Taxing for the greater good
New Life team charges $10 to do tax returns, then donates it to nonprofits
Reading through income tax forms and trying to figure out what one owes can be mind boggling.
Most people rely on a tax service, letting the professionals work through the process to determine if they owe the federal, state and local governments money or if they are getting a refund.
Although it is less stressful than the do-it-yourself method, using a tax service can be costly.
But what if you could get your taxes done for a donation and help your community at the same time?
The New Life Worship Center Tax Team in Altoona offers to do just that. The tax team has been in operation for 10 years and has completed more than 2,400 tax returns, resulting in $3.1 million in refunds for individuals and businesses.
It does not do tax returns for corporations.
The tax team will provide its services for as little as a $10 donation, but most people give more. All of the donations are given to nonprofit organizations.
“I keep zero funds for myself,” said Scott Seifer, who began the tax service and heads up the team.
Last year, $19,000 was given by 760 taxpayers to local nonprofit organizations, he said. The goal for this year is $30,000.
“It’s growing every year,” Seifer said. “This is great. People get their taxes done and help the community out.”
Started in 1990s
A budget analyst at Van Zandt VA Medical Center, Seifer started assisting people with tax returns in the early 1990s while serving with the finance department of the U.S. Air Force.
Stationed at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, Seifer said he decided to earn extra money for his family by working for H&R Block during tax time. He also did taxes for airmen on the base through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
When he was stationed with the Air Force near Caribou, Maine, in the 2000s, he ran a VITA program there.
After he retired from the Air Force, Seifer, who is a native of Tyrone, returned to the Altoona area, where was also a VITA volunteer at Blair Senior Services for a time.
He sees the New Life Worship Center Tax Team service as a way of giving back to the community.
“Lives are changed,” he said. “It is more than taxes for us.”
He said he has met with people who
didn’t know how they were going to get their taxes done because they could not afford to pay a preparer, and in a few cases they failed to file for multiple years because they did not know how and could not afford a service.
In those situations, Seifer said he helps the individuals work out a payment plan with the IRS.
“I let them know that they have to make it right,” Seifer said. “It’s tax evasion.”
When he can, Seifer said he gives advice to taxpayers, such as recommending they contribute to a 401K plan. He also will do amendments if a taxpayer later discovers that some of his or her information was missing at the time of filing.
Taxpayers can submit their information to Seifer at a designated meeting place or make an appointment (Saturdays only) at New Life Worship Center, 600 Ritts Road.
All of the paperwork is handled by Seifer, who scans the information and assigns it to a member of the team through a secure TaxSlayer Professional Tax Preparation program.
The team member completes the necessary forms and sends them back to Seifer. He then reviews each of the returns before e-filing them.
Several families who have used the service say the team has been able to find deductions they were unaware that they could take.
Pammi Neff of Tyrone said Seifer alerted her and her husband, Gary, to deductions they could take when their son was in college and for home renovations involving energy-efficient measures.
Neff said she learned about the service by appealing to her Facebook friends during her search for a tax professional about five or six years ago. She said their previous tax preparer forgot to enter information more than once, which resulted in the Neffs having to owe taxes and paying penalties to the IRS.
For her, the best part of New Life’s tax service is that payment is based on a donation and they are able to contribute to a group helping people overcome drug and alcohol issues.
Wanda Snyder of Duncansville called The New Worship Center Tax Team a true ministry.
“It’s not just a place where people get their taxes done,” she said, adding that taxpayers contribute what they can afford. “Those who can give more, give more. It’s a great thing for the community.”
Snyder said she and her husband, Jim, have used the tax service for about three years, with Jim first learning about it through a co-worker at Small Tube Products.
She admits being a little skeptical at first but, now is confident in Seifer’s work.
“I highly recommend the service. We have been very happy. I haven’t heard anything negative about it,” Snyder said. “We are very appreciative of him doing this. He is willing to give up his time during tax season to be a blessing to the community.”
Tammy Lundgren of Altoona said the service, “helps people not just get their taxes done, but helps them increase their tax refund and get their taxes done right.”
Lundgren said she and her husband, Tom, have known Seifer for years.
“He is a stellar guy. He has integrity and lots of compassion for people,” she said. “It’s easy to trust this ministry and the people in it.”
Among the members of the tax team is Charlene Yoho of Port Matilda.
Now in her second year as a volunteer, she said Seifer takes time to train team members one-on-one to make sure everybody understands their responsibilities.
But even with training, questions can arise. Yoho said she reaches out to another team member if she has a minor question.
If a situation warrants contacting Seifer, she usually alerts him.
Seifer, who is married, admits that he spends most of his free time from the end of January through mid-April working on people’s tax returns.
He said he often works until late at night, but stops when he becomes tired to avoid making mistakes. Because he is so occupied with forms and numbers during the tax season, his wife, Ruth, will often take the opportunity to visit their adult daughters in Mechanicsburg.
Although it is early in the tax season, Seifer said he is already receiving requests for the service. He said he had few responses the first years of providing the service, but it has grown in the past two years.
“I don’t know how big it is going to get,” he said. “I pray to the Lord to give me strength. I have to believe everything will work out all right and it always does.
“It’s in my blood,” Seifer added. “I love to do them.”