Beta Alpha Psi
Each tax season Beta Alpha Psi participates in VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) where University of Iowa accounting and law students volunteer to assist with filing income taxes for qualified Johnson County residents. The VITA program consistently serves more residents, and this year is no exception.
A new record number of 1,018 tax returns were filed but Ben Miller, BAP vice president of VITA programming, says they’re exploring ways to serve even more residents.
“We have outgrown the Iowa City Public Library’s facility, so we are limited to how many volunteers can work in the space available. One of our goals for next year is to expand. With the country’s current economic situation, we are very busy and will likely continue to be.
”VITA is spearheaded by the BAP vice president of VITA programming who works closely with Professor Joyce Berg, faculty advisor, to coordinate this large undertaking.
Miller, a senior accounting student, filled the role of VITA programming officer and faced the challenges of recruiting and training the many volunteers. He estimates he personally dedicated 250 hours on the project all while maintaining his academic course load and a part-time job.
“Most volunteers are Beta Alpha Psi members. But we also visit classes in the fall to recruit other volunteers. They are required to have at least one tax course before they can begin preparing personal tax returns. We encourage volunteers to receive 15 hours of training with Professor Berg. They also must pass IRS certification testing,” he says.
This year 59 BAP members, 34 other accounting students, and 6 law students prepared tax returns at four locations in Johnson County. Together they totaled 2,519 volunteer hours for the project.
Volunteers gain experience while providing a service to the community.
“Each taxpayer’s situation is unique and may require further research. We face a variety of situational complexities that include nonresident taxes, partnerships, trust and estates, sole proprietorships, and more. If the software could handle it, and it was within the IRS guidelines, we dealt with it,” Miller says.
Miller explains that after taxpayers complete their session with a volunteer, the tax return is prepared, then quality reviewed on location, then reviewed again at another site before being submitted to the IRS.
Coordinating this effort for BAP not only helped Miller to expand his tax knowledge considerably, it was also an opportunity to learn other valuable skills like leadership and time management.
“I knew in the beginning that if I tried to do everything myself, I wasn’t going to get anything accomplished. I recruited a few friends who were especially valuable in the reviewing process.”