Free service in filing tax returns valuable for recipients, students
by Lori Simpson
Last spring, graduate students from The University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy participated in Tax-Aide, a program of the AARP Foundation that has helped people with low to medium incomes with their income tax returns for 40 years.
The service was offered to the public each Tuesday through the April 15 filing deadline at Stone Recreation Center on Washington Avenue in Oxford.
Tax return preparers with several years of experience, who had passed IRS certifying exams, supervised the student participants, said Tonya Flesher, professor, Arthur Andersen Lecturer in accountancy and coordinator of the service project.
Graduate student Clark Luke of Philadelphia said the program was a great learning experience.
“In addition to gaining valuable tax experience, we were also able to help out the
community by providing this free tax service,” he said.
Luke and other student participants are graduate students enrolled in Flesher’s
Accountancy 603, Contemporary Issues in Taxation. According to Flesher, the students also took an intensive examination prepared by the IRS in order to be certified to participate.
For certification, students were required to correctly answer at least 80 percent of questions on the examination. Although the service project itself did not affect a student’s final grade, the score of the exam did, Flesher said.
In the past, the program was sponsored locally by accountancy honor society Beta Alpha Psi and the Associated Graduate Student Body. It was offered one or two days during the spring semester, and electronic filing was not readily available. Electronic filing, which allows quicker receipt of tax refunds, is a primary benefit of the Tax-Aide program.
Students benefited from the real-world work experience.
“Instead of working with facts listed in a homework assignment, students learned how to gather information from the clients,” Flesher said.
“We had done several practice returns in different classes but not any that were actually filed as these were,” said Charles Allen, a graduate student from Greenwood. “It’s nice to get some real-world experience before we enter the workforce.”