Inevitably, the onset of a new year brings with it the cumbersome duty of tax filing. Fortunately for the citizens of Steubenville, Franciscan University students are here to ease the difficulty of the process.
Since Feb. 25, university accounting students have been on site at the Fort Steuben Mall, in order to assist anyone and everyone with the often tedious process of filing tax sheets for various ends. Although unavailable from March 11 to March 19 as a result of the university spring break, students are otherwise available five days a week (excluding Fridays and Sundays) for the sole purpose of assisting Steubenville citizens with tax forms of all types.
Senior accounting major Julia Hall, one of the roughly 10 students contributing on behalf of the university for the free tax service, described the community involvement as a blessing. “It’s really awesome to be able to reach out to the community like this,” Hall said.
Fellowship between students and local members of the community is a constant byproduct of these interactions. “The people are really great,” said Hall. “Getting to know everyone in this community has been amazing; they’re all really nice.”
The time that students log at Fort Steuben Mall will count toward their senior theses. For completion of the assignment, students must take a specific tax-centric class, as well as participate in the hands-on help at the mall.
However, Hall described the event as an opportunity, not an obligation.
“Everyone has been great,” Hall said of those who frequent their location in the center court of the Fort Steuben Mall. “We actually look forward to going.”
The tax assistance service is organized and orchestrated by professor Albert Macre, CPA, who holds his master’s in accounting from Miami University.
“(Macre) got involved through the IRS,” said Hall of her professor’s participation in the tax outreach program. “He offers it as an opportunity to students with a tax class.”
The mastermind behind the program in its entirety, Macre has organized these efforts for the past 29 years. Often, he drops by the site during its regular hours in order to visit with old friends. “Professor Macre knows them all, which is super interesting” said Hall of the Steubenville citizens. “He talks to them about their kids. They’re really easy to talk to and to get to know.”
The students can together accommodate as many as six people during a designated time slot, and can spend as much time as necessary with each person to solve “whatever tax challenges they have,” said Hall.
Nevertheless, the fellowship achieved between students and citizens bridges the gap between society and academia, and eliminates what Hall called false understandings on the part of citizens regarding the “students on the hill.”
Said Hall, “Some of them went to Franciscan, so we’re able to ask them about that. It makes them more relatable. They talk about how the campus used to be, and how they sent their kids here, talk about the professors, and how their kids did, what they’re doing now, what they experienced.”
The program will run on its normal schedule until tax season concludes, after April 15. “People are super welcoming and sweet, and thanking us for all of our time. It’s great to see that they appreciate it,” said Hall, emphasizing the fact that each day she spends at the mall assisting individuals with taxes is a day well spent.
Those who wish to frequent the location in the Fort Steuben Mall are encouraged to call ahead for availability. “Sometimes people get frustrated when we can’t fit them all in,” said Hall, of the more difficult tasks necessitated by the position. “Turning people away is rough.”
Together with Macre, accounting students are succeeding in turning the Steubenville community into an opportunity for evangelization through the solution to common tax problems. “It’s been great to see the community come out and talk to us,” Hall said.
All in all, those students who dedicated themselves to alleviating the tax dilemmas of Steubenville citizens, seem blessed to walk away from the experience with a smile and a new friendship.