UPDATE April 15, 2014: Accounting majors who served as IRS-certified volunteers this tax season processed 584 returns, plus 25 prior year returns, and secured $850,000 in federal refunds and $90,000 in state refunds for people they helped. This was an increase of 45% over last year’s total returns. Awesome job!
North Central College accounting majors are serving as IRS-certified volunteers, providing free federal and state income tax assistance for people who need help preparing their 2013 tax returns. A record 33 students serve three days a week at Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry in Naperville as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
Working with local residents on their tax returns has become an annual exercise for aspiring accountants at North Central. Allison Hayes, assistant professor of accounting, oversees the College’s program.
“The VITA program pushes our students outside their comfort zone, both technically and personally,” Hayes says. “They learn things that aren’t taught in the classroom, like handling the pressures and stress of the actual work and communicating with clients. They’re also reassured that they know the material and can apply what they learned.”
Some of the student volunteers are enrolled in the Taxes I ACC 430 course, taught by Hayes, and are required to become VITA-certified. The students who choose to volunteer with the VITA program are awarded service learning credit in the course. Those not connected with the course volunteer on their own.
The IRS supplies the training materials, but Hayes provides all the practical training through the ACC 430 course or one-on-one training for other volunteers going through certification.
Hayes uses a Twitter feed for her class where students can post questions they have about new IRS regulations or itemizing deductions or simply exchange comments, like these: “My first VITA session was on Sunday. It was awesome. I met such interesting people,” and “I was surprised by how fun it was!”
Students provide basic income tax return preparation and electronic filing for qualified individuals earning less than $52,000. Last year, the volunteer tax team at Loaves & Fishes completed 362 returns for the community, resulting in $576,000 in federal refunds and $54,000 in state refunds.
North Central students will continue their volunteer efforts through March 15 at Loaves and Fishes Community Pantry, 1871 High Grove Lane in Naperville, Wednesdays from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The pantry will offer VITA services through April 15 and by appointment throughout the year. For more information about the tax services, visit loaves-fishes.org or call Loaves & Fishes at 630-355-3663.
North Central College offers an undergraduate degree in accounting with concentrations in the certified public accountant (CPA), certified management accountant (CMA) or corporate tracks, as well as a five-year integrated accounting CPA/M.B.A. track.