As tax season comes to a close, the new Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) chapter at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business celebrated their first season of operation, and almost 100 returns filed successfully.
The VITA program was established by site coordinator Samuel Handwerger and professor Martin Loeb, with help from Wei Wu ’13 and 12 core student volunteers.
“I’m an accounting major and I have a special interest in tax accounting and audit accounting, so I was looking for a special program that could help my career,” said Heewon Lee, a sophomore accounting and finance major.
The VITA program opened officially for students, staff and the community on Feb. 11, after volunteers completed certification courses and extensive Internal Revenue Service training. “I thought, I don’t know anything about taxes and this will force me to learn – because it’s an important skill to have in life – while also being able to do some community service,” said VITA volunteer and freshman finance major Adam Anderson.
“To be able to operate a program like this for students to get that experience – it’s great for their résumé, it’s fantastic,” said Handwerger, “It mimics a CPA firm almost exactly, so now when they go to work, they will already be familiar with the process.”
At first, Handwerger said he was nervous that the students would not have enough returns to file because the chapter did little marketing. Yet once the word got out, he found that there was always a stack of returns to complete, and they almost doubled their goal of 50 returns filed.
A challenge for the team was the large number of returns submitted by international students, which required a lot more research and had different specifications than the students had trained for, said Handwerger.
Despite these challenges, the volunteers always showed up to work and were extremely reliable and dedicated, helping file returns even over spring break said Wu.
“The biggest success is that we have the program. It’s here now for the business students and is an invaluable addition to their Smith school experience,” said Handwerger.
Erica Bonelli, intern, Office of Marketing Communications