This is Yifan Xu’s third tax season as a part of MSU’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program or VITA. Xu is a master’s student in the accounting program at MSU and this is her first year on the E-board of VITA. She was recognized for her outstanding volunteer work and received the first International Volunteer Leadership Award from MSU’s Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.
(2016 Presidential Volunteer Service Award winners at MSU’s MLK Dinner. Yifan Xu is the fourth from the left of the front row. Photo courtesy of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement.)
MSU VITA provides free income tax preparation for the low-income community. This club on campus does taxes for free, so their clients are able to receive a refund. Each year, the club does around 200 tax returns for international students and 700 returns for domestic students. All the returns in total average to about $700,000!
There are nearly 200 certified volunteers through MSU VITA and during tax season they work five days a week, four hours a day, with longer days during the busy tax time.
This is Xu’s fifth year here at MSU and she is originally from China. She wanted to get involved with MSU VITA because it is a good way to practice her tax services skills while also engaging with the community.
“Engaging with our clients face-to-face shows us just how much we can help them out,” said Xu. “It’s not just about our work anymore, but it’s about talking to others and helping people in our community.”
One of the most impactful clients she has had was a mother of two children whose husband was in Canada. Her monthly income was only $700 but MSU VITA was able to get her a return of $2,000.
“She was then able to buy new things for her kids,” Xu said. “It’s more than just plugging in the numbers. The team and the chance to serve people are the reasons I stay very involved with the organization.”
The volunteers are students from MSU, retired CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and a few others from pair organizations.
“If you want to get practical tax related experience, I would highly recommend MSU VITA,” Xu said. “This is real work experience. These are real tax cases and application of what we learn in school.”
If you want to receive free tax services, please call 2-1-1 to schedule an appointment. You will be able to set something up with a tax specialist from MSU VITA at 1290 Deer Path Lane, East Lansing, MI 48823.
If you want to get involved with MSU VITA as a tax specialist, learn more at www.vita.msu.edu. There is an information session every fall that anyone can come to and then the club has a one-year commitment.