Community Learning

Tax Policy & Community Learning: Students Deliver $3800 Average Return to Families with Children at Trinity VITA Tax Clinic

Alex Tomcho ’19 assists a client with tax returns at the VITA Tax Clinic at Trinfo.Café. Photo by Nick Caito.

This semester, Visiting Lecturer in Political Science Serena Laws has been teaching “Tax Policy and Inequality in Hartford” and piloting a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Trinfo.Café where students have been trained as IRS-certified tax preparers. Despite only being open a few hours twice a week, Professor Serena Laws says the VITA site at Trinfo.Café has already filed over 100 returns.  Serena Laws said,

The average return we’ve been giving is $1,400, and for families with kids the average return has been about $3,800. Our clients have an average yearly income of about $18,000, so this is a huge boon to their income for the year. – Serena Laws, Visiting Lecturer in Political Science, and VITA Site Coordinator

For the academic component of the course, students are learning about the history of tax credits, how it compares to other methods of delivering social benefits, and the tax code in general. Amanda Hausmann ‘21 said,

“I think learning about the credits and then actually getting to see in practice how they contribute to the refund that people are getting and hearing their reactions to it is a lot more valuable than just learning about the history of the credit itself. It’s giving us an understanding of how this really affects people.” – Amanda Hausmann ’21

The pilot tax clinic at Trinfo.Café is one of several Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) locations in Hartford coordinated by the United Way and The Village for Families & Children. The program generally serves people who make less than $55,000 a year, people with disabilities, and offers tax preparation services to Spanish and other language speakers. To accommodate larger numbers of clients, the pilot program has expanded their hours. The last day to file taxes is Monday April 15th and you can schedule an appointment by dialing 2-1-1 or visiting www.211ct.org. The Trinity VITA Tax Clinic is located at Trinfo.Café, 1300 Broad Street, Hartford.