Students Help Refugees with Taxes
VITA program partners with International Rescue Committee
UM Master of Accountancy student Sahar Qasem Muthna helps a refugee family file taxes.
Taxes are complicated enough for citizens born and raised in America, so for the refugee community of Missoula, filing taxes can be an overwhelming prospect. The UM Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program partnered with the International Rescue Committee this year to ensure Missoula refugees a smooth introduction to the American tax system.
“Taxes were very hard. I could not do them alone,” says Shewit Hadera, a refugee from Eritrea who described the assistance his family received as a very positive experience. “I am very happy.”
Kate Jennings, senior director of development at the UM College of Business, helped initiate the refugee tax program. She’s a family mentor through the IRC and knew the college’s VITA program could help. VITA is a collaboration between the College of Business and the IRS that offers free tax help to those with low-to-moderate income.
“There was a lack of understanding of how taxes work in the United States,” Jennings says. “Some of the refugees are coming from communities that do not have banks. They’ve never used checks or a debit card, and so the idea of taxes coming out of your paycheck is very abstract.”
The IRC was eager to partner with VITA. The year-old Missoula organization is the only refugee resettlement chapter in Montana. It assists refugees during the resettlement process and provides support for successful beginnings in the United States.
In the past year, more than 100 refugees have come to Missoula through the IRC.