Real World Service Learning Experience: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
By Adam Holtz, Jacob Johnson, Polly Russell and Diane Thelen
A family of five lost their father. The mother was left to make ends meet for her children. Bills were piling up, and the situation was becoming increasingly difficult. That mother was anticipating having to pay taxes that year; however, she ended up receiving $10,000 in tax refunds instead. With this refund, she was then able to fix their car, make the mortgage payment on the house and most importantly take her kids to the doctor. This was all made possible through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
VITA is a national program, formed by the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Revenue in the 1970s, to provide free tax assistance to individuals who are elderly, have low-income or are cognitively or mentally challenged. VITA was established at UW-Eau Claire in 1984 as a project for students in the Student Accounting Society and Beta Alpha Psi. Last year, VITA helped over 500 individuals file their tax returns.
"VITA is the best service learning project on campus...It is the most worthwhile experience and helps students learn and gain experience, and it's fun."
- Dr. Lucretia Mattson
VITA is not only an opportunity for individuals to receive help with their taxes, but it is also a great way for students to serve the community and fulfill the university's service learning requirement. According to Lucretia Mattson, professor of Accounting and Finance and advisor of the UW-Eau Claire VITA program, "VITA is the best service learning project on campus. It allows students to take what they're learning in the classroom and apply it to helping out in the community. It is the most worthwhile experience and helps students learn and gain experience, and it's fun."
To participate in the VITA program, students need to be concurrently taking or have completed Accounting 321: Introduction to Income Tax. Also, students need to become certified through the IRS.
For more information regarding the national VITA program, refer to the IRS website. For more information regarding the UW-Eau Claire VITA program or to register, contact this year's co-chair, Erin Ramsay at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Dr. Lucretia Mattson at email@example.com before the end of the fall semester. VITA is a great opportunity for students to take an active role in their community, so get involved today!
Adam Holtz, senior accounting major from Eau Claire, WI. Jacob Johnson, senior information systems-business analysis major from Fridley, MN. Polly Russell, senior accounting major from Stoddard, WI. Diane Thelen, senior accounting major from Clear Lake, WI. They wrote this article for a BCOM 306 class project.