UD accounting students Justin Perry (left) and Brendan O’Callaghan provide free tax services to Delawareans through UD's Tax Prep Assistance course.

Tax Day discovery learning

UD students provide free tax preparation to community members


1:25 p.m., April 18, 2016--This Tax Day, University of Delaware students are using their accounting skills to provide free tax preparation for Delawareans throughout the state.

Today and throughout the tax season, UD students have prepared taxes for community members eligible for the Delaware Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Campaign under a program coordinated by the Nehemiah Gateway Community Development Corporation (NGCDC).

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NGCDC site manager Sonya Barkley said that both she and her clients love working with UD students.

Clients “love the idea that they’re able to get a free service, and their return is prepared accurately,” Barkley said. “I have clients that come back year after year after year.”

This is truly a win-win situation, she continued, as the students gain valuable experience. They master complex software, build administrative skills during intake and strengthen communication skills when interacting with clients.

“They’re dealing with all kinds of questions; they have to know their tax law,” Barkley said, explaining that each student must take an exam for certification from the IRS. She has seen many students utilize this tax training to secure jobs.

“It’s really a positive environment, and they’re able to learn a lot,” Barkley said.

UD accounting students Brendan O’Callaghan and Justin Perry, who have prepared taxes for dozens of Delawareans throughout the year, agreed that they’d learned a good deal from their volunteer work.

“Every aspect” of volunteering has been useful, said O’Callaghan, especially the “first-hand experience” of working with clients.

Perry, a senior, said that earning his IRS certification will be a big help when taking the certified public accountant (CPA) exam.

“This helps me get some experience under my belt, know what to do and be able to pass the exam,” Perry said.

These skills will be useful for Perry after graduation as well, as he will prepare taxes as part of his work as a staff accountant for Berdon LLP, an accounting firm in New York City.

Does it feel good for Perry and O’Callaghan to help Delawareans save thousands of dollars by filing their taxes properly? 

“Of course,” Perry said. “We do what we can.”

Rita Kingery-Cook, instructor of accounting at UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said that UD students have offered this service to Delaware community members for more than 10 years.

Through UD’s Tax Prep Assistance course, “The students receive three hours of academic credit, but, more importantly, they learn so much. This is a Discovery Learning Experience for them,” she said.

Kingery-Cook, who has been involved with the program since its launch a decade ago, added that one of the best things about the program is that it provides international students with hands-on experience working with a diverse group of American taxpayers.

At the program’s onset, she continued, only accounting students participated, but the program is now open to all majors. 

“This has become an opportunity, not only for accounting students, but for finance, math and even political science majors,” she said.

Article by Sunny Rosen

Photos by Wenbo Fan

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