by Jerry Stamos

Mount Saint Mary College (MSMC) students are helping low to middle income workers and senior citizens by providing free tax preparation throughout Newburgh.

Through a joint effort between the Hudson Valley CASH Coalition, the AARP Foundation, and the United Way of Dutchess and Orange County, volunteers are able to obtain certifications through the IRS to aid and prepare individual tax returns for those who meet the programs qualifications.

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the largest free volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service in the nation, according to AARP.

Over the last four years, more MSMC students have become certified through the program and are volunteering at several “tax prep” sites across Newburgh, the Newburgh Library being one of the main sites that MSMC students are volunteering this year.

“They are a big help,” said Nicholas Tulve, the library’s local tax coordinator. “They know their stuff, are energetic and keep us sharper.”

Tulve has been involved with the program for four years and has been in charge of the Newburgh Library site for three years. He is happy to see the increased student interest in the program and said the students have helped out greatly this tax season.

“I enjoy having the students,” Tulve said. “They are capable of going right to work with little guidance and oversight.”

Katherine Moray, Sam Watson, Rebecca Jacobini, Emily Backer, and Trevor Pungello are just a few of the students volunteering this year.

Not only do students get real world tax experience, but students also get the opportunity to help people in the local community. “It’s rewarding because I’m getting real good experience,” said Amanda Pecorella, one of several students volunteering this year. “It feels good to help the needy.”

Pecorella is an accounting student in her first year volunteering. After hearing about the program from several students, Pecorella decided to attend free training sessions and to obtain an advanced certification. All tax preparers are required to have an advanced certification to prepare and file tax returns.

So far, the tax prep site at the library has completed 191 returns, answered questions for 35 people, and filed nonresident returns for Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Another site MSMC students have been volunteering at is the Newburgh Ministry on Johnson Street.

Pungello is pursuing his master’s degree at MSMC and will graduate this year. He is a student volunteer who works at the library and the Ministry and has completed more than 40 returns. Pungello is in his second year in the program and said he’s gained quality experience. He hopes the experience he’s gained through the program will land him a job after graduation.

A closer look at the tax programs available at the Newburgh Free Library. (Video courtesy of The Poughkeepsie Journal)