Accounting students give free tax help, return thousands of dollars to U.S. residents

Accounting students at Wake Forest University’s Calloway School of Business and Accountancy and several other universities around the country are working this spring with the IRS to help lower-to-moderate income, elderly or non-English-speaking citizens complete their income tax forms correctly, potentially bringing millions of dollars back into residents’ pockets and the local economies.

The students are volunteers with the IRS-sponsored program VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance). Schools participating in the program include Syracuse University, Niagara University and St. Mary’s University, among others.

IRS officials in North Carolina estimate that millions of dollars in income tax refunds go unclaimed throughout the state each year. In their first day of helping Winston-Salem residents this month, Wake Forest students helped several taxpayers find refunds of $3,000 to $5,000.

Part of that success is due to a heightened effort to target taxpayers eligible for an often-overlooked tax refund, the Earned Income Tax Credit. Totaling $2,000 – $3,000, the credit is available to working families with incomes of around $32,000 or less.

“There is significant money in tax refunds that people don’t even realize they are eligible for,” says Hinson, associate professor of accountancy at the Calloway School and faculty sponsor of the group.

Hinson says experiences like this, where students put their classroom knowledge to real-world use, help give the community and her students an advantage. The Calloway School’s accounting students have ranked first or second in the nation for performance on the CPA exam for the past five years.

The Calloway School is working with several local non-profit organizations, the local chamber of commerce, and the department of social services in publicizing the free tax assistance. Their assistance site is open each Tuesday in February and March, except March 11.

Editor’s Note: For more information on Wake Forest’s program or contact information for other schools participating in VITA, contact Sarah Mansell at or 336-758-4393.

Categories: Community, School of Business, Student