UW-W program offers free tax assistance for community

Have no fear, the accounting students are here!


Briahna LeFave, Business & Technology Editor

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program otherwise known as VITA, is a college course at UW-Whitewater as well as a useful tool that can be utilized by both community members and students to complete their income taxes. Tax season can often make people a little nervous. Finding a reputable and affordable tax preparation service can be as daunting filing through a self-service online tax company. Have no fear, the accounting students at UW-Whitewater’s College of Business and Economics are here to help!

“VITA is a hands-on class experience that puts students with taxpayers that involves them in how taxes are prepared. No two tax returns are the same and no two interactions with clients are the same,” said former VITA student Dr. Brian Huels. “The more students get exposed to real world situations the more they can work on their interpersonal skills – a very important skill set in today’s world. The filing of taxes involves the sharing of knowledge. What does the law say? Why does the law say it? The VITA program is set up in a way where students prepare and review the returns providing an experience to really get deep into certain areas of the tax law. Beyond this, the information has to be shared with the client. Why are they getting a refund? Why do they owe money? Being able to understand a tax return is difficult and part of the goal of the program is to make sure taxpayers and students come out of the program with an increased level of understanding about how taxes work.” 

In many ways, the VITA program is a win-win-win. It provides the community with an important and useful service, gives students real world job experience and earns them college credit simultaneously. It truly is a marriage of education, public service and human connection.

Dr. Huels mentions even more positive outcomes for both students and community members.

“Community members get to learn more about UW-W. Students get to learn more about our community as they are interacting with many individuals that are local to UW-W. In addition, we are working to grow the program so that it helps share more information about financial literacy.”

Cole Miller, a Finance and Accounting double major at UW-Whitewater is ready to take on this unique opportunity, noting what a great help this will be for himself and the folks who come to a VITA clinic for assistance.

“I am excited to be participating in the VITA program because I think it is a great opportunity to help those in our community, and also get experience in the tax area of the Accounting world. I see this program as a good stepping stone to branch into the tax world, and really learn the aspect of communicating with those that do not understand tax that well and be able to help them out as much as possible.” said Finance and Accounting double major Student, Miller.

“As a student I think it is a great way to be a student and give back to the community while learning at the same time. I really see this as a great opportunity, and thankful that we have this program to give back to the community and learn. I am looking forward to this course, and the things I will learn from this.” said Miller.

In addition to public service, Cole looks forward to gaining knowledge and experience that will be relevant in his chosen field.

“I think I will learn great communication skills out of this experience, and also learn how to verbally explain tax laws and rules to those around me,” said Miller.

VITA will operate out of the Community Engagement Center located at 1260 W Main St. Whitewater WI 53190 (next to Walmart), a first for the program. It will be open on every Wednesday from February 2. to April 13 from 3:30pm.-6pm. The clinic is first come, first served (no appointments necessary) and is free to low-moderate income taxpayers. People wishing to utilize the program need to arrive at least one hour prior to closing, and proper mask wearing will be required.