MMC Student Volunteers Help New Yorkers Take On Taxes

New Yorkers who need assistance filing their returns this tax season are getting a helping hand from MMC’s Business students.

The College is participating in the IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides free tax preparation services to low-income filers, people with disabilities, and limited English speakers. Under a partnership with the Food Bank for New York City, MMC students are serving as VITA tax preparers at the organization’s Tax and Finance Center in Manhattan and for its remote tax prep service through April 15. Each student has passed IRS certification exams and undergone hours of training.

MMC’s Business Division has long supported VITA. Since 2011, more than 40 MMC Business students have volunteered for the program, collectively preparing over 500 income tax returns.

This year, the College’s participation was organized by Associate Professor of Accounting and Assistant Business Division Chair Andrea Tsentides, MBA, CPA, who enlisted three of her students for the effort: Alana Gallante ’24, Christina Newland ’25, and Peter Nierenhausen ’24. Though VITA volunteers are unpaid, Gallante and Nierenhausen will receive academic internship credits for their work after completing related projects assigned by Tsentides. Gallante and Newland are also receiving MMC’s CityEdge Internship Stipend, which any MMC student who completes an unpaid internship at a non-profit or government organization can apply for.

“The VITA program is completely aligned with MMC’s spirit and mission,” Tsentides said. “It helps students see and appreciate the real-life application of what we learn in class, gain valuable experience, and expand their network. And by volunteering to prepare free tax returns for low-income individuals, they’re developing an awareness of how they can play a part in improving society.”

Indeed, students said they were drawn to the initiative because it offered opportunities to grow professionally while being of service.

“I’ve lived in New York for two years now, and I’ve done some volunteering here and there, but I figured VITA would allow me to really apply what I’ve learned in school and give back to the community,” said Nierenhausen, a Finance major with minors in Economics and Accounting. “I’m so happy I did it.”

For Nierenhausen, a young business owner who started his first enterprise in high school—he founded a successful lawn care company with his brother in their native Minnesota and now runs a window cleaning venture—the program is also an opportunity to strengthen communication muscles needed in the business world.

“It’s a great way to learn so many different skills when it comes to working with people, which is something I’ve always loved to do,” he said.

Newland, a Finance major and Accounting minor whose ultimate goal is to become a certified public accountant, said that VITA’s friendly, supportive environment made it one of the best volunteer experiences she’s ever had.

“It’s such a fun opportunity to learn everything about taxation,” she said. Moreover, she added, she was happy to demystify tax filing for others, particularly underserved community members—which she hopes to do more of in the future. “My dream is to help educate people about the process,” she said. “Most people don’t learn about it in school—I know we didn’t learn about income tax when I was in high school—so being able to help individuals older than me expand their financial literacy is amazing.”

Newland encourages students from across the College to consider volunteering with VITA, noting that not only Finance students benefit from participating. Gallante, a Fashion Marketing major with a minor in Accounting, agreed. Though she hopes to become a buyer or product development manager at a retail company, she said the lessons she has learned in VITA would also apply to that work.

“This experience will help you in any field, any major—everyone needs to file their taxes,” she said. “But it’s also rewarding just to help people in need.”

Published: March 27, 2024