My co-bloggers Ally and Xinmiao have talked about how as MPAs, we do get various opportunities to give back to the community and work with/for not-for-profits. This semester, I am taking a course, which allows me to do just those. Yes, UT has an accounting class that is solely committed to using our accounting knowledge to serve others.

ACC 384 or ACC 366P is the Accounting Practicum class that can be taken by undergraduate and graduate students at McCombs. The class has been offered at UT for six years and has allowed students to become volunteer tax preparers at low-income neighborhoods.

UT partners with Community Tax Centers, a local not-for-profit organization under Foundation Communities. It has partnered with the IRS to implement the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program for low income filers. Students taking the class are required to complete at least 55 hours of volunteer service as tax preparers at various Community Tax Centers from January until mid-April. Shifts can be as long as six hours per day.

This past weekend, we took the basic training to become preparers. We learned to navigate the tax preparation software that is being used for the program. We also worked on various cases and scenarios that we might encounter as volunteers and how we can effectively use the IRS guidebooks in helping clients with various tax issues and preparing their returns. Next Friday, we will have our intermediate training to become equipped in handling more complicated tax issues and preparation. The class requires that we take the certification tests after each training to assure that we have sufficient knowledge to do our volunteer work well.

In addition to volunteering, there are classroom components, as well. This is definitely not your traditional accounting class, where you read, sit in class, do homework, and study for exams. This is also probably the first accounting class I have taken that does not require a textbook or a course packet. Every week, speakers from various tax fields will speak in class about their careers and various tax field issues and topics. I am particularly excited about the IRS criminal investigators who will talk about investigative techniques in spotting various tax fraud schemes. Professor Brian Lendecky mentioned that the speakers once came to class wearing bulletproof vests, because they just came from arresting a perpetrator! Who said that accountants are boring?!

The graduate students in the class will also be unofficial TAs. A part of our class requirement is to create a lesson plan for the undergraduates in the class to stimulate discussions of the topics that will be discussed by the speakers. We can do this in various ways, such as playing jeopardy, musical chairs, card games, or anything fun and creative. We will also get to grade the short responses that the undergraduates will be turning in during class, regarding the topics that we discuss.

I am definitely looking forward to the things we will do and learn in class this semester! I think this is a great class to conclude my accounting academic experience at UT!

Below is a video that provides a good overview of the class and its mission to serve the Austin community.