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April 24, 2019
This tax season the University of Kentucky College of Law continued one of its signature pro bono efforts – the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.  Law student volunteers along with accounting students and an alumna provided free assistance with Tax preparations and filings to mostly low-income individuals with simple returns, as well as foreign students and scholars.

This year a total of 31 volunteers prepared and filed 425 tax returns, saving clients more than $65,000 In preparation fees.  Clients received $460,751 in federal refunds and $45,174 in state refunds.  The tax clinic was open February 19 through April 15.

The UK Law VITA site is one of seven in Central Kentucky operating with the help of United Way of the Bluegrass.  Douglas Michael, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Dorothy Salmon Professor of Law at UK College of Law, leads the VITA clinic with the help of Jennifer Bird-Pollan, Robert G. Lawson Professor Law and Chair of the University Senate Council at UK.

“Students get a real clinical experience,” said Assistant Dean Michael. “ They are trained in law and regulations and must use that knowledge and their interviewing and problem-solving skills to help actual taxpayers with problems with real costs and consequences.”

The United Way of the Bluegrass provides training, administrative and financial support of this program. Gatton College of Business and Economics and the Lexington Public Library have helped with equipment and space for VITA Program labs, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) created the program and provided software, training and advice. “It is heartening to see so many come together in public service,” said Dean Michael.

All student volunteers must complete a series of in-class or online trainings and, afterwards, pass multiple IRS tests to receive certification. It’s a great opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom in practical scenarios.

“I believe it is necessary to demonstrate to students that public service is important,” said Dean Michael. “It is also great fun to see the students enjoy their involvement in helping others.”

UK Law student and alumni volunteers for 2018 tax year preparation included: UK Law students Abbey Aldredge, Summer Bablitz, Barrett Block, Alex Callahan, Lauren Cobo, John Evans, Tristan Finn, Alex Henning, Jared Hudson, Aaron Johnson, Noah Lewis, Maddie Loeffler, Michael McCain, Mia Morales, Cameron Myers, Nick Nash, Foster Peebles, Melanie Ramsey, Chai Safeek, Tommy Staffieri, Dalton Stanley, Scott Sullivan, Mitchell Talaki, Clay Thornton, and Seth Woods.  Ten of the 25 UK Law students were returning volunteers from last year’s program.  Accounting students Cora Alles and Tony Del Grosso volunteered their services as did UK Law alumna Cate Poole (’12).  Additional volunteers included Rick Fern, a retired CPA and accounting professor, and Stephanie Barnett, an accounting alumna from the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics.