Taking the Taxing Out of Tax Season for Local Residents
Albright students have made tax season a bit brighter for some Berks County residents this year.
Through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, 14 students served as certified tax preparers, providing clients with free tax preparation.
“In class, students learn about taxation by filling out hypothetical returns. This program provides practical experience and gives the students a sense of giving back to the community as well,” said Joseph Cunningham, assistant professor of accounting.
Working with clients referred through Berks Encore, an organization that helps aging-confident individuals to enhance their lives, Albright students began preparing in January with IRS training and certification and started meeting with clients in early February. Throughout tax season, students met with clients every Tuesday and Thursday night in Roessner Hall.
“The program not only gives students practical experience in completing tax returns, it also builds social and communication skills, and provides experience working with clients, all skills that job seekers are expected to have,” said Cunningham.
Dalton Weller ’18, president of the Accounting Club, knows the experience he’s gained will help him long after graduation. He already has a job lined up with a local CPA firm and is grateful for the customer service skills he learned serving as a greeter for clients when they arrived. “The program is a great way for Albright students to give back to the Reading community, while also gaining first-hand experience within our fields,” said Weller. “It’s going to benefit me with the problem solving of someone not bringing the correct form, or somebody not understanding the tax form. I’ll be able to help them through that,” he said.
Accounting student Tram Chu ’18 said being able to take the skills she’s learned in the classroom and apply them to real-life experience has been a great opportunity. She’s also grateful to be able to help the community. “I could help them to save a lot of money,” she said. “It’s (tax preparation) expensive, and some people cannot afford to do that.”
Through the VITA program, which is in its third year at Albright, residents with an income of less than $54,000 may receive free tax preparation and filing assistance from certified volunteers. According to Cunningham, this service normally costs $400 to $500 through a professional company.
“The VITA program at Albright is a win-win for the student, the college and the community,” he said.