The Herald Bulletin

January 7, 2014

VITA is one way to help the community

The Herald Bulletin

---- — The start of a new year brings with it the often anxiety-ridden task of closing the books on the old. For individuals, this comes in the shape of income tax forms that must be completed and filed.

For over 30 years Anderson University has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) to the Anderson community. VITA provides free tax services to those earning an income of $50,000 or less. Services also extend to the university’s international students. On average, VITA serves over 200 clients per year and many of the same clients return annually.

VITA is staffed by undergraduate students who must go through a certification process and then commit 2-3 hours of their time one night a week during tax season which is January through April.

Cindy Peck, current faculty supervisor of VITA, explains the program as a way for students to “gain experience and practical service-learning.” Not to mention “it can be fun, too.”

Jessica Soriano, a junior studying Accounting and Computer Science, plans to be a second year participant of the VITA program. When asked why she volunteers in the program, Soriano responded, “I do it because I enjoy it.” Her passion stems from the gratitude of the clients. Soriano added, “The best part is how thankful they are. They just hold your hand and pat you. …They are so appreciative.”

On some rare occasions, there can be more students available to help than clients who need it. During these times, students are able to interact with community members and Soriano particularly enjoys this time. She commented, “Some of them have really neat stories. (They) talk about how many years they have been coming and how they learned about the program.”

It will be a few weeks before VITA is up and running this semester, but those wishing to set up an appointment should first call Carol Whetsel. Carol, an undergraduate secretary with the Falls School of Business, has been a part of VITA since 1996 and says that her favorite part is “talking to the people, especially the repeats.”

She will help schedule an appointment. Once that is done, clients are given a control sheet they fill out when they arrive (information such as name, address, etc.). Students use the information from the control sheet to complete the tax return and it is then audited by an experienced upperclassman. As a final step in the process, a faculty adviser does one last additional overview.

VITA is a free service offered locally to community members. Services are provided one night a week through April but appointments are limited. Call (765) 641-4358 to receive more information or to set up an appointment this year.

Ellie M. Fink is a junior at Anderson University studying Nonprofit Leadership.