VITA continues helping low-income families
Published: Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 14:03
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Baruch College has been helping low income families file their tax returns at no cost over the past few years.
Now, they have grown even stronger and have continued to expand their program with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and other boroughs.
VITA, is not only preparing Baruch students with tax-related experiences for the corporate world but also helping them gain the necessary communication skills to deal with various clients.
"VITA offered me the chance to strengthen my interpersonal skills when dealing with clients," said Andrew Wong, a member of Delta Sigma Pi and volunteer for Baruch's VITA program.
This outreach program began in Baruch College in the early 1990s to give students a volunteer opportunity to prepare free income tax services to low to moderate-income residents.
"VITA doesn't change its services because it is an IRS-sponsored program," says Ryan David, vice president of training for Baruch's VITA.
According to the 2004 IRS Annual Report, Baruch College runs one of the largest VITA programs in the nation, surpassing the national average of seven volunteers per site by at least 20 times every year since 1998.
Timothy Lee, a first-year VITA volunteer, noted that this year, Baruch's VITA program received over 1200 applicants with 725 of them who attended the two-day training program after passing the pre-test.
Prospective volunteers are required to pass a pre-test, attend a two-day Federal and New York State Tax training program, and pass a post-test.
Once accepted in this program, students would begin their volunteer services from February to mid-April, the peak of the tax season. This year, 150 out of the 1200 applicants were accepted.
Volunteers have the opportunity to not only prepare taxes in the Baruch College cite, but also in external cites throughout New York City, such as Chinatown and Flushing.
Students are required to prepare about 15 tax returns and volunteer at least three hours a week for VITA.
"I joined VITA because I was looking for some hands-on experience with tax-related accounting practices. I want to broaden my scope and understanding of accounting in general. I just finished my fourth week and the experience was exactly as I expected," said Jonathan Wong, a sophomore majoring in accounting at Baruch.
"I obtained incredible hands-on experience by preparing lax returns for low-income individuals and I have been getting more and more practice with clients every week."
Baruch's VITA program has grown so much since it was first established in 1991.
Volunteers are recognized in the Baruch community as dedicated leaders who assist low income families with their services. VITA is not only limited to Accounting or Finance majors.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about taxes and gaining more experience are welcome to apply. Applications for this position will be open from September to December.
"The feeling of giving back to the community is quite satisfying," said Wong.