At noon on Saturday, April 15, nearly 30 people anxiously waited outside the Anstett Family Accounting Suite in the Lillis Business Complex at the University of Oregon's Lundquist College of Business. With just two days before the tax-filing deadline on April 17, these individuals were lined up to take advantage of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offered by students from Beta Alpha Psi (BAP), an accounting honors fraternity, and the UO School of Law.
"We knew it was going to be packed, and it got crazy. But all the preparers handled it perfectly. It really ran smoothly," said business student Jonathon Campo '07, smiling and clearly proud of the accomplishment. Campo is BAP president and was site coordinator for the VITA program.
He noted that the tax-preparation service was offered from noon to 6:00 P.M. on eight Saturdays from mid-February to April 15. During that time, a total of sixty-seven students (fifty from BAP) logged 635 volunteer hours to help coordinate and prepare tax returns for individuals and families with incomes of less than $37,000. Of those volunteers, twenty-seven students were certified as tax preparers after completing an online program and test on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website. The remaining forty students provided promotion, coordination, and administrative support. Law students were also available to clarify tax law, if necessary, and to offer client counseling.
In previous years, accounting and law students collaborated with the local chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, who took primary responsibility for the VITA program. This year, the students decided to undertake the program independently, and they subsequently set a record for the most returns processed-225-since BAP began participating in the program four years ago.
"The students did a great job," said Instructor of Accounting Joel Sneed, the BAP faculty adviser, who also noted that the students worked directly with the IRS to monitor the effectiveness of the VITA program. "The IRS was very appreciative of their effort. Not only did students file more returns, the accuracy of the returns improved 275 percent compared with last year."
"Overall, it was a great experience," said Campo. "It gave me and other students an opportunity to see how it feels to lead. Organizing the program and networking with law students was a lot of fun. I'm excited to do it again next year."