Volunteering for VITA will give you hands-on training, a boost to your resume, excellent networking opportunities, and plenty of experience to add depth to your future interviews. Best of all, since VITA does not require a minimum amount of college credits, you’ll be able to reap these benefits while you’re still in your Freshman or Sophomore years.
VITA offers a variety of outstanding opportunities for accounting students and entry-level professionals.
“I started with the VITA program during my freshman year of college, but we had several volunteers who were in high school and they did just fine. The program is perfect for new and older students alike. The program provided me a perfect progression of learning: for me personally, I started out by preparing simple returns, and by the end I was managing tax sites, leading classroom instruction, and preparing much more complex returns. “
Paul Davis, CPA | University of Florida
There is no better teacher than real-world experience. By preparing taxes for individuals, you’ll be exposed to topics that before had just been a bullet point in a textbook. In addition, professional tax preparers and CPAs will be available to assist you with complex questions. Interning with a large firm offers many advantages, but being part of a smaller team provides greater opportunities to be relied on and helps build your confidence.
Many VITA locations are supervised by CPAs, so joining the program is a great way to network with professional CPAs. Taking this opportunity could even result in additional internship accessibility down the road.
Adding additional content to your resume is always valuable–especially when that experience comes from a known name. VITA is a well-known program, and many CPAs have worked with the program in the past. This means the program carries good name recognition and can add a bit of weight to the otherwise limited experience most students start with.See our tips for resume writing
Your accounting interview will obviously have a fair share of questions. Many of those questions may be focused on accounting topics, but some will involve your communication skills and personal responsibility. Having accounting experience outside the classroom allows you to diversify your responses.
Your experience with VITA can provide answers to these common interview questions:
In addition, because VITA is such a well-known program, there is a chance your interviewer will have first-hand experience in the program. This shared experience can be a great way to connect and stand out from the competition.
Communication skills are an extremely important skill for all accountants. Whether it is trying to explain an accounting topic to a non-accounting peer or presenting your findings to a client, you’ll need to be good at working with a wide variety of people. VITA gives you the opportunity to work with many different clients and coworkers.
For instance, most of your clients will know very little about taxes, so you’ll get practice explaining topics in layman’s terms. Because they don’t know much about taxes, you will also learn how to extract information from context and conversation. These same skills will become very important when conducting audits in the future.
Some colleges and universities offer academic credit for the VITA program. This is a very useful way to boost your GPA while gaining work experience. Be sure to check with your academic advisor to ask about any possible credit you could receive for volunteering with VITA.
If you do not receive academic credit, your experience could count toward the CPA credential’s work experience requirement. For the experience to count, it will need to be signed off by a licensed CPA. Some states also require that your experience be supervised by a CPA, so be sure to confirm all requirements with your state board.
In addition to the positive experience of giving back to your community, volunteer experience is often required by many ethics courses. Working with VITA is a great way to earn those volunteer hours while also advancing your career.
NOTE: Volunteer experience is always a nice boost to your resume. Just keep in mind, you shouldn’t list VITA work under both volunteer experience and work experience. Judge your resume and your needs to determine what category would be best suited for this experience.
Enrolled agents and non-certified tax return preparers can earn continuing education credits. This is only applicable if they are volunteering as a VITA/TCE instructor, quality reviewer, or tax return preparer.
Completing the IRS’s tax training will also help prepare you for some of the accounting certification exams. Specifically, your experience and exams will assist in preparing you for the Enrolled Agent exams and for REG section of the CPA Exam.
VITA does not have any education or work experience requirements. To volunteer for VITA, you will need to take an introductory course and pass one or more exams.
Each exam you pass expands the types of returns you’ll be able to complete.
There are nine exams you may take:
“I participated in the VITA program this past Spring, and I believe it was very rewarding. I was able to meet and connect with some great people. With the help of my accounting professors, I was able to learn some practical knowledge in the tax field. I’ll definitely be participating in this program next year.”
“My experience with VITA was very rewarding. What I enjoyed most was being able to interact with others in the community by helping them complete their income taxes. It gave me a lot of insight into the world of tax and how it could eventually be a profession for me. VITA was the first step I took to gain some knowledge about income taxes in order to complete an internship at an accounting firm during tax season. It helped me to realize that tax was the path I wanted to pursue with my accounting degree. I would definitely recommend participating in VITA even if you are only able to give a few hours a week. I have also found that it is a great talking point when completing internship or job interviews.”
“I started with the VITA program during my freshman year of college, but we had several volunteers who were in high school and they did just fine. The program is perfect for new and older students alike. The program provided me a perfect progression of learning: for me personally, I started out by preparing simple returns, and by the end I was managing tax sites, leading classroom instruction, and preparing much more complex returns. The topics you may encounter range from complicated immigration issues to large real-estate transactions. The best part, however, is the feeling that you’re really making a difference in the community. To me, each and every taxpayer that I helped felt special. I worked at a lot of different jobs and was involved in many extracurricular activities during my time at UF. I would definitely recommend that any serious future CPA get involved with VITA, no matter what your experience level is.”
Running a free tax service requires many different types of people. As a result, VITA locations have different roles for volunteers. For most accounting students and entry-level professionals, the roles of Tax Preparer, Quality Reviewer, and Tax Coach will provide the most value. The Greeter, Interpreter, and Site Administrator positions are useful for developing the soft skills you’ll need for networking, interviews, and client services.
NOTE: Some positions won’t give you accounting experience but can be useful to get your feet wet while you pass the IRS’s open-book exams.
Joining the VITA program is simple, and the program is open year-round (though some locations do not conduct training during certain months). There are multiple ways to join the program.
The IRS works to pair volunteers with locations that need additional members.
Some universities/colleges offer VITA courses for academic credit. In this case, you’ll just need to enroll in the VITA course at your university/college. If you’re not sure whether your school offers such a program, you should discuss your options with an academic advisor.
If you’d like to discuss your options for volunteering, you can reach out to your local VITA location. Contacting your local VITA location may help accelerate your on-boarding and provides an opportunity to ask additional questions, such as when they conduct training.
To find your local VITA location, use the IRS’s VITA/TCE finder tool.