Why would anyone give up their Saturdays to do taxes for Norton residents? This is a question I have been asked more than once. When I mention my involvement with VITA, Wheaton’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance club, I am often met with confusion. Not many students on campus are aware of our existence. I joined VITA on a whim, as a freshman looking to get involved on campus. I hoped to learn how to do my own taxes and to get involved with the Norton community.
VITA is not nearly as intimidating as it sounds. It is an incredibly valuable experience for anyone, whether or not they are planning a future in accounting.
There are few clubs on campus devoted entirely to community service, and VITA is one of them. VITA is a national program with sites at schools, libraries and community centers across the country. Wheaton’s VITA club runs in the spring semester and has just completed its second year.
Before the arrival of tax season, the club meets a few times to go through training. We deal only with low income returns and work with user-friendly software through H&R Block. We do not do any math. Instead, we walk people through their returns using the software and answer their questions. We work one-on-one with Norton residents and help them navigate their tax returns.
Most of our members are majoring in economics, business or math and are able to apply skills they have gained from courses such as Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance. However, VITA is not just for economics majors.
As a humanities and social science double major, I have found the experience incredibly valuable because it has taught me how to do my own taxes, which is something I might never have learned otherwise. Most importantly, I have found it immensely rewarding to work with Norton residents. I am able to see the difference I am making in their lives. Taxes are intimidating, but VITA provides the perfect opportunity to tackle them in a friendly environment while providing help to Norton residents for whom taxes can be stressful and daunting.