News from the Richard C. Adkerson School of Accountancy

Learning Through Service

During the 2024 tax season, members of ASAC’s Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) chapter gained valuable experience while providing a useful service to the community. For the second year, ASAC offered a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site, providing free basic tax return preparation for qualified individuals.

“This is a two for one type of activity in terms of benefits,” says Assistant Clinical Professor Alan Stancill, BAP Advisor and VITA Site Coordinator. “It helps low-income taxpayers because we can provide for free what otherwise might cost them several hundred dollars with a tax prep company.”

He continues, “For our students, it offers experiential learning. They’re taking what they’ve learned in class and applying it in the real world – sitting down with strangers who walk in off the street with their tax information.”

VITA is an IRS program in which volunteer tax preparers throughout the country assist those with lower incomes, disabilities or limited English language skills. To establish a VITA center requires registration with the IRS and completion of online training by the center’s site coordinators and its tax preparers, as well as passing an on-site inspection by the agency. The IRS provides tax preparation software and publicizes the location on its website.

Mississippi State’s Innovation Hub in downtown Starkville offered space for Beta Alpha Psi’s VITA center, making it easily accessible for local taxpayers. Dates and hours were publicized during which they could drop in for assistance. About a dozen students took part, meeting with taxpayers and preparing their returns. Stancill and Associate Clinical Professor Kelly Walker, who both teach in MSU’s MTAX graduate program, oversaw the center and reviewed the returns prior to filing.

Senior Lynley McCullough found it a rewarding experience.

“I’ll begin the Master of Taxation program in June and wanted to learn more about the process of taxes,” she comments. “One of the coolest parts about the program was being able to help someone gain the earned income credit when they did not know about it. I loved learning how to use accounting to help people.”

Stancill anticipates the program will continue to grow.

“We had several repeat customers this year, and we’re building momentum,” he shares. “Next year we’ll focus on getting the word out even more broadly to the community.”