Community members benefit from students’ accounting knowledge

VITAprogram

Student volunteers assisted taxpayers with their filings during two weekends in March.

Local taxpayers are finding relief from the stress of Tax Day thanks to Aurora University students. For the 13th year, the AU Dunham School of Business sponsored the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program over two weekends in March. The student tax preparers helped taxpayers with their refunds, including low- and middle-income workers, the elderly and limited English-speaking residents. But it wasn’t the refunds that students found most rewarding about the experience—it was the opportunity to help community members.

“This experience allowed me interact with the community and create a positive difference,” said senior finance and business administration major Marisela Soto. “In the future, I hope to find a satisfying job where I can also do fulfilling work that positively impacts the community much in the same way as the VITA program.”

The students, under the guidance of AU business faculty, helped prepare individual tax returns and assisted in the distribution of completed forms. “Our instructors, including Tim Moran and David Diehl, are very good at coaching in the moment,” said senior accounting and business administration major Cindy Vargas. “When they see a certain problem or feel that something might become a challenge for someone, they stop what they are doing and take the time to coach students through the process.”

The free tax help is made possible through a partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and the university. “Through the VITA program, I learned outside of the classroom how to prepare someone’s taxes as well as how to interact with others,” said Vargas. “This program helped develop me as a leader, and empowered me to take initiative on certain tasks and projects. I plan to continue volunteering with the program after graduation.”

The VITA program exemplifies the university’s tradition of connecting the campus to the community. “The taxpayers who took part in the program were in awe and appreciation of the assistance we provided them, all for free,” said Soto. “Their reactions to receiving their completed tax returns made me feel proud of the work AU continues to do with the VITA program. This opportunity has been extremely rewarding to me because through my classroom learning I impacted someone’s life. Through my knowledge and skills I helped community members with one of the most stressful times of the year, all while doing something I love—filling out tax returns!”