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Buckhannon-Upshur High School students spend time learning how to prepare state and local tax returns as part of the VITA program. B-UHS is the only high school participating in this program for 2023 and business instructor Christy Dean said students are excited to learn about taxes and help fellow students and community members complete their 2022 taxes. Students pictured include Reis Leonard, Kenzi Leonard, Savanah Lashmit and Madolyn Long. / Submitted photo

High school students offering free tax preparation help to residents

TENNERTON – Today’s high school students strive to learn about many subjects before graduation and hope to also learn about things that will help them in their everyday lives as part of the future workforce.

With that in mind, Buckhannon-Upshur High School business teacher Christy Dean has worked with some of her Future Business Leader of America members and students in her business classes to offer a service to fellow students and the community to help them learn about tax preparation through the VITA Program.

Buckhannon-Upshur High School is the only West Virginia high school program that will be offering this program this year. VITA – the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is an IRS initiative designed to support free tax preparation for the underserved in low-to-moderate income communities.

Dean said most of the students who will be participating in the program have completed the B-UHS personal accounting and finance classes but added all students who participate in the VITA program have completed the training and are certified to complete both state and local taxes.

“A lot of them are also FBLA members,” Dean said. “I made some contacts who explained how the VITA Program works and then our upper-level classes are supposed to run a simulated workplace and I felt that FBLA and the simulated workplace would offer students a wonderful opportunity to learn and to give back. This will give them the experience of dealing with the public.”

Dean said the training and learning are very intense, but the subjects covered will be relevant to their lives as they grow because everyone must pay taxes.

“I wholeheartedly believe that all of the classes I teach are very relevant because they are applications that the student will actually use in their lives,” Dean said. “I use hands-on tasks in my classes because to me, it means more to the students than learning just through textbooks. The part about volunteering – the students get tax law certified – will help low-to-medium income families in our community.”

Dean said the service is going to be offered to the students at B-UHS who work as well.

“We plan to have a Tax Day at the high school for students who work so we can help them prepare their taxes – with parent consent,” Dean said. “It is one of those things where students who are VITA volunteers get to learn tax laws and apply that learning. It is an awesome opportunity for the students to learn. Some of them are going into business or plan to major in accounting, so this program kind of goes full circle for a lot of the kids.”

Dean said the VITA program has been in existence since the 1970s, and to participate in the program, the site must process at least 50 tax returns.

“People will bring all of their tax materials to us, and we ask questions,” Dean said. “We work with them to process their tax returns – both state and federal – and we print them for them. It is a program that has been done in colleges and universities. We are the only high school in the state doing this for this year.”

Dean said this will create a wonderful opportunity for learning for the students in a comfortable environment for them.

Dean said community members who wish to get information about having their taxes prepared through the VITA program at B-UHS can call 304-472-3720, ext. 5411.

“The students will be trained to do basic tax returns and if folks have questions, they can call,” Dean said. “I am so excited to be able to provide this service to our community and I know our students are excited as well. I am so happy to be a part of something that is going to be helping other people.”

Dean said they will be having a celebration kick-off at B-UHS on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in room 119 beginning at 9 a.m. and those attending should enter by the door located near the pool.

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