Stetson’s VITA volunteers mark major refund milestone

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MANY HAPPY RETURNS — Marking the $1.5 million in tax refunds generated in less than eight years by Stetson’s VITA program are, from left, Courtney Edgecomb, United Way’s vice president for community impact; Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., interim chair, M.E. Rinker Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy; Bonnie Holloway, Stetson VITA Program site coordinator; Neal P. Mero, Ph.D., dean of Stetson’s School of Business Administration; and Ian Anderson, Stetson University VITA senior from Naples.

MANY HAPPY RETURNS — Marking the $1.5 million in tax refunds generated in less than eight years by Stetson’s VITA program are, from left, Courtney Edgecomb, United Way’s vice president for community impact; Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., interim chair, M.E. Rinker Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy; Bonnie Holloway, Stetson VITA Program site coordinator; Neal P. Mero, Ph.D., dean of Stetson’s School of Business Administration; and Ian Anderson, Stetson University VITA senior from Naples.

PHOTO COURTESY STETSON UNIVERSITY

Stetson University’s School of Business Administration recently celebrated a major milestone in its program to help low-income people file income-tax returns at no charge.

After filing more than 1,500 tax returns in slightly more than seven filing seasons, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program surpassed generating more than $1.5 million in tax refunds.

Co-sponsored by the United Way of Volusia-Flagler counties, Stetson’s M.E. Rinker Sr. Institute of Tax and Accountancy, and Stetson’s Center for Community Engagement, Stetson’s  VITA program is now in its eighth year of helping prepare returns for low-income families in the community.

“This program has a real community impact, because they can use the money to fix their cars, buy washing machines or go out on dates,” said Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., CPA, associate professor of taxation and accounting at Stetson. “It’s not just the refunds, but also how they affect people’s lives.”

At a short celebration of the milestone recently, business school Dean Neal P. Mero, Ph.D., said he couldn’t think of any other program at Stetson that better teaches students how to serve and give back to the community.

United Way’s Courtney Edgecomb noted that VITA is offered at Stetson and 13 other sites in the two counties, and a collective 2,800 returns have generated refunds totaling a half-million dollars. (Three other sites are in West Volusia; contact the United Way to make an appointment.)

Bonnie Holloway, a visiting lecturer in accounting who serves as site coordinator for Stetson’s VITA program, praised the student volunteers who prepare the returns.

“They work well with clients in a professional environment, often having to get more information about issues that can be sensitive,” Holloway said. “They almost always get a handshake or a hug when they’re finished with a return.”

In addition to the VITA offerings through United Way, AARP also offers tax-preparation assistance through its Tax-Aide program at 13 locations around Volusia County, three of which are in West Volusia.

Information about VITA can be found at www.unitedwayvfc.org, and about Tax-Aide at www.aarp.org.

— Joe Crews, joe@beacononlinenews.com

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