At Drury, tax students get the opportunity to put their classroom training into practice during tax season. Each accounting major participates in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, a program which provides free tax preparation to low-income citizens and senior citizens. This free program is open to the public.
Accounting professor, Tiffany Cossey, is in charge of organizing Drury’s VITA program, which will open its doors this February and end in early April. Cossey says the program is useful to accounting majors because it gives them practical experience. The students who volunteer for this program have been educated with at least one semester of a tax class and who have been certified through a testing process. "It helps them understand public expectations and it adds a dimension beyond theoretical application in the classroom," Cossey says. "They have the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge in a real business environment."
In addition, this program allows students to practice working with people in the community. "They can use their accounting skills as well as honing interpersonal skills," Cossey says. "Also, it gives them the opportunity to provide community service, an experience which can be rewarding in and of itself." Business students benefit from the VITA program, but so does the community. Cossey says the program has had a good response from the community in the past.
"Last year Drury prepared approximately 400 tax returns, and had 15 volunteers," Cossey says. "Years in which we have had larger accounting classes and more volunteers, the number of returns filed are even greater. We hope to do more this year, since our volunteers have increased to 26.”
Cossey says that people turn to the VITA program because it helps people understand and file their tax forms that they may have trouble with. "The preparation of even the simplest a tax form can be difficult and confusing for most people. Tax forms and instructions are not user-friendly, and many people do not know what is taxable and what is not," Cossey explains. "As a result, most end up paying a great deal of money to have their return prepared, sometimes hundreds of dollars. This program provides tax preparation for free to the members of the community who can least afford to pay for preparation."