Students offer free tax preparation

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Assistant Professor of Accounting Brett Bueltel is in his second year of running the volunteer-based tax assistance program at the university.

“The volunteer income tax assistance program, also known as the VITA program, is where the Internal Revenue Service partners with local organizations to provide tax preparation to mid to low income individuals, individuals with limited English speaking capabilities and a variety of others,” Bueltel said.

The program will be held Feb. 11, 18 and 25, and March 11 and 18 in BE 1004. Appointments will be available at 5 and 6:45 p.m.

Bueltel said the IRS provided training materials required for the students to pass certification exams.

“I haven’t had a student yet not pass (the certification exam),” Bueltel said. “We do a little bit of training, but the IRS does a great job of providing training materials to help the students on the exam.”

Once the students pass the exam they are ready to participate in the VITA program.

“We have 15 students enrolled in the program, and each student will be a volunteer tax preparer,” he said. “The clients will come in, they will sit down next to the students and the student will prepare the tax return for the client next to them.”

Students have to answer clients’ questions, think on their feet and learn how to deal with incomplete information.

“It’s a neat opportunity for our students to develop professionally because a lot of times if you work in an accounting firm or elsewhere you don’t get a lot of client interaction as an intern, whereas here the clients are right next to you,” Bueltel said.  

Bueltel said he does not directly interact with the clients or work directly on the tax forms.

“I facilitate everything and help where I’m needed,” Bueltel said.  

He said after the student has drafted the return, another student comes in to review it.

“The student submits to me then the next day,” Bueltel said. “I will review the return and e-file the returns myself.”

Bueltel said he doesn’t feel like a professor when he is working on the program, even though he loves to teach.

“I’m part of the team getting the job done, so I’m more of a facilitator, assisting the students to get a project done,” Bueltel said. “It’s really neat to see the students working through what we went over in class and seeing them apply that to a real-life situation.”

Senior accounting major Hayden Sharp is volunteering for the program for the first time.

“Dr. Bueltel was talking about it in the tax class I had with him last semester,” Sharp said. “He really sold the idea of the class. You get a great experience, it’s almost like an internship.”

He said the class was light on homework, but that did not mean it was easy.

“(Prep work) was kinda overwhelming and stressful at first,” Sharp said.

The first client made it worth the effort.

“Our client was very nice and friendly,” Sharp said. “She understood that we were new and fresh into this. She was patient with us, and she (helped) figure it out too.”

 

Jordan Aucker
Senior accounting major Alice Sweeney works on a tax return while assistant professor of accounting Brett Bueltel supervises.

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