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Virginia universities partner with IRS's volunteer income tax assistance program

Radford University campus sign
Jessica Britton
Radio IQ
Radford University is one school partnering with VITA

Colleges across the state are partnering with the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or VITA Program for a free and easy way for residents to file their taxes.

The district coordinator, Lacey Desper, with the help of Radford University, served about 400 residents last year in the New River Valley and hopes to increase that number this year.

“Radford University is right there, there’s an accounting program right there. And I sent an email that said “hey would you guys like to get involved with VITA and I got one hit and that was Wendy. It was more than I could ever ask for,” says Desper.

The impact of in-person tax assistance gives the individuals a chance to get help with other needs that drop off preparation does not offer.

Volunteers can share other services like food or clothing drives, finding childcare, legal support and many more that the non-profit New River Community Action provides.

Wendy Li, an accounting professor at Radford, began as a student volunteer for the VITA program when she was in college. And now she is the main contact to help students get involved.

VITA tax forms
Jessica Britton
Radio IQ

“I think it’s the communication skills. Even if you don’t have any tax background you can greet the people, show them what forms they must fill out, and show them the process they must go through to complete a tax refund,” says Li. “As for the account majors, you are having this hands-on experience.”

The program enlists students studying accounting or finance to volunteer in filing taxes so they can practice their skills and experience in a career-like setting.

Senior accounting student Sydney Carneal says volunteering has helped her gain the experience she needs to become a Certified Professional Accountant.

“You get to interact with the community a lot, which is very important. Radford has a great community and you’re helping a lot of people. It’s helped me in my professional career,” Carneal says.

You can find your local VITA services at universities such as James Madison University, University of Richmond, Virginia State University, and Liberty University.

To find a location near you, visit the IRS website.