Business students tackle tax returns at VITA center

Posted on May 4, 2017

VITA students with Philo crop

From left, Tyler Burgess, Alex and Matt Preston, Derek Henrichs

Three Erskine College business majors—Tyler Burgess, a junior from Gainesville, Ga., and twin brothers Alex and Matt Preston, seniors from Greer, S.C.—shared their skills this tax season with the IRS-sponsored Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, working at the Abbeville VITA center.

Matt Preston says the students learned about the opportunity to work with VITA through Visiting Instructor of Accounting Derek Henrichs. “He brought in the head of the VITA program from the United Way in Greenwood to come talk to our class.”

Participating students were required to “pass a series of certifications,” Tyler Burgess says, and Preston notes that an ethical exam was required.

Both the Preston brothers and Burgess benefited from an income tax class here at Erskine. “Without the fundamentals taught to us in our income tax class, this would have been impossible,” Burgess says of his work with VITA.

During his stint with VITA, Preston “learned a lot about income taxes, but also about helping people.” He says assisting people who might not have the means to pay for tax preparation “has been a great experience.”

Preston says his tax work “has helped prepare me for my professional future as an accountant, and also helped me with interpersonal skills, because most of our work at VITA consists of one-on-one help.”

Burgess took on the VITA challenge because he “thought it would be a good learning opportunity, which it has definitely proved to be.” Along with “hands-on experience with income taxes,”—a plus for Burgess, whose concentration within his major is accounting—the students had the satisfaction of knowing that with each return they completed, they had helped another person.

A member of the men’s tennis team, Burgess pays tribute to Head Men’s Tennis Coach Hal Thompson, who helped him work out scheduling conflicts between tennis obligations and tax preparation work.

“All in all, it has been a wonderful experience, and I have learned a lot about what it takes to do income taxes for a living,” Preston says.