As many accountants know, tax season is a daunting period that is highly stressful. Whether people working for a Big Four accounting firm or a smaller scaled firm, tax season always provides stress. In order to reduce stress, over the past 20 years The University has provided free income tax assistance to low – and moderate-income families, individuals and senior citizens. These residents are assisted with their basic tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). University accounting students have volunteered their time to help assist the program.
The VITA walk-in service is offered on the first floor of Brennan Hall. Many University students often see an array of people lining the hallways of Brennan. All of these people are waiting to be seen by a student and utilize the free services offered by The University. The service does not require an appointment, and residents can walk in during the allotted hours. The service is provided on a first-come, first-service basis. The students look over taxes and help with tax refunds. Many of the students’ clients have limited knowledge of tax returns and family budgeting. This service provides them with the experience and education needed to get the most out of taxes.
In order to make this program a success, The University has looked off campus to find alliances. The University has partnered up with United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties to help make this program possible. The partnership demonstrates the Jesuit values that The University emulates. The University constantly seeks opportunities to give back to the surrounding area. Senior accounting major Maria Salvatore has been a volunteer for the past two years.
“The overall experience is highly rewarding. I am able to assist families with much-needed refunds at no cost. Being able to give back to the outside community makes me feel like I am practicing Jesuit values,” Salvatore said.
When reflecting on the program, the United Way volunteers had similar views as Salvatore.
“This program would not be possible without the dedicated support of The University students and the United Way volunteers working together and spending countless hours throughout the tax season to help families and individuals become more financially stable and economically independent,” Gary Drapek, president of the United Way of Lackawanna and Wayne Counties, said. “This program is a prime example of bringing community partners together to advance the common good for all in our region.”
The VITA service is a prime example of The University giving back during a stressful period. The students who volunteer dedicate their free time to giving back and helping others in need, which is a Jesuit value.