If you were to ask me what I would be doing with my life at this point last year, I would give you a blank expression and shrug like nobody has ever shrugged before. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life; I liked accounting and econ, but also biology and psychology. If there was ever a profession that provided all aspects of these interests of mine, I would take that path in a heartbeat! Through trial and error, I found myself taking more accounting courses, and enjoying each one more than the last. That was, of course, until I took accounting 411 – my interest in accounting flourished into a true passion. I loved the VITA program with my whole heart, and I realize at this point in my life how much I, surprisingly, enjoy tax.
At first, deciding to take this course stressed me out more than it should have. I knew that I wanted to take it; it was interesting to me, seemed like it was a great opportunity, and looked like it would give my resume a nice boost. All that aside, I felt like I would be inexperienced at handling real life people’s real life money – going from an intro tax class to performing actual returns is a big jump to make in my eyes. Fortunately, I discovered that a few friends of mine were also signing on, and I decided to take the plunge.
Passing the test was, honestly, harder than any challenge I was presented with while out in the field; I was nervous to walk into my assigned location on the first day, as I was anticipating scenarios like the ones in the book. Fortunately enough, I was never faced with any dependent claim issues as sever and intricate as the ones provided in the material. In a way, I am glad the material pushed so many trials onto us; it made the returns easier to work with and more streamlined. Out of all the returns I performed, there were certainly a few that were tricky, but the site supervisors were beyond helpful with guidance as well as teaching us how to work with similar cases in the future.
My first set back actually appeared on the first day I was assigned to work; my car was snowed in. The good people of police services refused to send a car up to help dig my car out, so, we missed our very first assigned day of volunteer work. I felt totally irresponsible and wanted to quit right there; it was probably the worst impression I could have ever left. I decided to stick it out though, and I am so happy I chose to!
After our 4 hours at my first site assignment location, I would work my way over to the second VITA location. I had my most rewarding experiences at this VITA site. The first one was very small, but meant a lot to me. I was doing a return when a little kid, probably four or five years old, walked into my cubicle and started to talk to me. We chatted for a few moments when his grandfather came in and picked him up. He said as he was walking away “Now, you leave that nice man alone! He’s helping people out, and doesn’t need you to bother him.” That’s when I realized I actually was helping people out. It made me beam like a child! The second experience I had was with my one on one interview with a man (I believe he was extremely down on his luck; he did not seem well put together, and was extremely odorous.) I realized while talking with him that I actually knew what I was doing definitively – he brought a portfolio with scraps of paper hanging out of the sides. It took me a solid ten minutes, but I went through every single sheet, pulled out the three pages I needed, did his return, and told him that he needs to start asking his employer to withhold taxes for him, because he would end up having to pay, which he did. I felt bad that he owed, but I was proud of myself for knowing how everything was going to pan out before I even entered the data – it made me feel like a hotshot, even if it is only taxes!
Overall, I love the people I was able to work with three fantastic and knowledgeable people (site coordinators). I am honored and privileged to have been fortunate enough to snag such an awesome crew of supervisors. They taught me a lot, and exceeded all my expectations going into this program. The people I met all had fascinating back stories, and being able to lend a hand to them was beyond rewarding. It made me feel like I was doing a service to the community, and I truly feel like it’s one of the most involved and engaging forms of service I have even been able to call myself a part of.