Accounting majors from Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame are helping members of the South Bend community this tax season—for free.In 1972, a new accountancy professor interested in helping people claim their earned income tax credit founded the Tax Assistance Program (TAP). That professor, Ken Milani, now mentors undergraduate students 42 years later as they continue assisting members of the South Bend community.John Cergnul, a former student of Milani’s and TAP volunteer in 1975 and 1976, is now an assistant professor of accounting at Saint Mary’s College. The Notre Dame alumnus said he advises his students to participate in the program for various reasons.Junior Taylor Etzell said the experience with real tax returns takes students far beyond the classroom.“The classroom can give you basic scenarios of what you may encounter when preparing someone’s tax return but the Tax Assistance Program is far superior,” Etzell said. “We are looking at real employees’ W-2s and 1099s and have to pull the correct numbers from the forms and place them where they belong on the federal and state tax returns. It’s all so real life and so exciting.”Cergnul said the earned income tax credit is comparable to a negative tax.“So when you file your tax return you’re getting a refund, you’re just getting your own money back, right? A negative tax is the government giving you money,” Cergnul said.Acquiring the credit is a difficult process, Cergnul said. This is where the student volunteers come in.“The problem is that it’s very complicated just to see who qualifies and then to make the calculations as to how much the credit is and how much you’re entitled to,” Cergnul said. “That was the genesis of the program and it remains so today.”The tax assistance the program offers is completely free for participants, Cergnul said.“We’re doing tax returns for people and we don’t charge them,” he said. “That’s the best part of the program. The second best part of the program is what the students learn.”STEPH WULZ | The Observer Cergnul said the practical application makes the lessons in accounting classrooms tangible and the weight of responsibility becomes more real.“The third big benefit from this is the students’ poise and confidence. They’re sitting across the table from real people with real dollars, real taxes,” Cergnul said. “In class it’s hypothetical. Take a look at Problem 35, oh heck I got it wrong.”Etzell said the professors running the program have given her both confidence and the necessary skills.“My professors — Cergnul, in particular — have instilled in me a confidence that must be used when preparing a return,” Etzell said. “Milani has taught me how to look at the correct information and extract meaning from simple interview questions we direct toward the taxpayers. Because of his direction, I know what exactly I’m looking for and how I am going to go about finding that information.”Cergnul said students are invariably anxious when they start out, but gain confidence over time.“By the end of the filing season, they’ve grown in poise and their ability to communicate with other people — professional communication — is enhanced,” Cergnul said.This poise ultimately helps students as they interview for jobs, he said.“I mean they’ve actually sat across the table with a real client and did a real transaction and people who don’t go through this program haven’t done that,” Cergnul said. “Those communication skills translate very well in interviews.”Etzell said the work can be difficult given the sheer number of clients students are required to assist.“Professor Milani, along with Professor Cergnul, have taught me how to be perform under pressure,” she said. “We have lines of people waiting for us to prepare their returns so it is of utmost importance that we move efficiently, yet effectively, through everyone’s paperwork and return forms.”Etzell said as challenging as the work is, it is rewarding to help out members of the local community.“I have been given the necessary tools to perform well in this program, and now my duty is to help the community,” Etzell said. “Detecting when people have earned certain deductions or credits is a task in and of itself, but again, the reward of helping others makes all the work so worth it.“My favorite part is seeing the people come in looking rather flustered and then them leaving a little while later with a sense of relief on their faces.”Junior Grace Harvey said TAP has helped hone her knowledge of tax practices and concepts.“Even though my internship this summer with Grant Thorton is more focused on corporate tax rather than personal income tax, [TAP is] an awesome opportunity,” Harvey said.The two credit hours contribute toward the 150 credit hours required to sit for the CPA exam, Harvey said.Harvey said that participating students will help file tax returns in various locations throughout South Bend with tax filings due April 15.Tags: Ken Milani, TAP, Tax Assistance Program, taxes
