The room could be part of any busy accounting office in the months before tax day. Tax preparers speak quietly with their clients as they enter data on their computers to complete returns. They confer with each other when thorny issues arise. In the waiting room, other clients wait patiently for their names to be called, all hoping for big refunds.
But look closely and you will see that these tax preparers look young enough to be college students. And, in fact, they are college seniors.
Welcome to Touro College’s VITA program at Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush. VITA — the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program — is an Internal Revenue Service sponsored program that provides underserved communities and low-to-moderate income individuals with free tax filing assistance. Each year a team of Touro accounting majors provides this vital service to the community in Flatbush and surrounding areas. Touro’s program runs for eight Sundays in February, March and April.
For students, VITA is an opportunity to gain real world experience in both tax preparation and client relations. “I plan on going into accounting and I’m learning to handle complex tax scenarios while I’m in college. It is great to have real life tax experience,” said Naomi Klavan, an accounting major who is one of the site coordinators.
Site coordinators Aaron Rumpler and Klavan trained 17 students to prepare returns using IRS-approved software. The students will serve more than 300 clients, preparing their tax returns during the eight-week program. They will also earn college credits for participating.
“I had a great experience at Touro in Flatbush, so I came back to help with VITA,” said Rumpler, who graduated last year. “They make sure you know everything you need to know to be prepared for a career as a CPA.”