Professor Sally Cook received the Educational Excellence Award from the Seguin Chamber of Commerce at their recent awards banquet for TLU's annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) clinic she runs with our Master of Accountancy majors.
Cook, TLU Professor of Business and Director of the Accounting program, provides students with hands-on experience in preparing income tax forms. The program also greatly benefits the Seguin community by providing free income tax preparation for individuals. The clinic was modified for the past two years to operate as a drive-thru to follow the campus COVID guidelines.
Taxpayers remain in their cars, and a student volunteer from the accountancy program takes their information, prepares their tax form inside the Beck Center, and returns to their vehicle with all the necessary paperwork. This service provides a simple and less stressful experience for the customer while offering students a variety of tax issues that they may not have seen addressed in the classroom setting. The students find it as rewarding as do the community members.
The VITA Program offers free basic tax return prep to qualified individuals (low income, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers). The clinic is for people who may not have any other option for tax preparation assistance.
The program is also a fantastic educational opportunity for students who receive practical, real-world experience while filling a need in the community and serving our lower-income community members. During tax season, the service line winds around campus. Each customer is provided a professional experience by engaged students. In 2022, the service prepared 278 returns for the community, our highest ever, with 19 student-volunteers and one professor participating for a total of 670 hours.
While the clinic's target demographic is lower income taxpayers, they serve numerous seniors and other members of the community who have uncomplicated returns. In addition to gaining hands-on experience, the students develop a lifestyle of service and giving back to the community.
Professor Cook is pictured above with students Mason Crow and Madelyn Quesenberry.