Program developed by Robert Morris University professor provides free tax help to military families
Marcel Minutolo was stunned to learn no volunteers were certified to assist members of the military or military veterans during tax season last year. So the management professor at Robert Morris University decided to change that.
Minutolo, himself a veteran, and a crew of students and community volunteers used a grant from the Money in Your Pocket Coalition to train and become certified to provide free tax help this year to military families. They will help low-income people as the April 15 filing deadline approaches.
The tax service they offer in a computer lab at the university's Moon campus filled a void for members of the Air National Guard at the 171st Air Refueling Wing. Guard members and veterans from the base relied on paralegals at the base for tax assistance until transfers and resignations left the office understaffed.
“This was definitely a welcoming service, and I personally can't be thankful enough to them for volunteering to serve our members,” said Staff Sgt. Mary Wargo.
Wargo said some Guard members and veterans initially were skeptical about the service. But as word spread about how quickly the volunteers completed tax returns, double-checking each one, Wargo said more people began to tap them for help.
Jessica Heimbrook, 24, a senior at Robert Morris working toward a master's degree in taxation, juggles six courses but eagerly agreed to do taxes at the center.
“I just love the experience that it gives me. But the thing that struck me the most was how appreciative people were that they didn't have to pay and could have it done for free,” she said.
Kimberly Morris, an Imperial mother of two who works two jobs, isn't in the military but was thrilled to learn she qualified for the service.
“In the past, I have paid as much as $120 for basic tax prep,” she said. “This was a huge savings for me, and it was close and convenient.”
Minutolo said one of his tax clients told him that another preparer touting “free” service actually wanted $111 to prepare a return on $10,000 in income.
“That's huge,” he said.
The specially trained volunteers scan for benefits unique to military members. For example, one client qualified for earned income and child tax credits because the income he earned while deployed was tax-free.
“He laughed when I told him he didn't have to take it,” Minutolo said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Improperly tapped gas line a possibility in NYC blast
- Region’s Goodwill spends $51.6M in 2014, report says
- Jury acquits man accused of 2005 murder in Braddock
- Pa. woman charged with forging docs to claim she was an attorney
- Police say ‘person of interest’ in Andre Gray shooting has not been charged
- Judge dismisses group’s lawsuit against Neville Island coke plant
- Lawrence County father, son charged with running illegal video gambling machines
- Washington County school superintendent charged with DUI gets probation
- North Fayette company changes defendants in Antonio Brown endorsement lawsuit
- Edgeworth man pleads guilty in bank fraud conspiracy
- Roberto Clemente Bridge closes for construction of bike lanes