The University of Redlands is again offering tax preparation, free of charge, through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays, now through April 11. Clients are invited to drop off documents at Duke Hall on campus or to submit them digitally via the VITA website.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) VITA grant program is a nationwide volunteer-operated tax assistance program that aids underserved populations in filing taxes with more ease and accuracy. At Redlands, the program offers students a chance to provide community service while learning tax preparation. In the class, students are familiarized with tax laws and taught how to prepare official government tax forms using IRS training material.
The VITA program has been offered as a course in the University’s accounting department since 1996. Professor Greg Lackey, who was a student in one of the first VITA classes in 1997, has been the program’s instructor for the last 22 years. "My first class of students did the tax returns by hand, using pen, paper, and a calculator,” he recalled.
“It’s open to all majors so anyone can learn if they want to,” said Leslie Sernaque Falcon ’22, a creative writing and media and visual culture studies double major.
“This year was definitely different,” Lackey said, “in that I have more non-accounting or business majors than I ever have before. Regardless of the student’s major, they each process tax returns of varying complexity.”
Lauren Petri ‘22 believes the VITA program is a vital asset to the local Redlands community, providing individuals with the unique opportunity to seek tax help for free. “A lot of the community can’t pay to have someone do their taxes, so … having us is really helpful; we’ve been doing it for years,” she said.
Students are grateful for the educational benefits of the program, and the opportunity to serve the Redlands community. Dorsey Wilhoite ’22 appreciates the chance to give back while preparing to launch his career. “I thought it would be a good way to help people and learn about taxes myself at the same time.”
Lackey and his students encourage students who are interested to consider enrolling in the VITA program in the future.