Signing up for the VITA Program, I had the expectation that I would be assisting families prepare their tax returns. I had heard about the program from my friends and read about the requirements through a previous TXCPA2B blog posting, but this was all new to me. Attending the training and hearing that other students had paid money to earn course credit for this was surprising, but little did I know they were not necessarily paying for the knowledge—they were making an investment in the experience.
Though sitting through 12-hours of training is not exactly my idea of ‘fun,’ I did come away with the basics that have given me a foundation for my volunteer shifts. I tutored other UT Dallas students in preparation for our certification exam in hopes that I could help them see that the certification was within reach. Additionally, as a campus VITA Representative, I have gotten valuable feedback on why some students do not finish the certification and why others will not stop until they do.
Personally, I completed all of the steps necessary to begin volunteering because my purpose in joining VITA as a first-year tax preparer was to simplify the process for families seeking our help. The trainers dedicated their time and the government is sponsoring the VITA Program for a reason—they have seen the ROI for the families that use this program. In my interactions with the clients I serve, this fact is evident.
Each client and I had something in common, and the similarities between our stories clarified that there was a reason I was there helping them. Though I feel as though I am just beginning this process as a VITA tax preparer, this experience has been an indispensable part of my college learning. Giving back in a way that allows me to use my skillset for the good of the community and serve in a meaningful way makes the time investment worth the effort.
Persevering and finishing what I started to become an IRS Certified Income Tax Preparer is one of the decisions I most pride myself in during my time in college. I recommend the program not for the purpose of having an extra line of content on your resume, but for the relationship-development aspect. As a VITA volunteer, you are part of a nationwide effort to improve the lives of other individuals, all while having fun! What more could you ask for?