This tax season, AMU accounting students prepared tax returns for low-income families in Immokalee through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Assistant Professor of Accounting Dorothy Thompson, CPA, spearheaded the initiative after being approached by the Legal Aid division in Collier County about the possibility of getting AMU accounting students involved in the volunteer program.
About ten students, through the Accounting Club (which Professor Thompson advises), volunteered with VITA for the 2017 tax season. Christian Sanchez described the experience as “exciting to the highest degree” and came away feeling thankful. He shares: “Getting to help out those individuals in a low-income community with their taxes was so humbling. It made me feel a lot more grateful for the opportunities and things that I have.”
VITA offers free tax assistance to taxpayers making $54,000 a year or less, persons with disabilities, and taxpayers with limited speaking English. Through the program, IRS-certified volunteers provide free, basic income tax return preparation to qualifying taxpayers.
“This initiative provides AMU students with the opportunity to work with the underprivileged,” Professor Dorothy Thompson shares, “while also learning how to complete an IRS tax return.” Going on, she explains: “The VITA program trains students on their proprietary software, provided by the IRS, and expands students’ knowledge in the subject of taxation.”
Junior accounting major Valentina Forero was grateful for the opportunity to get hands-on experience and use her skills for good. “The VITA program gave me the opportunity to apply the skills and concepts I had learned in class to the real world by helping those in need. There is nothing more gratifying than using one’s skills to give back to the community.”
The benefits of starting this program at AMU, Professor Thompson says, are twofold: the Immokalee community benefits through free tax assistance and the strengthening of the bond between itself and the University community, while students studying Accounting at AMU gain experience in filing taxes—something that will prove an advantage as they graduate and go on to pursue careers. She plans to continue organizing the VITA program at AMU for future tax seasons.
As junior accounting major Elizabeth Pride points out, there aren’t many obvious ways for accounting majors to use their expertise to serve. “Other majors have so many ways they can reach out and volunteer using their expertise, but as an accounting major those opportunities are not as accessible, so it was really cool to be able to use our knowledge to help people who needed it.” Her favorite part of participating in VITA was seeing people’s reactions when they were finished with their taxes. “Being able to make a difference in people’s lives and to see and hear how excited they were after finishing their taxes was incredible. I really enjoyed the time we spent volunteering, and I cannot wait to do it again next year!”
As part of the Accounting Club’s volunteer initiative, the students also offered a day of free tax help on campus on March 29th for AMU students, faculty, and staff.
To learn more about Accounting at AMU, visit the Department webpage!