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Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program began at Wentworth in 2002 with the support of the Management faculty and the student group, Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE). VITA trains students to prepare income taxes for low income clients in the community as a free service. The Center partners with ABCD Parker Hill/Fenway and the program is run out of that location. Students enjoy interacting with neighborhood residents, learning to work with a team of volunteers, and the opportunity to learn to prepare their own taxes. Last year students volunteered at the ABCD site one night a week to prepare and file taxes for Boston families who earned less than $50,000 in the prior tax year.
Over the last seven years of VITA at Wentworth:
- 915 filings have been made,
- 76 volunteers worked a combined
- 5,446 hours for a total return of $1,494,684.00.
Samantha Lemus, Student Tax Preparer, Reflects on Her VITA Experience
Before beginning the VITA program, I imagined tax form completion and related responsibilities to be solitary work. Although filling out the forms is done independently, the taxpayers will also accompany you. After participating a few times, I began to realize one could go into the program with one of two mindsets. One could participate with the sole purpose of providing tax assistance for Boston community members, which is by all means a charitable act. But in addition to this, we are given the opportunity to connect and bond with community members, ABCD workers, and other program volunteers from Wentworth.
To those with no prior tax experience, as myself, the first couple of times you may find your focus on completing the tax return accurately, which is reasonable. However, as you familiarize yourself with the process, simultaneously conversing with clients and finishing the returns will come more naturally. Some taxpayers bring their kids and as they play around the office it gives off a homey vibe and relaxes the atmosphere. It makes completing tax returns a less arduous process. If you ever have questions regarding taxes ABCD employees are approachable, friendly, and more than willing to help. Food is delivered every week thanks to the CLP. It is a great time to connect with other workers while eating. Through the training process and VITA program you may also develop valuable friendships. A few other students arrive at ABCD to volunteer with you every week. As you wait for the next client to arrive, getting to know the other volunteers is almost inevitable.
I would especially encourage those who are bilingual to participate in the program. As a Spanish speaker I have found several taxpayers that felt more comfortable speaking Spanish. They are more responsive and tension is eased. It’s a good feeling when tax preparers can connect with taxpayers in this manner. Overall the experience is laid-back and enjoyable. I would not consider attending VITA to be volunteer “work” but rather a time to gather with community members and lend a helping hand in the process.