Recent actions by the Congress of the United States in proposing legislation aimed at providing regulatory relief for credit unions sends a clear and distinct message to the NCUA Board. Address the issues that that you should or we will do it for you.By putting off discussing and acting on issues like supplemental capital, revised exam scheduling, transparent budget hearings and significant member business lending revisions, the NCUA Board is risking losing their authority as a regulator and insurer to be the decision making body on credit union matters. Failing to address controversial subjects where positions need to be taken and hard decisions made has resulted in the trade associations pursuing their agendas directly with Congress. Not to say that certain issues do not require legislative action, but we have reached a point where Congress is being asked to address and rectify issues that are in the discretion of the NCUA Board.Credit unions need to understand that the last thing they want is to deal with the 535 members of Congress on day to day issues that impact their operations. Opening the door to the belief that they have to go to Capitol Hill every time credit unions feel the NCUA Board is dragging their feet is creating a path that neither credit unions or the Board should want to go down.The NCUA Board by statute is the place to address the issues they are empowered to deal with. That is where credit unions and their trade associations must make the effort to accomplish regulatory changes the Board can readily handle. Dealing with three people, and now two, should be a lot easier than trying to convince 535 individuals.The federal government moves very slow and accomplishes a lot less that they should. In some areas, NCUA is right in line with that dreaded philosophy. There is no reason why credit unions should have to wait months or even years for the Board to openly discuss areas of concern and one way or the other make a decision on a course of action. A prime example is the question of whether or not to allow a cycle of 18 months for examination of well-run credit unions. It is an issue that should be addressed now and resolved now not later.When someone fails to do their job someone else usually step up and in to fill the void and do what needs to be done. The NCUA Board cannot allow that pattern to continue and impact their operations.I don’t know anyone who really wants the Congress to take over the decision making for credit union regulation. That is a slippery slope to go down. Let’s hope the NCUA Board can avoid that direction. 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,Michael Fryzel Michael Fryzel is the former Chairman of the National Credit Union Administration and is now a financial services consultant and government affairs attorney in Chicago. He can be reached at … Details
CEDAR RAPIDS — A Mason City man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on federal firearms charges. 33-year-old Daniel Solano pleaded guilty recently in US District Court in Cedar Rapids to possession of a firearm by a felon. He admitted to possessing seven firearms during May 2017 and committing the felony crime of reckless homicide in Cook County Illinois in July 2007. On May 12, 2017, Solano and others broke into a residence in Thompson and stole seven guns. District Judge C. J. Williams sentenced Solano on Tuesday to 120 months in prison, to be followed by a three-year term of supervised release.
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Education Charlie McConalogue has revealed that more than 1,000 students across Donegal are still waiting for their grant applications to be processed.Figures released to Deputy McConalogue reveal that of the 2,877 students from Donegal who applied for grants this year, less than 1,000 of these had been awarded by the beginning of December, and only a fraction of these students had actually received grants.A further 423 Donegal students have been rejected. The latest figures show that as of the beginning of this month, 1,473 Donegal students were still waiting for their grants to be processed. “It is clear that this crisis has not gone away, despite attempts by the Education Minister Ruairí Quinn to downplay it,” said Deputy McConalogue.“The fact that more than half of all grant applications from Donegal still hadn’t been processed by the beginning of December is extremely worrying. Even of the applications that have been processed, a high proportion of these students haven’t actually received a payment yet.“Despite all Minister Quinn’s promises, the vast majority of students will be waiting well into the New Year for their grants. I have already spoken to a number of students from Donegal who are experiencing enormous difficulties as a result of these unacceptable delays and who are at risk of dropping out of third level altogether. The longer this is allowed to linger, the greater the likelihood that many students simply will not be able to afford to stay in college.“How can Minister Quinn allow this to happen? It seems that all his focus has been on spinning the figures to make this situation look more palatable than it is. But students don’t want to hear talk of processes and systems, they just want to know when they will actually get the money they are entitled to. They also don’t want to hear Minister Quinn’s ‘it’s the students fault’ defence. The tactic of blaming students for the high level of unprocessed and ‘incomplete’ grant applications is a cheap shot. Students from lower income families who are in need of state support to stay in college are not the ones dragging their heels here. “It is the lack of certainty that is causing the most distress for students and their families. It is time for Minister Quinn to stop worrying about his PR, and start being upfront with students about when exactly they will see their grants. I am calling on him to immediately state how many students in Donegal and across the country will actually receive a grant before Christmas.”MORE THAN 1,400 DONEGAL STUDENTS STILL WAITING ON GRANT – TD was last modified: December 14th, 2012 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Tags:400 DONEGAL STUDENTS STILL WAITING ON GRANT – TDMORE THAN 1