Congresswoman DeLauro highlights Quinnipiac’s tax assistance program and clinic

February 13, 2024

A woman speaks at a podium next to Congresswoman Rose DeLauro.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro recently highlighted the support Quinnipiac students provide for local community members through the Quinnipiac Community Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program and the Quinnipiac School of Law Low-Income Tax Clinic.

Quinnipiac’s Community VITA program helps connect low-income residents with free and accurate tax filing assistance. The program is run in partnership with the Connecticut Association of Human Services (CAHS) and United Way Worldwide.

The School of Law Low-Income Tax Clinic assists low-income individuals requiring legal help with an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax resolution or dispute. The clinic partners with the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS; as well as the Office of Chief Counsel to help resolve cases in litigation.

On February 12, DeLauro invited School of Law professor Sara Spodick, director of Quinnipiac’s Low-Income Tax Clinic, and accounting professor Matthew Maron, coordinator of Quinnipiac’s Community VITA Program, to join federal, state and local leaders and tax advocates during a press conference at the Town of Hamden’s public library.

DeLauro also invited four Quinnipiac student VITA volunteers to the podium. Bobcats Julia Sicoli ’24, MBA ’25; Ria Rana ’24, MBA ’25; and Brianna Chalupa ’24, MBA ’25, are all 3+1 accounting/MBA program students and returning VITA volunteers.

Rana said her Quinnipiac education has helped her prepare for the real-world experience of assisting tax payers.

“With every course we’ve taken, especially being in a 3+1 student, everything is in line perfectly as prerequisite for what you’re going to learn the next year. It all flows really well with what you’re learning and how you apply it to both your education and in the real world,” said Rana.

Lauren LoParrino ’24, a finance major/accounting minor, will be assisting residents as a VITA volunteer for the first time this year.

“Professor Maron has been preparing us in class for all the skills that we need to be able to help others with their tax returns,” LoParrino said. “I’m really excited about the program because it’s very rewarding to help others; and I’m very grateful for this experience because it’s helping me to prepare for my career.”

All VITA volunteers are certified by the IRS. Senior IRS Tax Consultant Kari McMahon recognized the Quinnipiac VITA program students for the extra effort they provide to serve as volunteers.

“They work very hard to get certified to do this in their free time, on nights and weekends. We thank them very much,” said McMahon.

Hamden Mayor Lauren Garrett also thanked Quinnipiac for taking part in a collaborative effort to provide tax support resources for low-income residents.

“The VITA program is a really great example of the ways that our local government, our partners in Hamden like Quinnipiac University, our state government and our federal government all work together,” said Garrett.

Quinnipiac has been assisting VITA for more than 40 years. Maron has coordinated the student program for the past 10 years. Last year, Quinnipiac students assisted close to 190 Hamden and Greater New Haven-area taxpayers in preparing more than 400 federal and state income tax returns. The students helped generate $165,000 in refunds and saved the taxpayers approximately $62,000 in tax preparation fees.

At least 60 students will volunteer with the Quinnipiac Community VITA program this year, said Maron.

“I look at our Quinnipiac VITA program as a twin benefit. The taxpayers benefit from having their taxes prepared free of charge and the students benefit as they’re interacting with taxpayers and utilizing what they’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting,” said Maron.

Additionally, DeLauro welcomed State Senator Martin Looney, president pro tempore of the Connecticut State Senate, whom she termed “the father” of Connecticut’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), created in 2011.

Currently, the state EITC is 40% of the federal EITC. Helping low-income residents to file both federal and state income taxes, thereby maximizing their EITC return, is one of several essential services provided by VITA volunteers, said Looney.

“It is a windfall that many families need to make ends meet,” Looney said.

Quinnipiac’s School of Law Low-Income Tax Clinic has been in existence for 45 years. The year-round clinic provides free legal representation to low-income taxpayers confronted with federal tax problems. Free representation is also available for state tax problems when they are associated with a federal tax return.

“Once people file a return, if there is an issue, that’s where we assist,” said Spodick.

She said the tax clinic also acts as a “canary in the coal mine.”

“When notices become difficult to read for taxpayers, we’re often some of the first people to see it and help submit reports via systemic advocacy to ensure that taxpayers are able to better access the system and work within the Internal Revenue Service,” Spodick said.

Law students provide pro bono legal aid, a valuable benefit to clients, while also gaining hands-on experience working with the taxpayers to resolve cases, help cases progress to ligation, or receive administrative services.

“What we’ve found is that, generally speaking, if a taxpayer has a controversy or a case with the Internal Revenue Service, it’s usually the end result of a complicated set of circumstances with complicated laws, and it’s our job to help resolve this and provide these services,” said Spodick. “Otherwise, it would be almost unattainable to working families in our area, due to the high cost of legal services.”

Also joining DeLauro in Hamden were Jennifer Heath, president and CEO of the United Way of Greater New Haven; Karen Mayer, TAS Hartford office group manager; Nick Brundage, VITA Program Manager for CAHS, and State Representative Josh Elliot.

Garrett said the town of Hamden is grateful for the assistance available to support low-income residents with vital tax services.

“It’s really important that we’re providing these services and utilizing all of this team,” said Garrett. “Thank you so much to Quinnipiac for being at the table and helping us to provide this service.”

DeLauro also thanked the university for providing important support through programs backed by students who are dedicated to helping others.

“This is a collaborative effort that we are engaged in. We have local, state and federal governments working together on these issues, but it cannot be done without the efforts of the advocacy groups and the volunteers. And it’s just so remarkable to see these young people being engaged and involved,” said DeLauro.

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