This spring, Goshen accounting students will prepare tax return forms for free for low-income residents in Elkhart county.

The nine students in Professor Michelle Horning's tax class are all required to participate in the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Through this nation-wide program, they have gone through IRS training, passed an exam and learned how to use the IRS software. Horning has been incorporating this project into her tax class for the past 10 years.

The Tax Assistance program targets people with low incomes who wouldn't normally be able to afford paid preparers. These people usually qualify for a number of benefits that are difficult to calculate and that they would likely miss out on if they did their own tax returns.

Students with low incomes can receive assistance as well, though they must be residents of Indiana. There is no income qualification for community members to receive these free services, but Horning said, “Most of the people we see have incomes below the poverty line.”

This program doesn't just benefit the community members who are receiving assistance, however.

In return for their help, Horning said, “Students get to apply what they are learning in class to a real situation, sitting down with a real person and preparing their tax return.”

The budding accountants in Horning's class will reinforce their own knowledge by explaining tax law to community members.

Students will also learn what it means to serve the community through business.

“Successful business people are servant leaders,” said Horning. “A successful business person demonstrates servant leadership by putting the interest of others ahead of their own.”

Students will offer tax assistance every Monday morning from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. in Newcomer 12 until April 4. To arrange an appointment, community members can call Linda Rouch at (574) 535-7450.