How Kelley Indy graduate accounting students volunteer to save people money

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The Kelley School of Business Indianapolis opens new opportunities for its students, and not just academically.

Sure, students encounter challenging curriculum that prepares them for successful careers in the business world, but they also develop a philanthropic mindset. Kelley Indy students, who complete hundreds of hours of volunteer work every year, find different avenues to offer their services. For Kelley Indy Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) and Master of Science in Taxation (MST) students, many of them do so through Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).

In 2016, more than 7,500 tax returns were prepared for Central Indiana residents at no cost. - United Way

“I knew that I wanted to give back to my community,” said Jay Neel, MSA’17. “An advisor with Kelley Indianapolis Career Services recommended I volunteer for VITA. After learning more about the program, I saw how I could gain valuable tax experience while helping people in my community.”

VITA offers free tax preparation to individuals and families with a combined household income of $54,000 or less, as well as persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. VITA is designed to ensure people receive all the tax credits and deductions for which they are eligible.

$8 millionIn 2016, VITA volunteers helped people in Central Indiana receive more than $8 million in refunds.

$1.8 millionIn 2016, VITA volunteers saved people $1.8 million in tax preparation services.

“Actually volunteering and doing the work helps me understand tax better,” Jay said, having completed multiple hours of training and becoming IRS certified. “The customer experience and problem solving I’ll encounter will directly transfer into my classroom work, benefiting me in my tax and financial accounting courses.”

Stephanie Dunfee, MSA’17, juggled coursework, finals and a full-time job while committing to her training to become IRS certified. For Stephanie, VITA is a way to use her knowledge and passion towards helping others, while giving her valuable experience in tax.

“I think it is important to help people who are unable to prepare their own taxes or who need assistance with tax preparation,” Stephanie said. “Tax law can be difficult to interpret, and many people are overwhelmed at the thought of having to do their own taxes or do not have the means to pay a preparer. VITA provides the means for these people to have their taxes done for free.”

Providing a needed service is certainly a rewarding feeling, but Stephanie’s volunteering also provides her a valuable benefit – experience in tax.

I like to do individual taxes, but I don’t work in tax accounting. VITA gives me experience in taxes without having to work long hours as a tax accountant, and it allows me to give back to the community at the same time.

Stephanie Dunfee, MSA'17

Inside the classroom, students at Kelley Indy receive an education from faculty who are thought leaders and innovators. And outside of the classroom, they learn how to apply their skills to help those in the community.

If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more about VITA, visit the United Way of Central Indiana’s website.