April 17 was a day many Americans circled on their calendars.
And not because they were looking forward to it.
April 17 was tax day.
“Imagine how most people feel about doing their own tax returns,” said Rita Gow, associate professor of accounting. “Now, imagine if you are a student from China, Vietnam, or South Africa and totally unfamiliar with the American tax structure or not familiar with the concept of taxing your income.”
A daunting task to be sure—unless you were one of the nine international students attending Keuka College who, thanks to a collaboration between Gow, the Center for Global Education, and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, didn’t have to sweat April 17.
Using the AARP Tax-Aide, Gow helped prepare and file the students’ returns.
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest free, volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation service. Since 1968, the program has helped nearly 50 million low-to middle-income taxpayers.
Tracee Senti, international student adviser, held a tax workshop for the international students to share general tax information and explain to students the two reasons why they needed to file taxes.
“One reason to file for taxes is if they were employed in 2011,” she said. “The other reason is to report their immigration status to the IRS.”
For Yang Liu, a resident of Bengbu, China, who is pursuing a master’s degree in management with a concentration in international business, filing a tax return was something new, since Chinese citizens do not pay income tax, but instead are taxed on every item they purchase.
Yang traveled to tax preparers in Rochester, Syracuse, and across the Finger Lakes to find someone to help him, but “no one knew how to help me, until I heard about Professor Gow,” he said. “She was the only one who could help me with my taxes. I am getting a refund and I will use it for groceries and other everyday items.”
Yang attended high school in New York City, and returned to China for college after graduation.
“I studied at Jimei University’s Overseas Education College [one of Keuka’s partner schools], and I had planned to finish college in Boston until I heard about the Keuka China Program and Keuka College,” said Yang. “I like the Finger Lakes.”
Like his Chinese counterpart, Stuart Gardner, a resident of Capetown, South Africa, has never had to complete income tax forms before.
“Completing my taxes with Rita Gow made it a lot easier than having to do it by myself, because I had no idea what to do,” said Gardner. “I did get a refund and I am happy about that. I discovered Keuka through Shannon Crowder ’10 [who also hails from South Africa].”
Other students who Gow helped included Hien Pham (Vietnam), Ngoc (Ruby) Nguyen (Vietnam), Sini Ngobese (South Africa), Duong Hoang (Vietnam), Xiongzhou Zhang (China), Phu Duong (Vietnam), and Hoa Tran (Vietnam).