Published: April 13, 2009
For many students, tackling their own annual tax returns is challenging
enough. For UT accounting majors, it is a challenge they shared with
Yes, clients. More than 60 UT students were
trained and certified this year to participate in the IRS’ Volunteer
Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, where they helped prepare taxes
for people of modest income and those who cannot prepare their own
returns. The free program helped accounting majors fulfill part of the
requirements for a course on tax accounting.
"For as long as I
can remember, we have recognized that service is important as part of
the accounting major," said Steve Platau, a professor of accounting who
helps coordinate UT student involvement with VITA."
completed practice manuals and study guides before taking online courses
and tests in preparation for their VITA service. After completing and
passing all of the required tests, they then attended a training session
on the VITA process and how to work with individual tax payers. From
there, it wa all in their hands as they used their tax knowledge to
assist real people with real tax returns in a one-on-one setting.
As volunteers, the students helped out at one of VITA’s designated sites throughout the Tampa Bay area.
years past, our documented hours have exceeded 1,000 volunteer hours,
and I expect a total near that number this year,” Platau said.
Andrew Argue, a sophomore who aspires to work for a public accounting
firm, volunteering with the program inspired confidence in his knowledge
of the federal tax system.
“On the first day, I was
semi-petrified because you’re dealing with other people’s finances, and
it’s a very sensitive and important matter,” Argue said. “It’s very easy
to doubt yourself when you’ve never done them before. But by the end of
my service I was completing the returns in no time.”
volunteered with VITA at two locations in Hillsborough County, helping
complete about 25 to 30 individual tax returns. The experience, he said,
put the entirety of the federal tax system into perspective.
has helped me see how the tax system works and where the money goes
that everybody pays,” Argue said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen the
redistribution of tax dollars on a real level."
Spring Phillips, a
graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in accounting, helped
complete about 35 to 40 returns, including some for personal businesses.
“While I learned in my tax class, I don’t think the knowledge
really clicked into place until I volunteered,” Phillips said. “Since I
was filing return after return, I started to understand more and was
able to notice things I never would have paid attention to before. The
practical experience is truly priceless.”