Buffalo State Tax assistance program discontinued

For many students, this will be the first year they file taxes without assistance.

Eric Bomysoad/The Record

For many students, this will be the first year they file taxes without assistance.

The free tax assistance program previously hosted by SUNY Buffalo State’s Continuing Professional Studies Office has been cancelled, leaving students to deal with the possibly confusing paperwork on their own, some for the first time.

“We don’t have enough resources to do it, not enough volunteers or staff members,” Margaret A. Shaw-Burnett said, the associate vice president of the Continuing Professional Studies office. The office has lost staff in the past few years, making some current employees work 18-hour days, and cannot afford to pay any more overtime than it already has.

The program had positive reviews from former participants.

“It took 45 minutes, some guy asked me a few questions, ran through my W-2s and printed me out a receipt,” said Matt Biehl, a Buffalo resident who graduated from the college’s media production program in 2012. “I’d highly recommend it.”

“I have trouble with paperwork,” said Ariel Peters, a public administration graduate student from Buffalo. “I gave them all my info in 2010, sat there, and some young people did it for me. It was awesome.”

Everyone who has worked at all should file taxes, said Kenmore-based H&R Block tax professional Michelle Lobuzzetta.

Two popular exemptions are available for students.

First, the American Opportunity Credit is available to whoever is claiming the exemption as a dependent on up to four tax returns.

If a student claims himself or herself as a dependent they receive the credit, but if the student is claimed as a dependent by their parents, the parents receive the credit.

After claiming the American Opportunity Credit on four tax returns students are then eligible for the Lifetime Learning Credit, aimed at non-traditional students and graduate students.

“First job, first car, first semester in college are all about growing up, and now a lot of those kids are going to be filing their tax returns this year,” said Lisa Patterson, head of media relations for H&R Block. “More than five million taxpayers will file their taxes for the first time this year and many will not have a clue where to start.”

Also for the first time many students over the age of 26 will have to start worrying about healthcare.

Non-traditional students over the age of 26 should realize that if they do not have health insurance this year then next year there will be a penalty on their tax return.

“There’s a lot of confusion about the new health care law and we’re just trying to start warning people that if they don’t act now and get health insurance next year they are going to severely pay for it on their taxes,” Lobuzzetta said.

Many college students incorrectly fill out their W-4s when they begin a new job and end up paying New York State a lot of money every tax season.

“We recommend students meet with a tax professional to figure out exactly how much to take out of their weekly paycheck,” Lobuzzetta said. “If they don’t get enough taken out they end up paying New York State a lot of their federal refund every spring.”

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