Vol. 40 No. 7
ByKeith A. Tidwell
Keith A. Tidwell, a 3L at the University of Kentucky College of Law, is the 2011–12 National Student Director of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.
“The only two certainties in life are death and taxes.”—Benjamin Franklin
Taxes affect everybody. Even if you aren’t remotely interested in tax law, you still need to know how to fill out your own tax return.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a national program established by the IRS to offer free tax assistance to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own returns. Volunteers receive free training and certification to prepare basic income tax returns for clients. There are five levels of certification: basic, intermediate, advanced, military, and international. There are also four other specialty training courses that may or may not be necessary depending on your location and the needs of your local VITA site.
One of the most valuable things you can do as a law student is gain practical experience––especially if it involves working directly with a client. The experience gained as a VITA volunteer is second to none. You will learn how to provide confidential and quality tax service to clients, answer any questions they may have, and explain to them why they owe, or are owed, the resulting amount of money.
Last tax season, more than 88,000 volunteers helped more than 3 million families across the nation receive special credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled, which can potentially be worth thousands of dollars for a family that really needs it.
If you want to gain experience working one-on-one with a client and feel the gratification of helping someone file their return and receive a refund for a credit they didn’t know existed, then be a VITA volunteer. You have nothing to lose and a wealth of knowledge and experience to gain.
For more information, go to the Law Student Division’s VITA site.