Internships Take on a New Meaning During Tax Season
Undergraduate students majoring in accounting at local New Hampshire universities can practice their craft at select Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites across the state. VITA is a volunteer-led service that helps individuals file their income tax returns at no cost. Students from St. Anselm’s College, University of New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire University, and Franklin Pierce University volunteer their time and expertise during this season.
This opportunity provides undergraduates with several things including building customer relations, experiencing tax law and putting learning into action. Granite United Way works closely with St. Anselm College, where undergraduate accounting students are gaining practical experience. These students have the opportunity to serve as volunteer tax preparer interns.
Plymouth State University accounting students are gaining practical experience by volunteering at a "Virtual VITA" site at the Whole Village Family Resource Center. They are working under the direction of their professor and guidance of the Littleton based site coordinator.
Southern New Hampshire University continues to offer an on-campus VITA program as a required course of the accounting program, with a taxation course as a prerequisite so the students come to VITA already well-versed in tax law. These same students then run a VITA program on-site at SNHU.
Graduate students are connected to community VITA programs. One of those is Ornella Kapafule, who is volunteering at the Manchester VITA site. Ornella is also interning with Granite United Way and is developing a project analysis of VITA focusing on how volunteers are recruited and certified. The goal is to reduce the drop off from those expressing interest in volunteering to those who complete the certification and follow through as preparers.
"The reality that volunteers are holding taxpayers' financial documents can be a bit daunting," said Cary Gladstone, Senior Director of Asset Building Strategies at Granite United Way, who oversees the VITA program. "Building a leadership team of site coordinators and experienced volunteers can reduce the anxiety that new volunteers have. Every return is reviewed by a more experienced volunteer for accuracy, and we give feedback on the positive aspects of what the 'newbie' brings along with a backup support system."
Across the state, students are gaining valuable experience and providing a much-needed service. This service help bring millions of dollars back to low to moderate income families throughout New Hampshire.