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IC tax program’s community impact spans decades

3.06.2020

For more than 30 years, Illinois College accounting students have provided free tax-return services to the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

For more than 30 years, Illinois College accounting students have provided free tax-return services to the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program.

"Just being able to expand my knowledge while doing community service is a great opportunity," Angela Dorethy ’20 said.

Dorethy is volunteering in the program for a second year. In the first year she participated, she completed tax returns with the other student volunteers. This year, she asked to take on a bigger role and is working as a supervisor alongside faculty advisor John Rush, associate professor of accounting.

Filing an average of around 500 tax returns each year, Rush said the student volunteers develop software and client relationship skills. Students complete three and a half weeks of intensive training and are required to pass a series of certification exams administered by the IRS in order to prepare tax returns for the public. This year, 15 IC students are partnering with four MacMurray College students to participate in the program. Dorethy said, in addition to getting to use her accounting skills in the real world, the program has allowed her to learn from working with Rush and to get to know and assist the other student volunteers. This kind of hands-on learning is an essential part of an Illinois College education.

"When I first did the tax program, I hadn't had an internship experience or anything like that,” she said. “So, just getting to work with the public, it was kind of the first time I was able to use accounting skills I'd learned and apply them to an outside situation. That helped me become more confident in my communication skills and in interacting with people. It made me feel like, ‘OK, I can actually do this.’”

The free service is available to individuals and families with a household income of less than $60,000. Federal and state tax returns are prepared and filed electronically prior to the April 15 deadline. Students filed around 600 returns last year and Dorethy said they finished around 200 returns in just the first two weeks of the 2020 program.

"It's just really cool that we're able to serve the community in such a positive way."
Angela Dorethy ’20

Dorethy, whose next plans include graduate school and becoming a CPA, said the program serves a lot of retired people who seem to look forward to coming out to get their taxes done by the students each year, as well as some international students who aren't familiar with the U.S. tax system. The clients are friendly, express gratitude and ask the students about their future plans, Dorethy said, adding they are often excited that the students go to Illinois College. Being involved for a second year, she recognizes people as “the same smiling face they were the year before."

"It's just really cool that we're able to serve the community in such a positive way, because you really see people from all different backgrounds, whether they're retired or they're a family with children and they need help getting their taxes done,” she said. “And it's a really good way to offer a free service.”

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

Visit www.ic.edu or call 217.245.3467 for more information.

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217.836.8850