It’s tax season. Since January, North Central College accounting students have been busy helping low-income families with their tax returns, free of charge.
Beyond their regular class load, 10 students have volunteered their time to be trained, tested and credentialed, and committed 25 hours to work one-on-one with tax site clients, preparing federal and state income tax returns.
“It’s been a good partnership for us,” said Hayes. “CEP has multiple sites in the Chicago area and can easily accommodate more student volunteers in the future.” This season, North Central students are serving at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora and Leman Middle School in West Chicago right up to the April 18 filing deadline.
The online and classroom training give students important tax and accounting skills, but they’re learning so much more.
“Students always come away with a positive result, when they volunteer,” said Hayes. “They have a completely different learning experience in real-life settings and develop skills beyond tax preparation. They work on communication, professionalism, critical thinking and the ability to analyze material. It’s a taste of what life is going to be like as a professional.”
Senior Michael Koehne (photo, below, center), of Wheaton, is volunteering for his second year. He carries three majors—accounting CPA, economics and finance—and says he likes the challenge and meeting new people. “Assisting with tax returns helps the community and each other as students. At the end of the day, we leave with additional knowledge, a sense of accomplishment and fellowship.”
Kayla Koenig, a 2016 graduate and accounting CPA major, worked as a tax volunteer during her junior year. She’s now in a master of accountancy program with the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. She’ll graduate in May and start a position at the company where she interned her senior year at North Central College.
Her experiences preparing tax returns helped her in many ways. “It was neat to learn something in class one day and see it on a tax return the next day, as well as apply concepts I was learning with clients to my coursework.” The real-life experiences, she said, “taught me how to interact with a wide variety of clients. I often worked with people who spoke little English and didn’t understand anything about income taxes.”
Her career decisions were impacted by the experience, too. “After doing the volunteer work, I felt I had a strong understanding and confidence in my ability to do tax work, so I accepted an internship in tax at an accounting firm in Chicago. Without that experience and Professor Hayes pushing me to volunteer, I likely would have never found my niche in the accounting world.”
At the start of fall term, North Central’s School of Business and Entrepreneurship—which includes accounting, business, management, marketing, economics and finance departments—will have a new home in a renovated Kroehler hall.
“For the first time, we’ll be able to teach in the same building where our offices are. Students and faculty can engage more easily because we’ll all be together in the same space. We’re all excited,” said Hayes.
Photo, from left: Three of the 10 student volunteers, accounting/CPA majors Ryan Reeves ’17, Michael Koehne ’17, Jack Hayes ’17