This semester, students who were interested in helping their community better understand income taxes and all they entail were drawn to a new class offered at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. Introduction to Tax Preparation is a course taught by Assistant Professor of Accounting Steve Davenport.
The Introduction to Tax Preparation class partnered with the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, a social services organization dedicated to offering free tax preparation services to the community. The course is based on the VITA program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) developed by the IRS in 1969. VITA offers free tax preparation to elderly and low-income taxpayers every year. All VITA sites in the Chattanooga area are coordinated by the Urban League.
“Introduction to Tax Preparation has been my favorite class this year. Also, I get to help low-income adults and UTC students by preparing their taxes for free,” said Chance Gregory, a Chattanooga native and UTC senior majoring in accounting.
Admission to the course is on-demand and requires department head approval. Anyone wanting to volunteer with teaching the course must have IRS-provided training and pass certification tests. Students fully staff the Urban League site on M.L. King Boulevard every Friday and Saturday of the semester. Each taxpayer is then interviewed by students to obtain the necessary tax forms and other information.
The Introduction to Tax Preparation is one of UTC’s “Beyond the Classroom” courses. “Beyond the Classroom” offerings are a variety of free courses and learning events at UTC including in the College of Arts and Sciences; the College of Engineering and Computer Science; the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies; the Gary W. Rollins College of Business and the Honors College. Students involved in “Beyond the Classroom” courses earn points toward being a ThinkAchieve graduate.
“The first month of the class we learned and took certification tests that qualified us to prepare returns at volunteer sites. These exams took a lot of time to research and figure out but were extremely helpful in learning how to prepare returns,” said Mohammed Kanakrieh, a Nashville native and junior at UTC majoring in accounting.
UTC also has a tax preparation hotline set up for anyone with any questions; voicemail messages are responded to within one to two days. The hotline number is (423) 425-4162.
“This course is intended to help students become VITA volunteers and interact with members of the community preparing taxes,” said Davenport.
The Urban League scheduled taxpayer appointments. Students involved in the Introduction to Tax Preparation course prepared and reviewed returns on Tuesday evenings during regular class time most of the semester. Students then gave back the completed returns to the Urban League VITA site where taxpayers picked up their information and a copy of their completed returns.