Central offers students free tax filing help

Felicia Kopperdahl, Staff Reporter


It’s tax season once again and Central is offering a free tax preparation program for students.

The tax help is located at Shaw Smeyser Building-RM 217 on February 5 through April 12; students can call for an appointment at 509-963-3340.

Marv Bouillon, chair of the accounting department, said the program was started several years ago. The program was absent for a while when Beta Alpha Psi advisor, Margaret Smith took over the last two years as site coordinator.

“This year Margaret couldn’t do it, so I stepped in, and I have Josie [Wright] as my [graduate] assistant and she has been very willing to be a site coordinator,” Bouillon said.

Wright, accounting graduate student, is involved for two reasons: she is the graduate assistant for the accounting department and the president of Beta Alpha Psi (accounting and finance honor society), which is the club that is cosponsoring the program.

“During this quarter, this has kind of been my project. So, I’m pretty much running the program and Marv, since he has the license, kind of oversees all that,” Wright said.

This free tax preparation is not only for students, but for the community as well.

“We are for low-income and the elderly,” Wright said.

Bouillon said it has been tough trying to get the information out and trying to find the right avenues.

“The information has been getting out a lot better this year than the last couple of years,” Bouillon said. “The general public more than likely notices us more than students.”

The program has about 25 people who have gone through certification at the advanced level. There are a few students who were involved in the program last year who have returned to help out this year.

Johnathan Chavez, accounting graduate student, is one of the returning students.

“I was a student that wanted to get involved and get experience in the field that I am going into, along with giving back to the community that I have been a part of while going to school here,” Chavez said.

A lot of the advertised tax preparation help that is seen around Ellensburg is H&R Block and TurboTax. H&R Block charges people to help them complete their taxes. TurboTax is computer software with allows users to do their own taxes by filling in the blanks, but isn’t always accurate.

“I’ve actually had people come in that have done TurboTax and have done H&R Block and there have been different numbers for their refund, and we have found the right number for them,” Wright said.

The tax preparers in Central’s program have extensive training throughout the month of January. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided all the necessary training materials. An IRS representative also meets with the site coordinators weekly to answer any questions or concerns.

Rose Mary Salter, H&R Block tax specialist, said full-time students who pay tuition out-of-pocket and are not a dependent of their parents can get more money back on top of their tax return.

“There is a refund for the education credit for up to $1,000, but it’s income based and a lot of students don’t have the income to support that level for the refund,” Salter said.

There are situations, however, where students don’t need to file their taxes.

There are some tax returns that this program is not allowed to touch due to guidelines from the IRS.

Wright finds this free tax preparation to be beneficial to everyone.

Currently, the program has finished about 50 individuals’ tax returns.

“If we do 150 tax returns, that will be pretty good because that means we did twice what we did last year,” Bouillon said.

Chavez said helping the students and the community understand how to do their taxes makes what he does a little more rewarding.

“I think the more people that take advantage of it, the more likely we are going to continue to do this service in the future,” Bouillon said. “I would like to see more students stop by and have us work on their tax return.”