FIU students help locals file tax returns.

Each year, hard-working students from Florida International University (FIU) participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, a free service established by the Internal Revenue Service to help low-income earners complete their tax forms.

In 2010, 55 students—52 of them accounting students who belong to ALPFA at FIU and Beta Alpha Psi in the School of Accounting—completed a total of 247 returns at the City of Sweetwater’s Jorge Mas Canosa Youth Center, the Corpus Christi’s Community Center (Rosario De Las Cuevas de Iglesias), the Miami Riverside Center and other VITA sites in Broward County. By the end of the effort, these tireless volunteers had amassed 1,380 hours easing the process for the residents.

Representatives of the School of Accounting, the IRS and the student volunteers—including Vincent Chow, fourth from the right—participated in a recognition ceremony.

Commitment is considerable, as is the satisfaction.

“The volunteers had to complete three Saturday training sessions on the TaxWise software and pass two online laws exams,” said Tessie Brunken (EMST ’86, BBA ’81), administrative director, School of Accounting, in the College of Business Administration.

From left to right: Tessie Brunken; Sharon Lassar, director, School of Accounting; with IRS representatives Ronald W. Albert, territory manager of stakeholder, partnerships, education and communication (SPEC); and Ana M. Raposo, senior tax specialist

First-time participant Vincent Chow, a senior accounting major, took on the task of back-up coordinator for this year’s effort, in part to “help enhance what I have already learned in school.”

Not only did Chow–who logged about 45 hours in his dual role as back-up coordinator and tax return preparer–have the satisfaction of applying his classroom knowledge to a real-life situation, but also he appreciated the opportunity to volunteer.

“The most satisfying thing about being a volunteer to me is knowing that we are giving back to the community,” he said. “I am humbled to know that I directly affected everyone who came into the site needing assistance with their tax return. It is a great feeling knowing that you were able to help provide a service that is beneficial to the client in front of you as well as knowing that the service came free.”

The School of Accounting thanked the students at annual recognition ceremony held in mid-May.

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