WILMINGTON — Wilmington College students crushed last year’s record by filing a whopping 150 tax returns — an 83 percent increase over last year — in the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA).
Ten volunteer, student tax preparers, all certified by the IRS, offered tax preparation assistance to persons of low and moderate income, as well as taxpayers with disabilities, limited English-speaking skills or other extenuating circumstances.
Their efforts eclipsed last year’s total of 82 returns. The site opened Jan. 30 and ran through April 12, and was open for business most Tuesday and Thursday evenings and select Saturday mornings — totaling some 400 man hours.
“Some of last year’s clients apparently told family and friends,” said Allen Beatty, CPA, assistant professor of accounting and an IRS Enrolled Agent/site manager. “Last year, if we had six appointments a night, that was considered a busy session. This year, we averaged 10 to 12 a night.”
He lauded his students for performing a valuable service for the community while gaining hands-on learning experience.
“I can’t express enough the gratitude I have for these students,” he said, noting the IRS awarded WC’s site a 100 percent rating, “Our students do it purely for learning and providing service to our community.”
Their efforts are already paying off as these students leverage this experience in their search for internships and jobs. Indeed, with VITA as a major bullet point on their resumes, one of the student leaders has been offered several jobs in the accounting field, another credits her summer internship to her VITA experience and yet another has already started a permanent position part time that will become full time after graduation in May.
Also, publicity surrounding the learning opportunity has undoubtedly played a role in generating an increased number of accounting majors anticipated among the fall 2018 entering class and, in fact, the number of declared business majors is up 25 percent for the incoming cadre, according to Beatty.
The large number of seniors in the tax prep program — seven out of the 10 students — presents Beatty with the challenge of replacing stalwarts on the VITA team. “This is an exemplary hands-on learning opportunity that many students will take advantage of, so I’m confident others will follow in their footsteps.”
Beatty said the students’ experience far exceeds simply the numbers placed on tax returns.
“They have learned so much — not just in preparation, but in many other ways,” he said. “Our students have learned to be compassionate with persons with various disabilities, those returning to society after incarceration, taxpayers who are anxious about obtaining refunds and those who are distraught upon learning they owe.”