For a second year in a row, TerpTax “made a big impact” on the campus and local community, say its organizers. The program’s 70-plus student volunteers from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business prepared tax returns yielding about $200,000 in federal refunds collectively for more than 300 UMD students, staff members and off-campus community members.
“The inaugural year was a huge success and included serving nearly 100 clients, but TerpTax in 2016 scaled up by focusing on marketing and education,” says TerpTax site manager and Smith accounting student Sammy Magid. “The hard work paid off.”
The tax club in the Smith School this year created an online presence through TerpTax.org, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and conducted multiple classes to further develop the skills of its volunteers, who also complete IRS certification training.
The effort came under the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) initiative -- designed to serve low-to-mid-income individuals and families, the elderly, students and persons with disabilities.
“TerpTax is a realistic work experience as the program operates just a like a CPA firm’s tax department,” says accounting professor Samuel Handwerger, who initiated and guides the Smith School’s VITA chapter. “Student volunteers take on various roles such as tax preparer and quality tax reviewer.”
TerpTax volunteer Elisa Trojillo says the experience is "a great way to apply concepts learned in the classroom" and “a great resume-builder.”
Teamwork is an additional motivator, Handwerger says. “Most importantly, and exciting to the students, is the group effort to make sure that prepared returns find the lowest tax possible as allowed by law.”
Trojillo concurs: “It was like a second family; we went through the ups and downs of tax season as one team. We learned together, prepared taxes together and tackled complex tax situations together.”
Graduate student Yuzhou Xu says TerpTax enabled her to "make friends while working as part of a team whose members helped out while serving the community."
Community service motivated another volunteer, Vinh Tran: "I wanted to give back to the community and use my knowledge of taxation, learned [through the “Taxation of Individuals” course].”
“I was able to gain valuable knowledge and hands-on experience that one cannot learn through the course or a book," Tran says. "The interaction with other volunteers and coordinators made the experience a blast.”
For more information about the undergraduate program at Smith, visit: www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.
- Greg Muraski, Office of Marketing Communications