Student group once again offers tax help to community

After a pause due to COVID-19 concerns, the specially trained University of Oregon students of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program are back to offer help to the public with tax returns.

Students, faculty members, staff and community members are invited to drop off their paperwork at the UO’s Lillis Business Complex on an upcoming Saturday and come back to a prepared return ready to review and sign.

Student members of UO’s Beta Alpha Psi accounting honor society are specially trained in tax preparation and offer their volunteer services to the local community free of charge.

“VITA is an incredibly valuable educational experience for students because not only do we get real-world experience working with taxes, but we also learn about working with clients,” said Jeffrey Van Horn, a 2022 master of accounting candidate and the VITA chair and site coordinator. “While some of the tax knowledge that we gain from VITA is very specialized, the experience of working in a team and engaging with clients is applicable in almost any field.”

VITA began nearly two decades ago when Beta Alpha Psi was approached by an IRS representative looking to launch e-file and free tax preparation on college campuses with a student experience-based initiative.

Joel Sneed, senior instructor of accounting and certified public accountant who specializes in US and international corporate and individual taxation, took over as advisor this past summer.

In addition to a new advisor, Van Horn said there have been some important process changes for the 2022 tax season

“The biggest change this year is that our clients are not going to be present while we prepare their return,” he said. “Instead, clients will get to meet and talk with the volunteer who will prepare their return. They will then leave the site and receive a call when their return is completed. They will then review their return with a site coordinator and once they have signed off on the return, we will file it as we have in the past.” 

The VITA team processes many types of returns, but is particularly well-versed in the tax needs of students.

“At most tax preparation services, students make up a small fraction of their clients,” he said. “For us, they are a significant portion of our overall client base.”

That said, non-student community members are encouraged to allow VITA to help them prepare their taxes.

“We operate on the core principle that quality tax preparation should be accessible for all, no matter their income level,” Van Horn said. “We’ve seen how this service has helped our community here in Eugene and Springfield for many years, and that is truly the driving force behind us bringing back VITA this year.”

Visit the UO Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program website for more information and latest updates.

The details:

VITA operates exclusively on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. in the Lillis Business Complex on each of the following dates. No new clients will be accepted after 2 p.m. and preparation will be done on a first-come, first-served basis.  

The dates are Feb. 12, 19, 26; March 5; and April 2, 9, 16.

— AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications