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Annual tax assistance program aids international students


Did you know that all international students who were in the U.S. during the last year must file and submit their taxes – even if they received no income?

Filing taxes is not an easy task for most of us. And for international students navigating the complex U.S. tax system, it can be even more difficult.

That is where Beta Alpha Psi, the accounting fraternity at the College of Business, can help international students.

For more than 10 years, volunteers of Beta Alpha Psi have helped international students by assisting them in filing their taxes through the Volunteer International Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

"A lot of international students have no idea what is a W-2, let alone the different set of filing laws that apply to them," explains Jennifer Bagwell, VITA program coordinator for the last four years. "Last year alone, the Beta Alpha Psi volunteers helped 220 international students prepare their Federal and State of Ohio individual tax forms."

Each year, approximately 20 to 40 Beta Alpha Psi volunteers undergo intensive training to comply with international student tax filing laws. They must then pass a 60-question test from the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) before they can advise any student.

"We make sure our Beta Alpha Psi volunteers take what they've learned through classes and training, then apply it firsthand," says Bagwell. "They are well-informed and knowledgeable to ensure that international students receive right information."

Still, there's another round of scrutiny. After VITA volunteers help the international students prepare their Federal and State of Ohio tax forms, student reviewers and/or faculty members will review the returns to ensure accuracy. International students are then required to mail in their returns themselves, preferably through certified mail.

"If international students have a job, from dining services to graduate assistant, they need to make sure they are filing their taxes," urges Bagwell, "We try to raise awareness about this as much as possible through flyers in dorms, Baker Center, and the International Student office."

International students seeking aid through the VITA program must sign up for an appointment beforehand at International Student and Faculty Services, located at 15 Park Place. The dates for the 2012 VITA program are: March 30, April 6, 13, and 14, respectively. International students can visit the ISFS office to receive more information about the VITA program.