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As a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) intern Aaron Wintheiser has received advanced and international certification in preparation for tax season so that he can serve the community and overcome challenges as part of the Student Titan Employment Program (STEP).

Name: Aaron Wintheiser
Role: VITA intern
Department: College of Business
Major: Accounting
Minor: Spanish
Year: Senior
Hometown: Larsen, Wis.

What specific tasks do you do for your internship?

“I have become licensed through the VITA program at the basic, intermediate, advanced and international levels. The basic and intermediate certifications allow me to prepare tax returns through the VITA program. The advanced certification allows me to perform quality reviews, which involves checking work performed by another taxpayer for errors. The international certification allows me to assist professor Peter Westort in a series of tax clinics he runs for resident and non-resident students at UW Oshkosh.”

How is the internship benefiting your education?

“Working with the VITA program has greatly enhanced my tax accounting background. No two tax returns are exactly alike, which means that every client I meet requires me to use different information in different ways. Some taxpayers have only earned income; others have investments or retirement plans. Some people sold a home and are looking for a credit, and others have education expenses. Being able to bring together all of my knowledge of the tax code and present it to clients to enhance their knowledge and understanding is a key part of what I do.”

How is the internship benefiting your future?

“I could have been a volunteer with the VITA program and simply prepared tax returns. The internship allows me to become more involved in the VITA program and in the international tax assistance clinics. Achieving a higher level of certification allows me to act as a quality reviewer. The quality reviewer must check every detail of the tax return as quickly and efficiently as possible. Any errors will lead to a rejected return and a time-intensive correction process. I believe that being an intern with the VITA program will help me to stand out from those who only volunteered with the program.”

How is the internship benefiting your department?

“The business world has been portrayed in a pretty negative light over the last few years. I think VITA is a great opportunity for the College of Business to show the community what students are doing to further community connections. Many of the volunteers at the VITA clinic are College of Business students just like me. We use the knowledge and skills we have gained through a college education to help low-income and elderly taxpayers.”

What has been your favorite part of the internship? Why?

“Using my college education to make a real difference in the community has been a thrill. I have met some great clients, people who are just trying to get by on the income they have. In many cases, we are able to get them a much-needed tax refund. I will work hard to find a full-time job after graduation that enables me to make a difference in my local community. I would settle for a modest salary if it means that what I learned in college is really helping somebody. It has also been enlightening for me to develop a casual but still respectful relationship with a tenured college professor.”

Have you faced any challenges? If so, detail how you overcame them.

“My biggest challenge was admitting that I don’t have all the answers. During my first weeks with the program, I was determined to do everything right down to the smallest detail. Inevitably, I made my fair share of mistakes. I learned to seek out the most experienced people in the program and do what they did. I was also honest with my client, admitting that I was new at this and thanking them for being patient and giving me a chance to learn something.”

The Student Titan Employment Program (STEP) offers students quality educational experiences while providing faculty and staff members with needed assistance in areas such as media services, student-faculty research, supplemental instruction, library assistance, instructional technology and academic computing support, and Web page development and maintenance. The program is funded through a one-time investment of $500,000. More than 110 students are funded through STEP.

Photo by See Xiong.