Tax season can be an emotional time for Americans. Many will deal with stress, frustration, anticipation, and even excitement. Those emotions can be amplified for individuals who cannot afford professional tax preparation. Students and professors from the Kramer School of Accountancy and Information Sciences in the Boler College of Business at John Carroll University have been helping alleviate that stress for nearly 30 years. 

In the 1990s, Jerry Weinstein, Ph.D., CPA, Professor Emeritus of Accountancy at JCU, started a program where students combine experiential learning with community service by traveling throughout Cuyahoga County to facilitate free tax filing sessions. The program is called VITA -- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Students and professors utilize software provided by the IRS to help Clevelanders solve their tax issues.

This year, Joanna Garcia, Ph.D., CPA, is organizing the VITA program and says it's a great way to give students practical experience while developing other essential skills. 

Students say the experiential learning opportunity proves beneficial on several fronts. They engage with community members, building communication skills while also sharpening their accountancy skills. 

The pandemic put a temporary pause on the program, however, JCU accountancy students are again preparing tax returns for the Famicos Community Help Foundation in Glenville, where they have done so for nearly ten years. 

The program's founder, Dr. Weinstein, says VITA provides a unique blend of applying curriculum while offering a much-needed service to the community. "I think students feel that they make a difference," Weinstein said. "Whenever you finish a tax return, there is a feeling of accomplishment. Most of the taxpayers are extremely grateful. It's work, but the students realize they are performing a good deed."