The FMU School of Business is sponsoring the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, a free service that provides guidance in preparing state and federal taxes.
The service is provided every Wednesday from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m. between Feb. 1 and April 12 in Founders Hall (FH) room 259C.
Students currently enrolled in Accounting 428 Federal Taxation II help attendees file their taxes. Participation in the VITA Program counts for a portion of the students’ grade in the class and gives them experience in their field.
Senior accounting major Christy Wise is one of the 20 students volunteering in the VITA Program. She said it is a good opportunity to expand what she is learning in the classroom.
“It gives us hands-on experience,” Wise said. “We get to take the tax laws learned in class and apply them to real-life situations.”
Accounting professor Dr. Brad Johnson teaches Accounting 428 and has overseen the VITA Program at FMU for more than 10 years. Johnson said he regularly sees a change of perspective in students after they use their knowledge to help the community.
“I’ve had students who didn’t like Tax One because they couldn’t get their heads around it,” Johnson said. “Then, they apply it in doing the tax returns, and they’re smiling.”
You’re actually applying it to a real-world setting. It’s personal, and it’s face-to-face.”
All students participating in the VITA Program have passed the advanced tax test by the IRS.
“It’s a free service, and there’s competent personnel,” Johnson said. “It can’t get any better.”
Johnson said that he enjoys hearing from students who have graduated from the accounting program and participated in the VITA Program. Two former students are the only IRS revenue agents in Florence, and several FMU alumni work at local CPA firms.
Students use the TaxSlayer Pro software provided by the IRS to guide attendees through e-filing their taxes. There is also an option to file for a paper return, but according to Wise, most attendees choose to e-file their taxes because it is faster.
Senior psychology major Julian Charney used the VITA Program to get help with her taxes for the fourth year in a row. She said she uses the service because it is free, convenient and reliable.
“They’re friendly here,” Charney said. “It’s a lot more simple than doing it yourself.”
Charney said she also sees value in being able to provide a tax service to community members who may not be able to afford a tax service like H&R Block.
Those interested in coming to the VITA Program need to bring a picture ID for the tax payer and spouse if applicable. Also, they must be able to provide their social security numbers, their spouse’s and any dependents if applicable. Johnson said that the IRS’s goal for receiving this information is to prevent identity theft.
Last year, 450 people took advantage of the VITA Program at FMU, and the school is on track to exceed that number this year.
According to Johnson, the FMU provost, president and IT department help make this program possible.