Students in East Central University’s School of Business are providing free tax assistance again this year to individuals with basic tax returns, particularly those with low and fixed incomes. They are participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program now located at the Chickasaw Nation Community Center at the northeast corner of Mississippi and Arlington.
YaLisa Jolly of Pauls Valley (front row, center) holds a giant federal income tax form. She and other East Central University students are participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program that provides free aid to individuals with basic tax returns. The volunteers are Deborah Stepp of Ardmore (front row, from left), Samantha Gearhardt of Shawnee, Jacob Bussell of Wakita, YaLisa Jolly, Nicole Thetford of Holdenville, Atit Ingnam of Dallas, Sommer Stevens of Elk City and (back row) Michelle Blanton of Wewoka, Brian Wilke of Ada, Jonathan Buckman of Shawnee, Chris Covington of Pauls Valley, Mark Choate of Ada and Ed Hobbs, ECU’s Horne & Company professor of accounting.
The national program is supported by the Internal Revenue Service.
The VITA center is open from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, excluding holidays. The tax returns completed by ECU students and other volunteers will be filed electronically.
“I see the program as a win-win situation,” said Ed Hobbs, ECU’s Horne & Company professor of accounting. “It is a benefit to the community, ECU and the students. The people in the community get a useful service and, most important to me, the students get invaluable real-world, hands-on experience dealing with clients.
The student volunteers are advanced accounting majors who have taken the university’s individual income tax course. Hobbs said they have been trained on the tax software and have attended classes, using materials provided by the IRS, to assist them in identifying and understanding issues they likely will encounter at the VITA center.
“And there is more,” Hobbs said. “They have also taken and passed three IRS VISTA certification exams. It is apparent to me that these students are highly motivated to both excel in their future profession and to provide assistance, where needed, to their local communities.”
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