ONU business students help relieve the stress of tax season for area taxpayers.
The end of tax season is fast approaching and in this time of stress Ohio Northern University and The James F. Dicke College of Business Administration are offering VITA (Volunteers for Income Tax Assistance), a free tax service for students and community members with low to moderate income levels.
The program is administered by Beta Alpha Psi, the international honorary organization for financial information professionals. Previously the Claude W. Pettit College of Law sponsored VITA at ONU.
“We wanted to continue this program because it does offer a really good service to the community. It helps the students learn more about taxes, deal with clients and get experience. Plus it helps the community—the people who come in and get their taxes done for free,” said VITA site coordinator and Beta Alpha Psi advisor Dexter Woods.
VITA is licensed to do both federal and state tax returns, which are filed electronically but clients receive printed copies of their returns. The IRS partnership program which runs VITA is trying to get the word out about this great program and want people to receive what they are entitled to in respect to refunds and credits.
A great asset to the VITA service is the assistance they can provide for international students, which is new this year and is expected grow in future years. This year, VITA volunteers have completed more than 50 returns and next year anticipate more.
Previous clients of VITA are very appreciative of this service whether they are community members or students. Common needs of VITA clients are help with W2, wages, interest and dividends, retirement income and some small business taxes.
“I advise anybody who is in a situation where they need help to use this service,” said Phil Quattrocchi, local taxpayer from Ada, Ohio, and first-time VITA client.
After losing his previous tax service provider, Phil wondered how he was going to get his taxes done when he learned of the VITA program at ONU. To him, this outreach of ONU students is very important especially for older members of the community.
VITA volunteers are juniors or seniors in the business college that have taken at least a few upper-level accounting courses and have gone through training for the service. Each VITA volunteer puts in about ten hours of assistance during the tax season.
“It feels great to help those who need assistance while also learning a lot throughout the process,” said volunteer Kristen Smith, a senior accounting major from North Royalton, Ohio. “We all help each other out with questions we may have along the way.”
All of the VITA volunteers chose to major in accounting or finance for a reason, and for many, this program reinforces that choice of a career path. This practical application of knowledge learned in the classroom is a great asset to their education.
“This helps me get more comfortable with working with clients. Even though I don’t foresee myself going into the tax field in the future, this has helped me become more confident in my ability to do taxes for myself and others,” Smith said.
Ohio Northern University is the only listed VITA site in Hardin County. Without this service, community members within certain income limits would have to prepare their taxes on their own or pay for assistance.
“People are going to get good service, because every return is prepared and then reviewed. It’s a good, accurate, free service,” Woods said.
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