VITA program to help GVSU students organize tax returns

By Meghan McBrady | 2/7/16 8:52pm

GVL/Luke Holmes A student fills out her W-2 form. GVSU provides a tax prep program to help students files their taxes for free.

It’s that dreaded time year again – tax season.

While the concept of auditing and balancing a checkbook seems both puzzling and troubling to many individuals, students and volunteers in the school of accounting at Grand Valley State University want to help.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) is a free, national program that is geared toward helping individuals who make $54,000 or less a year, individuals with disabilities, the elderly and the limited-English speaking taxpayers who need help in organizing their tax returns.

This is the fifth year that GVSU has hosted the VITA program. The site operates every Saturday – with the exception of the days on either side of GVSU's spring break – from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

From Feb. 6 to April 9 in Room 2015 in GVSU's Seidman Center, volunteers will be helping students and local residents in downtown Grand Rapids who qualify for the service.

Claire Quattro, a school of accounting graduate assistant, is leading the program. She said that while she is somewhat nervous about being selected to lead the program, she is excited that she and the other 35 to 45 volunteers can help GVSU and the community in Grand Rapids.

“This is a good program for the community, but also a good opportunity for the students at Grand Valley,” Quattro said. “Almost all of the volunteers are upcoming accounting students and graduates who may not have internships under their belt and this is a good experience for them to learn and get the ball rolling and find future internships.”

Appointments are available through the United Way 211 in Grand Rapids and GVSU’s office. Locations are already getting calls from students about the program and where they can get help and find the proper information.

Besides GVSU’s location, other sites include the Oakdale Clark Church, United Way and the Gerald R. Ford Academic Center. All sites have different hours and days of operation, allowing different opportunities for West Michigan to helps its community file their taxes.

Rita Grant, the director of the school of accounting at GVSU, said she supports Quattro and the participation of the students because it allows all types of accounting students from all walks of education to get involved.

“It is purely a service for those in our neighborhood who have low income and difficulty filling out their taxes,” Grant said. “They almost all are entitled to refunds, so this is a real service to the community as well as giving our students real-world experience.”

Quattro said she and her team are trying to give the volunteers the experience they need to not only hone their skills, but also help teach their community how to do their taxes and help them gain their tax refund.

“I am really excited to see what kind of clients will come in and I think this will be a rewarding experience for me and my volunteers,” Quattro said. “I hope that we can give them the service and financial stability that they rightly deserve.”

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