By Heather Cass
Publications Manager, Office of Strategic Communications, Penn State Behrend
When Anna Reed, a senior majoring in accounting and management information systems, goes to a job or internship interview, potential employers always ask her about one item on her resume—her experience as a volunteer tax preparer with Erie Free Taxes, a United Way of Erie County program.
The federal tax code is about four million words, so it’s little wonder that most people need help filing their income taxes.
For the last twenty-plus years, low-income tax filers in the Erie area have been able to get help for free from Penn State Behrend students enrolled in ACCTG 411: Accounting practicum VITA.
VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, is an IRS-sponsored program to help those with disabilities and those who earn less than $55,000 a year with their taxes.
Reed volunteered for the program last year and found it so rewarding that she plans to do it again this year.
VITA volunteers are required to work four hours a week at a United Way tax prep location from February to April, helping those in need of services.
“There are so many residents who cannot afford to have their taxes filed professionally,” Reed said. “It was rewarding to use my knowledge and skills to help others. I really enjoyed the experience.”
It was also a valuable learning experience and resume builder.
“Working one-on-one with clients really helped me to enhance my communication skills,” Reed said. “And doing the returns helped reinforce what I had learned in my tax class.”
Student volunteers are trained on an IRS software and must pass an IRS exam to be certified to prepare taxes.
If you’re a Behrend business student interested in volunteering with Erie Free Taxes, contact Bob Patterson, lecturer in management, at x7171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.