Rutgers-Camden Law Students Providing Free Tax Assistance

CAMDEN — With tax day right around the corner, Rutgers–Camden law students know that there are many people who need assistance preparing and filing their returns. That’s why they’re available to help.

“Many of the people who seek tax assistance from us come from Camden County — a significant number of them are from the City of Camden — and it’s a great service to them,” says Marco Shawki, a second-year Rutgers–Camden law student from East Brunswick. “We’re able to help people who are unable to do their taxes on their own or can’t pay to have them done.”

Hundreds of low-income New Jersey citizens are receiving free assistance from Rutgers–Camden law students in preparing income tax returns through the student-run Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) project.

The project is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service, which provides comprehensive training for the students so they can deliver this extremely valuable service to residents. The student volunteers are helping clients complete their income tax returns on time and are identifying as many deductions, exemptions, and credits as possible.

“Low-income clients can take advantage of special credits and deductions to earn them a larger refund, which is especially important for those with children or dependents,” says Daniel Mak, a third-year Rutgers–Camden law student from Hillsdale. “The current economic recovery has been difficult for many low-income clients, and I find it rewarding that we can benefit them immediately.”

Shawki says the Rutgers–Camden volunteers sometimes meet with up to 30 people per night.

He and Mak, who are VITA project supervisors, agree that the program has allowed the students to sharpen their interviewing, counseling, and conflict resolution skills.

“Every situation is unique and real client interactions and personalities have made me learn more of these practical skills than any simulated exercise I can do in school,” Mak says.

The Rutgers School of Law–Camden’s VITA program is offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. through April 10.

Each session takes place at the Nilsa I. Cruz-Perez Downtown Branch of the Camden County Library, located on the Rutgers–Camden campus at 300 North Fourth Street, at the intersection of Fifth and Penn sts.

For more information about the VITA program at the Rutgers School of Law–Camden, contact Pam Mertsock-Wolfe at pmertsoc@camden.rutgers.edu or (856) 225-6406.

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