Apr 21, 2022
Dr. Collin Clark, JD LLM CPA, Assistant Professor of Accounting spearheaded the initiative to bring the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to the Florida Southern College campus this year. He was assisted by Instructor of Accounting Carly Love and FSC accounting students.
The (VITA) program was created by the Internal Revenue Service to provide free tax preparation for the underserved. The service is provided by various partner organizations. The IRS awards matching funds to support organizations that provide cost-free tax preparation during tax season at locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The VITA program offers free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.
“As long as I am here with the College, I plan to have a VITA site at FSC,” Dr. Clark said. “So, this would be a yearly program that begins around mid-February and runs up until a week before the tax deadline.”
VITA is operated by local non-profit organizations; the one at Florida Southern operates under the United Way of Central Florida. The FSC VITA group had a goal of completing 100 returns for the 2022 tax season. The volunteers exceeded the goal, completing 105 returns. Most of the returns were federal returns, though a few state tax returns were also completed. FSC volunteers provided 275 volunteer community service hours this tax season.
The average adjusted gross income for taxpayers who received assistance from the program was $31,709. They received approximately $125,476 in refunds with the help of the VITA program.
“Under the larger United Way umbrella, we have partnered with a more local organization, Personal Finance Center of Polk County,” Dr. Clark said.
In addition to the organizations providing their own forms of marketing and outreach, Dr. Clark also had flyers printed and distributed around FSC to inform students and staff of the program.
Suzanne Howe of the Personal Finance Center of Polk County and FSC accounting majors Emily LaFlash, Joshua Chacon, Tara Shelby, Rea Joerger, Phillip Roney, Kaitlyn Scirica, Katie Sharp, and Michael Finkelstein prepared taxes for the FSC VITA program.
Dr. Clark selected students to participate based on several criteria. He considered their reliability, professionalism, and level of interest in the subject of taxation. He accessed their interactions with him in his ACC4411 Individual Income Tax course. Dr. Clark shared that all VITA volunteers, not just FSC student volunteers, must go through the same training that is prepared and required by the IRS.
“This training involves a one-day mandatory class and an exam,” stated Dr. Clark.
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