Bluefield College accounting students are getting hands-on experience in the field as part of their academic experience at Bluefield College.
The students are working on tax returns as part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program with Clinch Valley Community Action in Tazewell, Virginia.
Clinch Valley Community Action (CVCA) is a private, non-profit organization designed to provide resources and opportunities to reduce poverty, promote self-sufficiency, and improve the quality of life of low-income individuals and families primarily in Tazewell County, Virginia.
One of its many programs that impacts thousands of Tazewell County residents is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, staffed by local college students and other volunteer accounting specialists, including students Sheena Neal and Benjamin Shumate, BC’s two spring 2011 VITA interns.
As part of the program, Neal and Shumate completed an Internal Revenue Service tax preparation training session to become certified tax preparers. The students then worked additional hours on-site at CVCA preparing tax returns for low-income families.
“I believe internship opportunities are invaluable for our students,” said Dee Shoemaker, chair of BC’s Division of Business. “Moreover, the internship with VITA provides not only real-world experience, but also a wonderful chance for our students to give back to our community.”
As part of the training and hands-on instruction, the students are learning about the various changes in tax returns related to filing status, exemptions, and credits.
“The program is a really good way to build a base of tax knowledge,” said Neal about the internship experience. “We’re only doing the most basic returns, but by preparing those we are gaining skills that will help us with more complicated returns in the future.”
Neal, a native of Panther, West Virginia, who attended Iaeger High School, is a member of BC’s National Scholars, Sigma Beta Delta and Alpha Chi National Honor Societies. She also is a representative for the school’s Phi Beta Lambda competitive business society and a frequent member of the college’s President’s and Dean’s Lists.
A senior at BC already admitted to Virginia Tech’s master of accounting and information systems program, Neal said the VITA program is teaching her important tax concepts that she can apply while working on her people skills and becoming more familiar with an actual work environment.
“I believe this experience will give us confidence and skills that will allow us to be more competitive in the job market,” Neal said. “No substitute exists for hands-on experience.”
Shumate, a native of Bluefield, West Virginia, is also a member of Bluefield’s Phi Beta Lambda competitive business society. In addition, he is a BC Student Ambassador and a BC Beazley Scholar. After completing nearly 30 tax returns, Shumate said he has enjoyed the experience “way more than (he) thought he would.”
“This is my first internship, and it has really taught me that no matter what you learn in school each place has its own way of doing things,” said Shumate, a BC junior who hopes to work as a certified public accountant. “You get the basics in college, but you still have a lot to learn when you get to your job. This has been a very good experience for me, and a good way to ease into professional accounting.”