BY CLAIRE BACH
Franciscan University of Steubenville accounting students continue a 26-year long program of helping Ohio Valley residents with income tax forms through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
The students assist the residents with free income tax return preparation with electronic filing at Fort Steuben Mall from Feb. 18 – April 12 closing from March 8-16 for spring break.
The students are part of the IRS certified VITA program. They have taken an income tax course, passed an IRS certification test and have trained with their professor to prepare to help the local people.
“It gives the students real world experience with something that really matters to people, their personal taxes,” assistant professor of business at Franciscan, Albert Macre said. “It gives something back to the community.”
VITA provides assistance to local residents to inform them about special tax credits that they might qualify for.
On the first day senior accounting major, Lucia Neugebauer, volunteered she said there were people there who had been in line for hours, but the residents said they always come the first week to be helped and in turn help the students gain experience.
“There’s only so much you can learn in a classroom before you actually have someone’s tax information in front of [you] and do their return,” Neugebauer said.
The accounting students are given the option to either use their time spent doing VITA for thesis credit hours or to write a thesis paper.
“From the student’s stand point it’s definitely a confidence builder to do VITA,” Macre said. “It’s also something that I get asked about on resumes constantly.”
Macre said that when students put him down for a reference on resumes prospective employers call him wanting to know about VITA. Macre explains that it’s the students doing real people’s taxes and that raises the stature of the student from just academic experience, to real life experience.
“It is helpful to learn the tax knowledge and all the different situations people could have, but I think learning the relational part of it very important,” Neugebaur said.
Macre said that when the students first start assisting the public they are scared and nervous but when it’s all said and done, they end up really enjoying it.