By Liz Warren-Pederson
The VITA program offers free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns.
The Accounting Student Association has participated in the VITA program for many years, but this year, the number of volunteers exploded, thanks to the efforts of senior Alexandria Napier (Eller Accounting ’13), current president of the club. “The IRS requires 30 hours of training for its certification program,” she said. “But the off-campus training was a real barrier for students who would otherwise want to help.” Napier became a certified IRS trainer and, along with ASA vice president Brittany Langer (Eller Accounting ’13), facilitated training sessions for her peers on campus.
“We were aiming for ten students, but ended up with 35,” she said. “Now they’re out there prepping taxes at sites all over Tucson.”
While the work offers students the opportunity to build professional skills by working with real clients and navigating complex tax issues such as the Earned Income Credit, Napier pointed to the program’s immediate rewards. “People who come often have to take time off of work or bring their kids, and sometimes end up waiting in line for two or three hours,” she said. “A tax refund is a lifeline to some of these families. It’s incredible and gratifying to be able to help a family in need get a sizeable refund.”
Napier also said that the students are trying to educate families about predatory lending practices around tax refunds. “Many of these places lure people in by claiming that they will prepare the taxes for free, then they issue a short-term loan with 500-600% interest rates. Most taxpayers receive their refunds within 21 days.”
Learn more about the VITA program in Tucson at www.UnitedWayTucson.org/vita.