Accounting Students Gain Experience, Volunteer with Stark United Way

March 27, 2017

ALLIANCE – The University of Mount Union and the United Way of Greater Stark County are seeking to make the days leading up to April 15 better for all.

Tax time can be quite a burden for many people, and working with an experienced professional makes it more bearable for most. However, not everyone has access or the financial stability to get their taxes done by someone familiar with the ways of the IRS. 

This problematic situation leads into the utilization of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. The program, which began in the early 1970’s, helps individuals and families below a specific income threshold to complete their annual returns at no cost. 

Russell Tietz, assistant professor of economics, accounting and business administration, is in his third year of taking students from his Federal Taxation II class to affiliated locations of the United Way. Where they volunteer their time and skills to those participating in the VITA program. 

Each student becomes certified by the IRS over their holiday break to be able to participate, which is something they can put on their résumés for future internships or careers. The students get the experience of working with real clients on their returns while also having their work checked by quality assurance professionals. 

Students are required to put in eight hours of clinical work for the class, but gain extra credit for working more hours, which is typically the case. There are flexible locations in Alliance, Canton and Carrollton for residential or commuter students. 

“In class, we learn how to prepare income tax returns and we do a lot of practice problems,” said Natalie Groff ’17 an accounting major from Jackson Township, Ohio. “When we go out to volunteer, we are using everything we learned in class and it is very rewarding to think ‘I know how to do this.’ Preparing taxes isn’t easy, but our classes really give us that basis to help us understand what we need to be able to do.”

In 2015, Tietz’s second year participating, a total of 13 volunteers (12 students and Tietz) worked a total of 179 hours. Students from Malone University and Walsh University also participate in the VITA program with the United Way. The entire group prepared more than 3,500 returns totaling more than $2.4 million dollars in refunds to Stark County residents.

“Students get valuable experience working with clients in many scenarios,” Tietz said. “They get to experience the difficulty of telling someone they may owe money back, but also see the joy on people’s faces when they tell them they will be getting a larger refund than they expected.” 

For more information on the VITA program and the United Way of Greater Stark County, visit www.uwstark.org/freetax. Learn more about the accounting major at Mount Union by going to mountunion.edu/accounting-major.

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