The Department of Philosophy at Western Michigan University participates in the Internal Revenue Service's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Since 2014, we have collaborated with the Alaska Business Development Center (ABDC) to provide services to rural Alaskans, many of whom live in isolated villages with no road access. Preparers have come both from our Department and from the Haworth College of Business. Funding has come from the federal government, ABDC, the Department and the College of Business.
Because most rural Alaskans receive tax refunds, this program has the effect of putting approximately $10 million/year back into those communities, a substantial economic driver. Approximately 10 colleges and universities participate in the program annually, visiting almost 80 rural villages, and servicing over 8,000 taxpayers. Our participation began after our faculty sponsor, Dr. Fritz Allhoff, graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and went on to serve as a judicial clerk for the Alaska Supreme Court. Following his return to WMU, Dr. Allhoff has returned annually, as well as coordinated the recruitment and training of our tax preparers.
Villages we have served thus far include:
- King Cove (2015);
- Bethel, Goodnews Bay, Kwigillingok, Kongiganak, and Platinum (2016);
- Alakanuk, Brevig Mission, Chevak, Elim, and Nunam Iqua (2017);
- Bethel, Kaltag, Koyuku, Napaskiak, and Nulato (2018);
- Arctic Village, Eek, Napakiak, and Fort Yukon (2019);
- Alakanuk, Nunam Iqua, and Quinhagak (2020); and
- Anchorage (2021, 2022--COVID impacted, villages on quarantine).
Our work has been featured in the local newspaper, local radio, local news, student newspaper (2016, 2018), and Michigan Radio, as well as in press releases by both the University (2016, 2018) and the College of Business. Photo albums are available for 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 trips. Our 2022 trip was profiled on the Ethics Center Podcast, Life is Better with Ethics (Spotify).
For more information, please contact Dr. Allhoff.