How does Concordia’s accounting department turn a dreaded and confusing yearly must-do into a life lesson in transformative learning? By turning income taxes into a community assistance project.
Here’s how it works. After spending hours with lectures, notes, and exams regarding income taxes, students apply what they learn in a real live client situation. Every Saturday from February through April 15 (except the two Saturdays on either end of spring break), accounting students meet with clients from the Concordia neighborhood in the library. One-on-one, students fill out, complete, and file individual tax returns – both state and federal. Appointments are recommended, but a limited number of walk-ins can also be accommodated.
According to David Tucker, Concordia accounting professor and project leader, during the 2013 tax season, eighteen students worked as greeters, preparers, and reviewers. Eight of these students were new to the tax project, and two were strong reviewers with plenty of experience who supervised the rookies, reviewed all returns, and were on-hand for tax-law questions and software issues.
This unique tax outreach program is a win-win for everyone involved. Students learn more about the technical knowledge of tax rules and accounting, as well as the people skills that allow them to be even more productive in the accounting field. Instead of debits and credits on a whiteboard, students learn how to communicate tax and accounting knowledge to their clients and the people they work with – people who, in most cases, have little understanding of tax laws and struggle with tax filings. Conversely, low income individuals get the help they need with their income taxes. Learning through service education is just one of the ways Concordia helps prepare leaders for the transformation of society.
If you are interested in having Concordia accounting students create and file your tax return, please send an email to Jeff Christianson, MBA ’13, Program Coordinator – School of Management.