Every Hoo Has a Story: A Taxing Hobby

April 23, 2024 By Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu Mike Mather, mike.mather@virginia.edu

As far as college hobbies go, Manish Dahal has an unusual one.

“I file taxes for fun,” he said.

Not just his taxes, but strangers’ taxes. 

A few years ago, Dahal, a student in the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, started volunteering for an initiative called CASH, or Creating Assets, Savings and Hope. It’s run through Madison House, an independent nonprofit organization that links UVA students with volunteer opportunities in Charlottesville. 

By the beginning of his fourth year at UVA, Dahal was directing the entire program that prepares, without charge, tax returns for people earning less than $64,000 annually.

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Under Dahal’s leadership this spring, UVA student volunteers filed 1,500 returns and brought $3 million in refunds back to the community.

“Telling them they are going to get a few thousand dollars back, that is the most rewarding experience I have ever had at UVA,” he said. “I love it.”

His drive to serve others comes from remembering when he and his family, new to this community and country, needed help.

Dahal told us his story on the Lawn recently, just 30 days before Final Exercises. This time of year, UVA Today often publishes profiles on graduating students suggested to us by their deans, professors or advisers. But this series, “Every Hoo Has a Story,” is a little different. We simply placed two chairs in the shadow of the Rotunda and randomly roped fourth-year Hoos into sharing their UVA journeys.

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The CASH project, Madison House’s largest volunteer effort, isn’t an easy gig. On top of a rigorous school schedule, Dahal and his colleagues recruit 200 Wahoos in the fall and train them to file taxes. In the winter, they get the needed certifications. And in the spring, they meet with more than a thousand local workers and families, including some who travel from Richmond. 

It is a lot of work, Dahal conceded. But the rewards are priceless.

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications