Trine students assist with tax returns, learn more in Chicago

May 23, 2024

Sixteen Trine University students assisted with preparing tax returns for area residents with low incomes through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program this past semester.

Three students participated in a post-semester trip to Chicago to learn more about the Internal Revenue Service and tax court.


Al Beatty, assistant professor in the Ketner School of Business, teaches Trine’s 383 and 483 Voluntary Income Tax Assistance I and II courses.

He said that prior to spring break, the classes prepared returns on campus to give the students a chance to learn before meeting with taxpayers. After break, they met with qualifying area residents at the Carnegie Public Library of Steuben County.

“Catholic Charities out of Auburn, which is where we are attached, prepared 892 returns this year,” he said. “I would estimate our students prepared around 100.”

Several students assisted with interviewing and intake duties in addition to tax preparation. Beatty said doing so helped the students get a better understanding of the process and of dealing with people, particularly those in need.

The team of students serving with VITA throughout the semester was Paige Aselage, an accounting major from Huntertown, Indiana; Joey Baughman, an accounting major from Lake Orion, Michigan; John Browning IV, an accounting major from Canton, Michigan; Andrew Captain, an accounting major from Bluffton, Indiana; Nicholas Jen, an accounting major from Troy, Michigan; Sam Kopach, an accounting major from Greenwood, Indiana; Frank Laskey, a business administration major from Tekonsha, Michigan; Wade Miller, a finance major from Butler, Indiana; Thomas Minckler, a finance major from Aurora, Colorado; Josh Myers, an accounting major from Hicksville, Ohio; Evan Nay, an accounting major from Elkhart, Indiana; Andrew Peterson, a finance major from Grand Blanc, Michigan; Katelynn Ritter, an accounting major from Angola, Indiana; Jack Sarno, an accounting major from Indianhead Park, Illinois; Chris Shively, an accounting major from Churubusco, Indiana; and Jacob Jones, an accounting major from Willowbrook, Illinois.

Chicago trip

Miller, Aselage and Ritter accompanied Beatty to Chicago on May 13.

The group met with Andrew VanSingel, territory manager for the Internal Revenue Service IRS Wage & Investment: Stakeholder Partnerships, Education, and Communication (SPEC).

SPEC oversees VITA as well as the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic program, which works with low-income taxpayers who have issues such as audits.

“They also work with TAS, Taxpayer Advocate Services, who help bridge the gap with the IRS and the taxpayer,” Beatty said. “Finally, the last phase is IRS Tax Court if it comes to that.”

The students sat in on a tax court hearing.

“They explained to us that if it comes to litigation a taxpayer can sue the IRS in Federal Claims court, i.e., ‘regular’ court with a jury, etc.,” Beatty said. “However, they have to pay the disputed tax and file a claim for refund. If they can't or don't want to do that, then they sue the IRS in Tax Court. There are no juries. There is only a judge who specializes in tax.”

The Trine group also met with representatives of Sen. Tammy Duckworth's (D-Ill.) office, who spoke about how they assist in IRS, immigration, veteran's benefits, Social Security and other issues.

They then toured the Money Museum of the Federal Reserve, featuring displays and interactive videos on coins, currency and the money supply. They also walked by the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Stock Exchange.

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