Accounting students volunteer to help locals with their taxes

Accounting students of the McLane College of Business are helping Central Texas citizens by working with United Way of Central Texas through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA).
The students are gaining experience and helping people get their tax forms in to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to receive their tax return refunds or pay what they owe before Tuesday, April 17 (Tax Day).
With VITA, Central Texas residents come to various locations in Temple, Belton, Killeen and Harker Heights to have their taxes prepared and e-filed for free.
VITA is set up to help clients with an income of $50,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and taxpayers with limited English.
Last year, VITA filed 844 returns in 2017, but according to United Way Director of Public Relations Veshell Greene, they would like to file 1,000 returns this year.
“VITA is hope,” Greene said. “The fact that these people can come get their taxes done at no charge… that’s more money they can spend in their home and on their kids.
Greene stressed that VITA is a reputable program, and that volunteers must go through training with the IRS before filling out returns.
The sites also have reviewers with advanced certification to validate every return before filing.
“All the volunteers have to be certified by the IRS. It’s not just someone doing the returns in a garage,” Greene said.
The tax filing process takes about an hour.
Clients are required to fill out an intake form with questions about their financial background for 2017.
They must bring their social security card or an equivalent and a picture ID.
After filling out an intake form, the client will meet with a volunteer to go over the form and answer any clarifications the client might have.
The volunteer will input the client’s financial information from their W-2 and any other forms the client brings in.
The clients can see how much they will be getting back as soon as their information is plugged into the site.
Then, the client will sit with a reviewer to go back through the return.
Volunteers in the program include not only UMHB students, but also Temple High School students, community members, and United Way staff.
Associate Dean Dr. Kirk Fischer teaches Federal Income Tax students, and he has encouraged them to volunteer with the program.
Dr. Fischer also serves as a site coordinator in Belton for VITA.
“This year we have over 45 volunteers with the VITA program because we have branched out with the pilot program at Temple High School,” Greene said.
Senior accounting and management major Noe Diaz started volunteering with VITA this year, and says that he really enjoys helping citizens.
“I like seeing people’s faces when they see the returns they are getting without having to pay a fee…,” Diaz said. Diaz says he’s volunteering, so he can give back to the community using his tax knowledge.
“I wanted to try and give back with the knowledge I have gained with tax accounting 1 and 2,” he said. “I wanted to apply that to everyday use.”
Senior accounting major Tyler Miller said that he’s volunteering to test out his educational skills and to help people.
“I’ve learned how many people in the area need tax help,” Miller said, “It’s big, and it’s very important to these people.”
If you are interested in taking advantage of this opportunity to get help with taxes and having your taxes filed for free, visit www.uwct.org to make an appointment.

Senior accounting and management major Noe Diaz and senior accounting major Tyler Miller consult the Tax Guide on new tax laws. Photo by Lauren Lum/ The Bells

Graphic by Lauren Lum/ The Bells

Author: Lauren Lum

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