VITA program at Daemen University gives students accounting experience
Daemen University accounting and business students have a unique opportunity to gain valuable experience and confidence for the workplace through the on-campus site of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, offered through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
With various sites across the U.S. – including one at Daemen – the VITA program serves low income and elderly taxpayers.
At Daemen’s site, students work one-on-one with taxpayers, helping guide them through preparing federal and state returns.
“For students, it requires learning professional skills, maneuvering to have a conversation in order to serve people in a conventional and sensitive way,” said Grace M. Huff, CPA, director of the Accounting Program and assistant professor of accounting at Daemen; she also leads the VITA program site on campus.
Preparation for VITA program at Daemen University
To prepare for the program, students take the income tax theory class Huff teaches, which focuses on individual income tax preparation rules and regulations.
As a CPA, Huff also provides specific training to Daemen students that their peers at other VITA programs at higher education institutions may not receive.
As students, “we are fortunate enough to be able to have professors who have experience and are there to answer our questions,” said Joel Penvose, senior accounting major at Daemen. “The first day was tough, but after doing returns for almost three months now, they are becoming a lot easier.”
“It’s great practice for the professional world,” he added, “and it’s rewarding every time you finish one.”
Students are also required to pass a test by the IRS to be part of the program.
“The test is challenging – and the students who participate are committed to preparing for it and doing the work.” explained Huff.
Most students who participate in the VITA program at Daemen University are in their third year at the university; however, some return to participate in the program in their senior year for extra-credit opportunities. Even alums have returned to participate in the program.
Valuable Experience Employers Want
“The VITA program gives students valuable hands-on experience preparing tax returns that is very sought after by employers in the job market,” said Huff. “It looks great on their resume and is right up there with having an internship.”
As a service learning experience offered at Daemen, students are required to keep journals while participating in the VITA program, indicating what they learned each day, what challenges they overcame and how they can apply their new knowledge from the experience to the workforce.
“As a student, the VITA program helps prepare you for your future jobs, doing your own or your family’s returns, and being able to communicate efficiently and effectively with many persons of diverse backgrounds,” said senior accounting major Madison Rogacki.
“It also helps you to be able to get a deeper understanding of the topics you learn in the classroom,” she said.
Serving Diverse Populations
People come from the cities of Buffalo and Rochester and beyond to work with students in the VITA program.
“The people who come in are from all different backgrounds and the types of experiences they have with money and investing are very broad,” said accounting major Alexander Dane. “Therefore, I have a lot of different experiences doing their taxes with them.”
Kofi Agyemang, who is currently in Daemen’s MBA program, said, “I love being in the position to help people prepare their taxes. Seeing the joy in their face when it is all completed melts my heart.”
He added, “The tax filing process is often a stressor for individuals. I enjoy being able to make the process seamless and less intimidating. The VITA program has taught me how to do my own taxes and more about the country’s tax system.”
For information on a VITA program site in Erie County, call 211 or visit 211wny.org.
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