Connections

Accounting Students Spend Spring Break in Alaska Preparing Tax ReturnsAccounting Students Spend Spring Break in Alaska Preparing Tax Returns
Four School of Business students spent their Spring Break in the cold and snow instead of sun and sand, providing free tax help.

From March 8-17, Brandon Discenza, Matt Kimmey and Nicholas Vazquez – all graduate students in the MBA program in Professional Accountancy – along with senior accounting major Katie Tascione, traveled by small prop planes to remote villages in Alaska to take part in the Volunteer Tax & Loan Program (VTLP), sponsored by the Alaska Business Development Center.  Ithaca College School of Business has been participating in this program for the past decade. 

The program assists rural Alaskans who don’t otherwise have access to services due to low income, language barriers and geographic location to get help preparing their state and federal income tax returns and handling disputes with the IRS, while the students gain valuable experience.

For Katie Tascione, “The experience was really great and definitely a once in a lifetime event. It was interesting to be able to learn first-hand about Alaskan village culture. Everyone was really grateful for our assistance with their taxes. It was nice to feel appreciated through helping others complete something that all of us have a passion for.”

Ithaca College is one of only five institutions to take part in the program; the others are the University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Idaho, Gonzaga University and University of Montana.

For Brandon Discenza, "I had an amazing time traveling throughout the bush of Alaska.  The people were very friendly and it was an eye opening experience learning about their culture.  This is an experience I will never forget."

The VTLP serves regions of Alaska — from the Aleutians to the North Slope to the Yukon Delta — where populations are typically less than 300 people per village, professional tax assistance is limited or not available at all and the only means of transportation into the community is via small aircraft.

“It was an honor to represent Ithaca College and to have the opportunity to visit small villages throughout Alaska. It was exciting to meet the people, see the landscape and experience their culture.” added Discenza.

The volunteers travel in groups of two to four students and one supervisor who is in charge of logistics, education and assisting with any complications in the field. The teams often work from 8:30 in the morning until after midnight, with residents sometimes waiting eight or nine hours in line to get their taxes done.

Mary Ellen Zuckerman, Dean, School of Business, said that “this is just another example of how business students go above and beyond traditional classroom settings and gain valuable real-world experience to help them succeed in their career path.”


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