Volunteer Tax Assistance Program helps students and taxpayers


The VITA program from Missouri Southern offers free tax preparation and filing for residents of the Joplin area that make less than $53,000/year as an individual or family. The program, overseen by Dr. David Smith, CPA, also allows junior, senior, or graduate accounting majors an opportuntity to become familiar with the tax preparation process. 

Haven Falkner, Staff Writer

Tax season has officially arrived, and we all know just how stressful that can be. To help eliminate that stress is Missouri Southern’s Volunteer Tax Assistance program. 

This program offers anyone who makes less than $54,000 per year the opportunity to get their taxes done for free by accounting majors at Southern. You do not have to be a student at Southern to participate.

All volunteers of the program have been through extensive training and testing in order to qualify them to do others taxes. 

“They have to have passed our first tax class.” Said Dr. Smith, Professor of Accounting and the head of Missouri Southern’s tax assistance program. “Just to be an IRS volunteer they have to go through two IRS examination exams. There’s a huge amount of information they have to go through. They have to learn the software and be able to use it.”

While it’s strictly for experience and volunteer basis students who have participated in this program have found it only to benefit their futures. One former student states, “The most important thing I have taken away from my VITA experience is being more confident in my ability to apply what I have learned in the accounting courses at Southern to “real world” accounting situations. To me, that is very important for many reasons: confidence, self-satisfaction, and trusting in my abilities to name a few.


These VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs through colleges and Universities have been a popular idea. And Missouri Southern was no exception. Beginning this program in 2013, Dr. Smith has seen and contributed to its growing popularity and demand ever since. 

Just this past year more than 250 tax returns were filed through the VITA program at Southern, generating a total of $275,000 in refunds.

Mistakes being made on taxes are not something you have to worry about when participating in tax assistance. The mistakes come from miscommunication, when a form of income for example is forgotten about and not communicated to the person doing the taxes. As long as all information necessary is being communicated, errors won’t be made.

“The returns after the student prepares it, will get reviewed by a student and then it will get reviewed by someone like myself, someone who has essentially twenty years of tax work.” Dr. Smith said.

To get taxes done through VITA at Southern, please make an appointment. While appointments may very well be full, cancellations occur and schedules change, so it’s not too late. 

They will be open Saturdays, Feb. 13-April 16th 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. (Closed March 19th) Plaster Hall, Room 303. All appointments will get first priority. If you walk-in, you are not guaranteed a spot.

For those who need assistance, please bring tax paperwork, driver’s license, a cancelled check or routing number, social security cards for everybody in the family and forms 1095-A, B, or C.

You can find out more information or schedule appointments by calling (417) 625-9371, e-mailing [email protected], or checking out www.mssu.edu/vita.