VITA 2013: Another Year of Success!

It’s hard to believe, but another year of VITA – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance – is complete!  After over 1,000 volunteer hours put in by Fisher students at both the Godman Guild and OSU Law Extension Center, 275 income tax returns were filed for residents around Columbus, Ohio.  These returns generated around $425,000 in refunds for these individuals and families, which is an average of about $1,500 per return.  VITA was a fantastic learning experience from both a tax technical skills standpoint, as well as a client relationship-building standpoint.

MAcc student Ly Pham answers a taxpayer’s questions at Godman Guild.

For many student volunteers, VITA is particularly challenging in unexpected ways.  Sure, each student completes training and learns how to navigate the tax software and recognize common tax credits and deductions for our clients.  However, it can often be difficult to explain tax concepts to our clients.  Establishing trust with a client can be difficult in any situation, but it is particularly challenging for some of our clients to put their trust in a 22 or 23-year-old student.  I was happy to see all of our student volunteers express patience and kindness with all taxpayers, making sure their questions were answered and asking site managers for help whenever needed.

MAcc and undergraduate students volunteered over a period of six weeks to assist Columbus residents in preparing their income tax returns.

For those of you who are prospective students or will be starting the MAcc program in August, I highly recommend participating in VITA.  You don’t have to be going into tax after graduation; we had plenty of future auditors and corporate accountants help us out this year.  VITA is simply a great way to get to know your classmates better and spend some time serving the greater Columbus community.

As Tax Season Begins, MAcc Students Serve

It’s finally here!  VITA – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance – has begun!

Each winter for six weeks, Fisher MAcc and select undergraduate students volunteer at Godman Guild and the OSU Law Extension Center in Columbus to provide tax preparation assistance to low-income individuals and families.  After weeks of organizing training and compiling schedules (with much help from other volunteers), we kicked off our first volunteer session on Friday at Godman Guild.

A great group of volunteers for our first week of VITA!

We had several individuals come in and were able to prepare their federal tax returns to be submitted at the end of the month.  These Columbus residents are able to obtain refunds through several different credits including the child tax credit and earned income credit.  What is more important than learning how to complete the tax returns is the time we spend hearing the stories of these people who are really our neighbors.  For many of the people we help, their tax refund will be the largest sum of money received in the year and will help them make it through the winter.  We had a few familiar faces as well – people have been coming to Godman Guild for our assistance since the program began ten years ago.

I’m excited to see how the rest of the tax season goes as we continue to complete returns at Godman Guild and the Law Extension Center.  I’ll be sure to give an update at the end of the season to share how many individuals we were able to help in these six weeks of service!

Real world experience: VITA Day 1

Friday was the first day of VITA (a volunteer income tax program, with which we complete tax forms for those in need). Everything went very well! Though there were only 10 of us volunteering this evening, we have about 70 volunteers overall. Most are MAcc students, but some are undergraduate or law students. We had a fair amount of online training to prepare for this, so it was fun to actually put the training to use and help people!

Working in teams of two, we used supporting documents and information from “clients” (this is done for free) to fill out federal and state tax returns. The online system we use helps to generate the forms pretty easily and determines the amount of money owed or expected to be refunded. It was wonderful to be able to help people with their questions, and everyone was appreciative! We got done early, but none of us volunteers was in a big hurry to leave, as it is always fun to be able to chat with other MAcc students whenever possible! We will be doing VITA through early March, so be on the lookout for other posts about it.

Some of us after completing the first evening of tax returns!


VITA Party (and two giant gorillas find homes)

In the winter quarter, the students at The Ohio State University had the opportunity to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinic. By and large, the majority of the volunteers were accounting students (both undergraduate and graduate) although the law school also operated their own VITA site. I personally had the opportunity to manage one of the sites and it was well worth the commitment. But that’s besides the point; I want to talk about how we celebrated: Dave & Buster’s!

While I had never been to a Dave & Buster’s before, I had been to similar establishments. Depending on where you live, you may be more familiar with GameWorks or perhaps the ESPN Zone. If neither of those ring a bell, then think of a grown up version of Chuck E. Cheese’s or Peter Piper Pizza. Hopefully you’ll have experienced one of these entertainment-restaurant combos. Leading up to the event, several of my friends admit they were feeling less than anxious. Most had envisioned a night of brief dining and a quick game or two in hopes of showing participation by going through the motions. To most people’s surprise, the night was a total blast.

I think it was really interesting to see how the night developed. Arriving, we sat around a few different pool tables that had been converted to large dining tables (leg room was in short supply). The meal was served buffet-style and there was plenty of party food to go around. Afterward, everyone migrated towards the game floor where the fun began. What started out as curiosity and a little bit of competition quickly turned into a goal-oriented cooperative. We found that certain games rewarded more tickets than others and the MAcc students quickly learned to allocate their resources (tokens) in an efficient way by playing those that had the highest returns. This was in effort to accumulate enough tickets to purchase a giant gorilla.

The results were impressive. Not only had we enough tickets to purchase TWO giant gorillas, but we also had enough to reward everyone a smaller gift (shot glasses) and even then had some left over. Most interesting was how quickly everyone caught the vision of collectively working towards a goal. I think its a testament to the friendship and bonds that have developed over the past several months. The best part is that our gorillas will be at future parties to remind us of our success and friendship.

Do you know VITA?

Hi guys,

long time no see.  Sorry for being lazy and not writing much recently.  This quarter actually has turned out to be very eventful.  Not only are we having so many interesting courses to take, but also we got a wonderful chance to join VITA and to be involved into a very meaningful program so we can give something back to the community in which we live.

VITA, standing for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, is a program providing free tax preparation service to people in need for their income tax return.  Everyone can be one of the volunteers once we take a series of online courses provided by IRS, pass the online test and get certification.  I am so excited to volunteer in the program this year together with many other student from not only MAcc program but also programs such as MBLE.

VITA for this tax season officially started last Friday and I got to volunteer last Saturday in the Law School.  I had never been there before, but thanks to one of my classmates who gave me the ride, finding the law school was not a problem.  Although a little bit late, I still made it and was there for my first time as a “VITA volunteer.”  All volunteers were assigned into teams of 2 or 3 and worked with our clients face to face and did our best to help them to go through their tax returns.  I actually learned more about income tax preparation and gained a lot of personal knowledge while serving others.  I am going to volunteer a few more times during this year, and I am sure that I will do it next year if I have the chance!

P.S. For more information on Fisher’s involvement with VITA, click here.