Cal Poly Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

As my Senior Project at Cal Poly, I had the opportunity to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). VITA is a free program sponsored by the California Franchise Tax Board, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Cal Poly Accounting Area. The tax returns are prepared by Cal Poly students after we complete a month of extensive training and have passed the IRS and FTB volunteer exams.

During the quarter I learned a lot about the tax system, myself, and successfully communicating and engaging with clients. Each week provided new experiences and interactions that played an integral role in defining my experience with VITA. The ability to work one on one with new clients provided an eye-opening experience where I found myself continuously learning.

Before we started preparing returns at the beginning of the quarter we went through a month of extensive training. The training coupled with the Individual Tax course I took prepared me to complete tax returns with different levels of difficulty. I enjoyed how the classes at night before we started the Saturday tax preparation were hands-on. The scenarios helped me grasp different concepts that are important to being successful in this client facing role including questions to ask and the forms to look for while preparing taxes. They also helped to prepare me for utilizing the tax prep software, TaxSlayer Pro.

The most interesting tax credit I learned about was the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The ability to understand the best one to take as well as when it is required or more beneficial for their parent to take the credit proved to be important. It also sheds light on the complexity of tax law and how it is constantly changing.

I have always been motivated to connect and offer support to those around me. VITA provided a neat experience showing me the power of what I have learned in school in my accounting and tax classes and utilizing those skills to help others in the community.