Selinsgrove, PA. – Susquehanna University’s accounting students continue to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and work remotely on the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
VITA is sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service and provides free tax assistance to people who generally earn $ 54,000 or less, people with disabilities, and taxpayers with limited English language skills who have difficulty completing their tax returns. The program is carried out on site by the Union-Snyder Community Action Agency.
This year’s work will be done entirely remotely, assisted by Richard Davis, professor of accounting. Davis picks up customer information from the CAA and directs it to his students at Sigmund Weis School of Business and then back to the CAA.
“It certainly took more logistics to continue our work with the program this year,” said Davis. “But this experience is so important, not only because it is directly relevant to our students’ career goals, but also a valuable opportunity for them to use their professional skills to give back to their community.”
Students who enroll in Davis’s four-credit course also count towards their 150-hour CPA certification requirement.
“The ability to earn college loans while serving the local community attracted me to the program this year,” said Mariah Guiswite ’21, an accountant from Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. “It also gives me hands-on tax preparation experience that will prove valuable during my future career.”
The only constant for VITA volunteers has always been student-client interaction, said Kevin Bowser ’21, a second-time volunteer accounting major from West Chester, Pennsylvania.
“By far the best thing to do is talk to customers,” said Bowser. “A lot of our customers don’t have many people to talk to, so it was nice to have conversations with them.”
In addition to filing their clients ‘tax returns, VITA volunteers help qualified clients apply for the state property tax / rental discount program and apply for their earned income tax credit – all of which puts money back in their clients’ pockets, Andrew said Cooney. 21, majoring in Accounting from Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania.
“When you’re on campus, you seldom see anyone struggling to make ends meet, but through VITA we see some living entirely on social security, which is well below the poverty line,” Cooney said. “It means a lot to be able to help them.”
All three senior citizens secured a job after graduation: Bowser at GMS Surgent; Cooney at McKonly & Asbury; and Guiswite at Baker Tilly.