Accounting Students Tackle Community Taxes Through VITA

April 3, 2017 | By Jake Weber

Economics and management professor John Bedient with VITA volunteers.
Economics and management professor John Bedient with VITA volunteers.

“When people come in to a tax situation, it’s stressful,” says Albion College junior Maggie Troost, who will spend some 80 hours this spring working with the College’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “I feel like we can show people they don’t have to be stressed out, because we can relax and not only talk about taxes.”

Making tax time less taxing on Albion College and community is just one goal for Troost and a dozen other student volunteers helping local residents file their taxes. Under the supervision of two Albion College economics and management faculty members, the students will prepare upwards of 150 returns, primarily for senior citizens, low-wage earners, and students.

“At first I did VITA just so I could put it on my resume,” says senior Andy DiFranco, who has worked with VITA for two years. “Now, I love doing it. A lot of people who come in are retired and they need help. Filling out the forms can be hard for them.”

A senior looking forward to a career in accounting,, DiFranco also notes that VITA reinforces what happens in the classroom. “In class, we sometimes just touch on topics that might not be very common,” DiFranco explains. “But when a person comes in to VITA with that situation, that’s not a class exercise. It’s a real person and their real money and you have to know how to deal with it.”

Maggie Troose and Andy DiFranco
Maggie Troost and Andy DiFranco.

“When people come in to a tax situation, it’s stressful,” says Albion College junior Maggie Troost, who will spend some 80 hours this spring working with the College’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. “I feel like we can show people they don’t have to be stressed out, because we can relax and not only talk about taxes.”

DiFranco recalled one of the first VITA returns he prepared, when his client learned she would receive a $400 refund on less than $2,000 of income.

“She gave all of us hugs and was going crazy,” DiFranco says. “We just put some numbers in the computer, but it makes you feel good that you can do something for somebody.”

“Even when Andy and I aren’t scheduled to do VITA, we’re at the Ludington Center, doing things in [economics and management professor] John) Carlson’s office,” Troost says. “We make sure returns go through. One day we had some trouble and I came in early the next morning to make sure that return got filed.”

Troost also sees VITA as an important way to educate her fellow students on how – and when – to file taxes. “Some students tell me their parents file their taxes and they don’t even know it’s happening,” Troost says. “But it’s really important for everyone to do their taxes, and we’re here to help.”

Indeed, Troost’s enthusiasm is a big factor in making tax time better for everyone. ’You’re not doing VITA right if you aren’t enjoying it,” she says. “It’s helping a lot of community people and the school.”