MSU organization offers free tax help to students, community
Tax season is here and for students, this time might induce frustration from filing forms or anxiety for those who have not done it before.
One club on campus is here to help students with this task — free of charge.
MSU Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or MSU VITA, consists of about 200 student volunteers who help students, individuals and families in the Lansing area with completing federal, state and local taxes.
The club is run by volunteer students. Training includes the basics of taxes, handling the software and preparing for the IRS certification exam, which all volunteers must pass.
Vice president of external operations Mallory Woods is one of the site coordinators and quality reviewer at the site this year.
“So those are basically the people who are in charge of the shift,” Woods, an accounting senior, said. “We have two site coordinators, typically per shift, and they are the ones who look at the returns after the basic preparers have gone through them, and we just make sure that all the numbers are in correctly, everything looks good to go before we send the client home.”
MSU VITA generally draws a lot of accounting majors who are looking to gain tax preparation experience, but as an organization they allow all majors to participate.
Woods said everyone goes through the same training to become a volunteer regardless of major or how long they have previously volunteered.
“We offer two options for training, both in the fall and in the spring,” she said. “In the fall, we offer usually around three or four training sessions and in each one we go over the basics of taxes, basic principles of taxes … then in the spring, we offer one super long training that’s kind of a condensed version of all the training sessions that happen in the fall.”
Graduate student Cody Kahrs serves as director of training and said he joined the organization three years ago to see if taxation was something he wanted to pursue as a career.
As director of training, Kahrs deals with the volunteers and teaches them about the basics. He said the majority of the volunteers are new and don’t know anything about preparing taxes.
“I teach them every year the basics to be able to prepare tax returns for our client base, and they also have to pass a test through the IRS, so I basically prepare them for that test as well,” he said.
President of the organization Natalie Buckle has been in VITA for three years and said she was interested in becoming involved on campus as a sophomore when she heard of the organization through her accounting classes.
Buckle, an accounting senior, said she likes watching how the volunteers grow and work directly with the clients.
“Just being in it for three years I can see how much volunteers grow from once they first start … we train them and then it's just awesome to see the progress they make,” she said. “I just like working with the clients, mostly everyone who comes to us is thankful because obviously we’re providing them the service for free, but it’s nice to see when they don’t expect to receive a big refund, they're always really happy and it’s just really good experience.”
For those interested in receiving help for their taxes, MSU VITA’s site is located at 1290 Deer Path Ln., East Lansing.
The last day to file taxes is April 18.