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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.—As Indianapolis residents begin to prepare for tax season, they will have assistance from students from the graduate accounting programs at the Kelley School of Business Indianapolis. For the past three years, Kelley students have participated in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) through Indy’s Campaign for Financial Fitness, founded by Indianapolis First Lady, Winnie Ballard.

“Volunteers who assist with our tax preparation service are incredibly helpful for both our mobile tax sites and to our regular tax site partners,” said First Lady of Indianapolis Winnie Ballard. “And, our volunteers have the potential to make a difference in someone’s life by offering them access to tools on how to become financially fit.”

Approximately 60 Kelley students have volunteered their time in the VITA program.

“The community receives the benefit of having well-trained Kelley students assist them with their tax returns at no cost,” said Susan Cauble, assistant director of graduate programs at Kelley Indianapolis. “Many of the families would not be able to afford to have their taxes done by someone else.”

Students in the Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) and Master of Science in Taxation (MST) volunteer in the program.

“Many of the people I assisted had little to no knowledge about preparing their tax returns,” said Yuming Gong (MSA ’09). “I felt tax returns were very difficult for them and they couldn’t do them by themselves. The more I was involved in this program, the more I wanted to help people.” 

Students and alumni say the volunteer opportunity gave them a chance to put practical book skills to work.

“It was very beneficial for me when I was a student because it allowed me to use the skills I learned from my taxation classes,” said MST student XiangXiang Lou (MSA ’11). “Even though these tax returns were not particularly complicated, I learned how to process them. It felt good to help.”

Kelley students are particularly suited for this volunteer effort, given the top-ranked program and the state’s only MST degree. The volunteer opportunity offers students hands-on experience.

“Most of our MST students either have an undergraduate degree in accounting or a juris doctor (JD) degree, but no practical experience in taxation,” Cauble added. “The ICFF gives these students the chance to gain valuable, real-world experience on the technical side of tax that will be very useful, not only in the classroom but also in their chosen careers as well.”

Larry Borthwick (MPA ’08) says his work with VITA was rewarding.

“Volunteering to prepare taxes for low-income individuals and families was a worthwhile experience that I strongly recommend to all accounting students,” said Borthwick, a controller for Gold Seal Pest Control in Indianapolis. “You basically prepared the tax return on the spot.  It was fun and stressful at the same time, making you pay attention to every detail and ask thorough questions.”

Free tax preparation training is required for the program. To volunteer with VITA, visit IndysCampaign.org here.

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