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
This apartment at LGC 11 Hillside Cres is on the market in Hamilton, one of the inner north suburbs to see strong growth in 2017.BRISBANE’S inner-north housing market is expected to continue its strong performance in 2018 after all suburbs in the area recorded median-house-price growth in 2017.REMAX Integrity principal Nerina Sportelli said all levels of the house market, from entry-level through to prestigious, were performing well: “As in 2017, houses will keep increasing steadily in 2018 while apartments may still struggle a bit.“(The inner north) has always been a preferred residential area because of the proximity to the city, a good selection of state and private schools, reliable services and great lifestyle such as proximity to river walks, parks and shopping centres.”According to the latest data from property research company CoreLogic, Teneriffe was the top-performing suburb in the City North News catchment, with the median house prices shooting up 32.6 per cent in the year to September to sit at $2.585 million.More from newsFor under $10m you can buy a luxurious home with a two-lane bowling alley5 Apr 2017Military and railway history come together on bush block24 Apr 2019Windsor came in second, with the median house price up 13.2 per cent to $855,000, followed by Bowen Hills, up 12.3 per cent to $865,000.Ms Sportelli said while she would like to see more first-home buyers entering the house market in the area, it was unlikely to happen due to increasing prices.“In the more exclusive inner-city suburbs we are more likely to see families that are upgrading or upsizing as the entry level is not within the budget of most first-home buyers,” she said.“By the time a suburb has been identified as a ‘hot suburb’ it probably is already too late to be entering the suburb at a reasonable entry level.“It is best to pick a suburb that is ‘affordable and within our budget’ that is as close to the city and services as possible,” Ms Sportelli added.
BMW has transformed its ‘i’ division into a development centre for self-driving cars, a board member told Reuters, a major strategic shift for the unit previously focused on making a family of lightweight electric vehicles.ALSO READ:BMW M celebrates 30th anniversary with ’30 Jahre’ limited editionWhile Tesla’s Model 3 will hit showrooms in 2017, and as rivals Porsche and Audi are working on all-electric cars for release by 2019, the German carmaker appears to have put such cars on the back burner. Its next fully-electric car is not due until 2021.The company has changed tack after its only fully battery-powered car, the i3, failed to gain traction with the public, with only 25,000 sales last year. By contrast, Tesla has already received more than 370,000 orders for its Model 3.Now, rather than seeking to match the likes of Tesla and Porsche with a new zero-emissions sports limousine for release within the next two years, its main focus will be on developing an electric car with the next generation of technology: autonomous driving.ALSO READ:BMW Motorrad to officially enter India in OctoberIn an interview at the company’s headquarters in Munich, BMW board member Klaus Froehlich, who is in charge of development, said he had re-launched the i division in April as a unit devoted to producing cars that drive themselves.”It is now in ramp-up stage. We call it Project i Next.”The revamp also follows at least four high-profile staff defections from the division this year. Dirk Abendroth, manager of BMW’s “i” powertrain group, Henrik Wenders, vice president product management BMW “i”, and Carsten Breitfeld, vice president engineering, head of the i8 vehicle program, were poached by a Chinese electric vehicle start-up.advertisementALSO READ: BMW launches 3 Series petrol variant; priced at Rs 36.9 lakhAs part of its autonomous driving push, BMW is hiring experts in machine learning and artificial intelligence. It is also integrating the functions of existing computer driven assistance systems like cruise control, emergency braking, lane-keeping support and automatic parking.