It’s Tax Time and the
BWHS VITA class has been working hard
BWHS students work alongside Ohio Dominican VITA students, helping to prepare tax returns. Photo by
Julia Burks, Ohio Dominican University.
Ohio Dominican and Bishop Watterson Form Historic Partnership
Article by Georgia Savva, Ohio Dominican University
Ohio Dominican University (ODU) and Bishop Watterson High School are making history. ODU is the first college or university in its Internal Revenue Service (IRS) region – which includes Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia – to partner with a high school for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.
“With this program, a Catholic high school and a Catholic university are working together to provide a service to the community,” said Bob Osborne, ODU’s Assistant Professor and VITA Program Advisor.
The VITA program offers free tax assistance to people with an annual income of $50,000 or less. Volunteers provide basic income tax return preparation and help with special credits, including earned income tax credit, child tax credit and credit for the elderly and/or disabled. In addition to free tax return preparation assistance, the program offers free electronic filing.
This is the sixth consecutive year that Ohio Dominican will host the VITA program. Twenty-four ODU accounting students and 11 Bishop Watterson students have enrolled in the course. The high school students are enrolled in a college preparatory program through ODU.
“Bishop Watterson instills in its students an understanding that we are called to serve others,” explained Sheri Cook, the school’s Business Department Chairperson. “This program not only gives them that opportunity but also a real-world application of skills they learn in the classroom.”
To participate in the VITA program, participating ODU and Bishop Watterson students must achieve IRS certification as tax preparers. Under faculty supervision, students prepare federal, state, city and local school income tax returns. Faculty supervisors Osborn and ODU Assistant Professor Maggie Gilmore are certified public accountants.
Andrew J. Powelson, an ODU junior Accounting major from Tallmadge, Ohio, has enrolled in the program. “ODU’s program has a great reputation for excellent service and satisfied VITA clients,” he said. “I’m happy to be a part of something that’s helping the Columbus community.”
Mathew W. Culp, an ODU senior majoring in Accounting, agreed. “The VITA program will give all of us on-the-job experience and help families in the community.”
Kaitlin R. McNeish, another ODU senior Accounting major, participated in the program last year. “The VITA program is the driving force behind why I am pursuing a career in taxation,” McNeish explained. “It gave me the experience I needed to feel confident in my abilities.”
Osborn and Cook began discussing Bishop Watterson’s participation in the VITA program in March 2011 when Cook asked how her students could get involved. However, ODU had to address several technical issues to make the partnership possible.
“The VITA program is a senior-level course,” Osborne explained. “We had to build a separate course to accommodate high school students. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes work taking place with folks at ODU to make sure we could establish that course. We also thought there was an age limit for VITA volunteers but learned there isn’t one.”
Prior to enrolling in the VITA program, ODU students must pass the IRS conduct test as well as the basic, intermediate and advance tax tests. Bishop Watterson students must pass the IRS conduct test and the basic tax test.
"We are very excited that our business students will be involved in the VITA Program,” said Bishop Watterson Principal Marian Hutson. “It is an opportunity for our students to live out our Catholic faith and share their knowledge through service to those in need."
Bishop Watterson junior Paulina Eberts agreed. "It’s always rewarding to help others and I think it will be a good learning opportunity as well,” she said.
"I think this class will help me to become more responsible while at the same time serving the public good,” added Bobby Bryant, a Bishop Watterson junior.
ODU students who participate in the VITA program will acquire three credit hours for spring semester. The Bishop Watterson students will earn one college credit.
"I like the fact that I will earn college credit for this course,” said Annie Rudy, a Bishop Watterson junior. “I’m probably going to major in business in college and I think it will be a good experience to learn by helping real people with real taxes."
Osborne believes the VITA program partnership between ODU and Bishop Watterson will be a positive experience for the students as well as the community. “The community enjoys interacting with our students,” he said. “The program actually allows our students to be representatives for the University and they are really good at it.”