UMKC Students Earn College Credit Preparing Taxes for Community Members

Bloch students serve the Kansas City Community at Voluntary Income Tax Assistance clinic

For more than five years, the University of Missouri-Kansas City has served the community through the federal Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program which helps individuals with low-to-moderate income, people with disabilities, the elderly and those who speak limited English file their taxes.

The VITA program was founded in 1971, and currently has 10 sites around the Kansas City area, including the UMKC location, and more than 3,200 sites around the United States. This tax season for the first time, Henry W. Bloch School of Management students have been able to earn college credit for helping people at the UMKC VITA site.

“This ensures all volunteers meet an advanced level of proficiency and ensures that there are a consistent number of volunteers at the site for the duration of tax season,” said Kimberly Luken, assistant teaching professor of accounting at Bloch.

The VITA Tax Program offers hands-on experience, something Bloch accounting student Bryce Hort has used to his benefit. Hort has had the opportunity to serve as the VITA site coordinator in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Kansas City over the past few years. He calls the experience fulfilling.

“There's something so gratifying about being able to see the fruits of your labor nearly instantaneously in the form of the tax refund numbers that appear when preparing a return,” Hort said. “You truly feel like you're making a difference in that moment, which motivates you to continue.”

Hort has also been able to get real-world experience while participating in this program and walk away with skills that will help him after graduation.

“I've had the opportunity to be involved in the processing of hundreds of tax returns, all before I even graduate with an accounting degree,” Hort said. “Not only is this an excellent resume builder, it's also an excellent confidence builder. Once I enter the workforce with my degree, I will already have a distinct advantage in terms of confidence and familiarity with tax law and the tax preparation process.”

There are 18 students taking the course for credit this year as well as 20 community volunteers. Luken said the program offers many benefits to students including peer-to-peer mentorship.

“As a professor, what I find most impressive is the welcoming environment the students create, their professionalism, their commitment to make sure they do it right, their willingness to learn and above all, the respect they show our taxpayers,” Luken said. “These students work directly with the taxpayers. This requires an incredible amount of patience, compassion and effective communications skills.”

Last year, the UMKC site prepared about 180 federal returns. The goal for them this year was to double that number, something they easily achieved, completing over 400 federal returns totaling more than $427,000. The team has also completed nearly 500 state returns, totaling more than $138,000.

Luken’s goals for the UMKC VITA program include growing the number of students taking the course, maintaining a ratio of 50/50 student volunteers and community members.

“I want our clients to know they can count on UMKC to be here for them.” Luken said.

If you are interested in volunteering either at UMKC or another site, you can email Luken at

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