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The tax man cometh: International students at Penn State get help

John Diercks helps Penn State student Hyunkyung Kim, of Korea, with her tax return. Global Connections, with the help of volunteers, assists non-resident internationals in the community to file their tax returns in Penn State’s Boucke Building.
John Diercks helps Penn State student Hyunkyung Kim, of Korea, with her tax return. Global Connections, with the help of volunteers, assists non-resident internationals in the community to file their tax returns in Penn State’s Boucke Building. CDT photo

It only took about 15 minutes for John Diercks to help Arpan Sircar fill out his tax return information Tuesday afternoon at Boucke Building at University Park.

And with an April 15 deadline, tax advisers are urging residents not to procrastinate this tax season.

Diercks, a retired senior research associate at the university, was one of four volunteers who helped nonresident international students and scholars fill out their tax forms.

Global Connections, a Penn State and United Way partner, hosted the annual event. Global Connections is a community organization that supports Penn State students and their families through various programs.

The International Tax Assistance Program began Monday and ends April 15, said Global Connections Executive Director Merrill David.

“Imagine how confusing it is for anyone to fill out the paperwork, let alone an international student who is not familiar with it,” David said. “The program offers help they might not be able to get at another public tax entity.”

David said that during each tax season, the program serves about 3,000 international students from 60 countries.

Sircar, of India, moved to State College in August to attend Penn State for graduate school, studying mechanical engineering. He is responsible for filing tax information to the state and federal governments. Although he doesn’t owe money this year, Sircar said he now knows what to expect during the next tax season.

“I just came here to get some information and saw this seminar that I found helpful,” Sircar said. “They have a lot of programs that are useful, and I just have to mail in my information.”

There are about 7,300 international students at Penn State with most coming from China, said Masume Assaf, director of International Student and Scholar Advising.

Off campus, franchisee and tax preparer Tom Kirsch, of H&R Block, said his three offices in State College and Bellefonte already have handled hundreds of local tax returns. About 15 percent of the tax filings his offices perform happen in April, he added.

“Everyone is in different circumstances, but we’re telling clients to get ready now and to not wait until the last minute,” Kirsch said. “You find that most of those people (who delay) are those who owe.”

Those who are late filing their taxes are charged a penalty. And for those who are late and who owe the government, an additional late payment charge is added to that penalty.

“We just want to make sure people are on time with filing and are here to answer questions,” Kirsch said.

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