Students lend a hand on taxing paperwork

By Susannah Marlowe

With the stress building up over the end of the semester and approaching finals, many students would rather not be reminded that taxes are due in less than a month. But unlike those final papers and projects, it’s okay to get a little help from another student on tax returns.

Nine UK law students are offering a helping hand to lighten the stress of taxes. As part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program through the UK College of Law, the volunteers are helping other students and Central Kentucky citizens with the difficult paperwork.

The consultations take place Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. in the basement of the Law Building. The program runs from the beginning of March until April 15, when all tax forms must be postmarked.

The program was founded at UK by law professor Douglas Michael in the early 1990s. As a law student he had volunteered to help people with their tax forms, and as a professor he wanted to provide the same volunteer opportunity to other students.

In past tax seasons, about 20 students have volunteered to serve an average of 500 people. This year, however, fewer students have volunteered, so Michael estimates that the program will reach about 300 people.

“A large number of the people we help are foreign grad students,” said Jason Sauer, a third-year law student.

Working with non-residents can be a difficult task for the students, and Michael provides a special training course to prepare the volunteers for the tax forms involved, which he said are often more complicated.

Though the volunteer program is open to students of all majors, the majority of the volunteers come from the law school.

Filing for taxes is not something law students are typically trained to do, and the student volunteers do not receive any credit hours for their time volunteering.

“The compensation that they (students) get is that they’re a hero to these people. It’s a lot of work for nothing except the satisfaction of a job well done,” Michael said

Sauer has volunteered in all three of his years at UK law school. This year he is volunteering twice a week in three-hour shifts and estimated that he assists six to 10 people with tax forms each week.

“It’s surprisingly fun,” he said.

To volunteer, students take online training courses through the Internal Revenue Service and supplementary courses taught by Michael at UK. They must pass three IRS-administered tests to be certified, and the certification must be renewed every year.

Undergraduate and graduate students of all areas of study can participate.

“I could use twice as many volunteers,” Michael said. “The training doesn’t assume you know anything.”

Training sessions usually begin in January for student volunteers, and the program ends in mid-April.

For more information on volunteering or help with tax forms, visit the Web site ( or contact Michael at [email protected]