With April 15 looming ahead, some students are participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to provide free tax help to those of the ONU and Ada communities. Overseen by Professor Dexter Woods, several business and law students will be offering help in room 140 of the Dicke Business College on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5-9 p.m. until April 9.
VITA is a federal program started by the IRS to provide tax help to lower income individuals, those with disability, the elderly, and those with limited English abilities.
At ONU, the initiative used to be run through the law program, but due to scheduling issues, it has since been transferred over to business. For the past five years, the tax program has been incorporated into tax class, and serves as a bridge for those of Beta Alpha Psi (the accounting and finance honorary fraternity) to get professional hours.
Woods sees the opportunity as more than a way to help those in need of tax aid, or the student helpers who are receiving real experience and IRS certification. Volunteers actually have the opportunity to exercise their entrepreneurial spirit, think on their feet and give back to the community.
If not for the program, said Woods, customers would have to pay for professional returns they cannot afford. With students helping save these customers money, even by staying late as one volunteer did, the community is very appreciative.
Accounting major and VITA volunteer Alexandra Turnea, she really enjoys her part in the program. The professional experience allows her to apply knowledge she didn’t think she had into something that people depend on and benefit from.
“Everyone who helps a client is doing a real service to the community. Taxes are stressful for everyone and it’s a part of life, by providing this service we are truly helping those in need,” Turnea said.
In addition to filing, the service also works as a way to get some money back into the hands of taxpayers. This money can then be contributed to the local economy. Over the past couple of years, Woods said the program has gotten their over 150 clients more than 100 thousand dollars back.
This year, Turnea said their goal is to prepare more than 200 returns, and that they’re already halfway to their target.