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Vol. 12 No. 3

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Student Program: Are We Creating a Dependence on the Service?

  • C. Patrick Fort
  • Barbara Reider
  • Belva L. Jones
July 23, 2010


Every spring, business students across the country participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. In a unique Alaska VITA program, students travel to the taxpayers rather than have the taxpayers visit a college campus. The program started eleven years ago at one university serving five rural Alaskan villages. By 2007, students from all over the country worked with taxpayers in almost one hundred Alaskan villages. While an important goal of the VITA program is educating taxpayers to prepare their own returns in the future, we find that the Alaska program is doing just the opposite—creating a dependence on the service. The purpose of this research is to determine the extent to which VITA taxpayers are capable of preparing their own tax returns  and whether the program has created unintended consequences.