderate-income taxpayers file their returns.

The program provides a 25-hour comprehensive IRS-approved training course that teaches students the basics of filing tax returns, as well as more complex lessons in tax credits and ever-changing tax law. During their 65 hours preparing taxes, the students transfer that classroom knowledge to the real world.

Taylor Swindle, a senior in finance at UWF, has been with the United Way program for two years and helped jumpstart the current university program. He served as one of two site coordinators this year.

“I started the UWF Finance Organization, and I wanted to find an outlet for community involvement,” said Swindle. “I found the United Way’s efforts to be perfect because it not only provides training in the classroom, but in the real world, too.”

The United Way program also has volunteers at Pensacola State College and the Department of Children & Families in Pensacola. This is the first year the program came to UWF.

“Overall, the program has assisted roughly 1,100 taxpayers obtain about $1.6 million in refunds,” said Kris Thoma, the representative for the United Way of Escambia County. “The UWF students were a huge part of growing the program this year and hopefully the university will be able to offer the program again next year.”

Michael Studler, another student in the program, reported that he would feel more comfortable going to his fellow classmates for tax preparation help than anyone else.

“Some of the big tax-preparation companies out there only require a five- or six-hour class before they let them do your taxes,” said Studler. “Our class is a lot more comprehensive because it teaches the reasons behind tax law, as opposed to just teaching you how to work a tax-preparation computer program.”

As he welcomed another student into the room and began inputting W-2 information into the computer, Swindle spoke on his education at UWF, “It’s definitely prepared me for this and for a future in accounting and finance.”