Bringing Tax Prep to the Community

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program LogoSchool of Business students bring their expertise and solid work ethic work to the community in a variety of ways: attending annual campus and neighborhood clean-ups, volunteering at soup kitchens and in local schools, raising money to fight AIDS, cancer and heart disease. This spring, one more option will be added to accounting students’ list of volunteer opportunities: tax preparation.

Students enrolled in the MS Taxation program will have the option to prepare taxes for the community through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  The initiative is a pilot service learning course that the accounting department hopes to use as a model to develop similar courses for graduate programs in Professional Accountancy and Forensic Accounting.

The program can be completed for credit, with completion of a minimum of 30 to 35 hours of tax preparation, or on a volunteer basis. Starting in early February, students will staff multiple rooms at Husted Hall on the downtown campus, ready to answer questions and fill in the blanks of 1040s.  VITA certifies the students in advance through online training.

Accounting Chair Ingrid Fisher has done the legwork to ensure success. She has been working with Tom Gebhardt, the university’s liaison to the community, and has attended meetings of the Pine Hills neighborhood association. An IRS agent with over 30 years of experience, adjunct professor Jim Manico, who currently teaches tax and financial accounting, will oversee the elective.

Dr. Fisher’s motivation for creating this program is twofold: to provide students with experience and to get them accustomed to contributing to the community.  She said, “Scores of people out there can’t get a job and our students are being recruited as freshmen. They are a very privileged group. We want them to get in the mindset of giving back.”

The structure of VITA will be considered for use for electives in Fraud Prevention and Deterrence, and Financial Literacy, corresponding with MS programs in Forensic Accounting and Professional Accountancy. They won’t be electives for long. Fisher indicated that these opportunities for community engagement will ultimately be mandatory.