Jim Lyons

Jim Lyons, 22, volunteers his time making what can be a stressful experience for anyone — tax season — less frightening and more productive. Coupling his skill for numbers with his natural ability to put folks at ease, Lyons gives those in need something better than money with their tax returns. He gives them hope.

Age: 22
Hometown: Noblesville, Indiana
Major: Accounting & Management
Career goal: Has already landed a job with a Big Four accounting firm.
Why he volunteers: “We have a responsibility getting an education from Purdue to return back to society what they’ve given us in terms of an education and a great value. We’re a land-grant institution. It’s what we’re supposed to do.”

On being part of something bigger: “I volunteer with Lafayette Urban Ministry through a program they have to do tax preparation for those in need at no charge. They get over $1.5 million in tax returns every year. It’s incredible what they do for people.”

Saving money, squared: “We save people a lot of money. We can help them set up a bank account if they don’t have one so they can get their returns faster electronically. That’s important because otherwise they often get talked into those refund anticipation loans that have high fees. Plus, a paid preparer would charge $100 to $200 or more.”

His favorite tax secret: “The earned income tax credit encourages families to go to work. It’s not a handout because it’s based on income you’ve earned. Everyone should check to see if they’re eligible. The maximum is in the $5,000 range. It’s very sizable.”

How he knows he’s making a difference: “This one woman last year was my best story. She was a single mom who had been abandoned by her husband. She was working hard, just trying to make ends meet. She ended up getting a $7,000 return. She started making lists of what she was going to do with the money — pay off a loan her employer had advanced her for a repair on her mobile home, make other repairs to it, buy a modest gift for each of her kids, pay her electric bill in full. It was heartwarming.”

What’s on his iPod: Deep blushing. “Um, you know, popular stuff. Like they play at the Neon Cactus.”

Alter ego: “I’m the student assistant manager at the Union Rack and Roll. So there’s that.”

Back home again (at Purdue): “I never had that overwhelming feeling that I had to leave Indiana like some of my classmates. Krannert’s a well-ranked program. I came to Purdue with FFA. It was natural to study here.”

By Tanya Brown