For the second year, Phoenix College (PC) has helped students and the community with their taxes through the VITA program. VITA, or Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, is sponsored by the City of Phoenix and works under the guidelines of the IRS.
The City of Phoenix has offered this service since 2003, providing tax service to more than 5,800 low-income families and helping families get back more than 6.2 million in federal refunds. It takes an army of volunteers, too: 266 volunteers give back 10,880 hours to the community.
“Phoenix College averages 8 to 12 volunteers, depending on the time of the tax season and situation,” said Doug Northway, PC faculty and site coordinator. “We use the IRS software, TaxSlayer. Our students and local volunteers train and are certified in tax preparations within a limited scope. We serve taxpayers who generally make less than $60,000 a year, less if single. We prepare, double-check and file both the state and federal returns for free. The taxpayer doesn't pay a dime for the service. Everything is done from start to finish within a few hours.”
This year, PC had six volunteers (three students and three faculty – Dr. Doula Zaharopoulos, Doug Northway and Mark Sassetti) give 272 hours of their time mid-February through April. They processed 59 federal returns and 58 state returns for a total refund amount of $106,097.00.
“VITA is a great opportunity for our students to gain valuable tax preparation experience and also gain work-based experience,” said faculty member Mark Sassetti. “Our local taxpayers are grateful because they need every dollar they can get back to make it through these trying times.”
Normally the college enlists Greeters, Screeners and Tax Preparers. The public receives a notice in their water bill a few months before the site opens each February. Volunteers begin training as early as November to be trained and certified with the IRS.
"Working with VITA was a gratifying experience,” said Dr. Zaharopoulos, PC business faculty. “I am very proud that Phoenix College is assisting our community in tax preparation."
“The experience and knowledge gained by volunteering with VITA will be very valuable with my future career path,” said student Elsa Ruiz. “I learned that patience, perseverance, paying attention to details, and proactively searching to maximize all tax credits and deductions for the client makes for a great VITA experience. I would highly recommend to all accounting and taxation students to get involved with VITA for at least one tax season. It truly gives us the ability to see and use the book knowledge first-hand.”
If you're interested in learning about taxes at PC check out our Enrolled Agent Certificate! It's a business certificate that gives you the knowledge to represent taxpayers to the IRS. Enrolling now: www.phoenixcollege.edu/cert/enrolled-agent