Tax Assistance Program Run by UVA Law Students Wins ABA Award
Students at the University of Virginia School of Law have been recognized by the American Bar Association with the 2016 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Award for leading University efforts to help taxpayers prepare their own returns.
Each year, the Law School's VITA program collaborates with other students on Grounds to help low- and moderate-income clients, who are a mix of community members, University employees and students.
In the process, VITA gives law students experience working directly with clients and provides substantive knowledge of tax law.
UVA's VITA outreach helped about 800 clients on their 2015 tax returns — about 30 percent of ABA's local-coalition efforts, which are coordinated by the United Way Thomas Jefferson Area.
"This award is a wonderful recognition of volunteers' dedication and commitment to the VITA program, and the tremendous support that it receives from UVA Law School, the UVA Human Resources Department — which provides dedicated space for the consultations — and United Way," said Jacob Aronson, a 2016 Law School graduate who served as the VITA chapter's president last year.
New for the 2015-16 school year, the Law School began a collaboration with students in the Darden School of Business to increase the number of volunteers. In addition to the extra help from MBA students, the number of Law School volunteers surged by 50 percent (from 32 to 48 volunteers). Undergraduate volunteers continued to be an important factor in the group's efforts.
VITA also began "Taxapalooza" in the spring, an outreach effort that targeted employees and students at the Law and Business schools. The event was so successful that it will be held again, organizers said.
Third-year law student Amanda Leon, a VITA volunteer for the past two years, said she looks forward to volunteering again.
"Seeing tax law in action as a VITA volunteer has allowed me to hone my analytical approach to tax-related issues, both technical and normative, and prepare for a future career in tax law," Leon said.
Clients say the students extend kindness as well as expertise.
"I just wanted to take the time to let you know how much the Tax Aid program has helped me through the years and how everyone I work with each year is so professional, patient and courteous," said local resident Robin Jackson in a recent note thanking VITA.