TROY students assisting local families with tax prep

Students in the Sorrell College of Business have been providing free tax help to local families and senior citizens.

Students in the Sorrell College of Business have been providing free tax help to local families and senior citizens.

For the sixth year, around 50 students enrolled in the Tax I and Tax II courses have been participating in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to assist low income families and senior citizens by doing their taxes for free this tax season. This year, though, the College of Business will also partnered with Alabama’s SaveFirst.

In order to qualify for the free service, families with children must make below $54,000 a year. Families without children must make below $20,000 a year.

Dena Mitchell, assistant professor of accountancy and professor of the courses, said the real-world experience prepares students for public accounting careers when they graduate.

“There is a learning theory out there that is called experiential learning,” Mitchell said. “Basically, the premise is that you learn much faster if you have a hands-on learning experience doing something, rather than just learning in a classroom.”

In the tax course, the students learn about individual tax returns for families or single people, according to Mitchell.

“We do practice tax returns in class that they actually have to do for an assignment,” Mitchell said. “But it’s a completely different ballgame when you go to working with an actual person and seeing what that entails.

“The other purpose for it is, when they get into their job in public practice, they most likely are going to be doing tax returns and they have to learn to speak with real clients. This gives them practice doing that also.”

The firms the students will be working for will ask them if they want to do auditing or taxes, according to Mitchell.

“We put a lot of pressure on our students to pick a path when they start thinking about what they want to do as public accountants,” Mitchell said. “A lot of students find out through this that they actually enjoy tax, even though the classes aren’t easy.”

The site for this year’s program is the teller building behind the old Regions Bank building downtown at The Idea Bank, 63 S Court Sq., Troy, AL 36081, according to Mitchell.

The site will be open Thursday through Saturday until Mar. 1.

Appointments can be made over the phone by calling 1-888-99-TAXAL. Walk-ins are also welcome, but Mitchell said there may be a longer wait-time for individuals without appointments.