October 18, 2021

39 years of taxes for Olsen: USUE VITA income tax from long hand to virtual

In spring 1982, a representative from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) walked down the hall of College of Eastern Utah’s “Old Main” (where the Reeves Building now stands) into the office of business instructor, Henning Olsen. “Would your accounting students be interested in volunteering to prepare income tax for the community,” he asked?  

This was a beginning of a 38-year relationship with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program with the IRS for students at Utah State University Eastern.

Tax returns, both federal and state, were first prepared long hand beginning in the lunch room in CEU’s Old Main where long tables were set up to accommodate the mass amount of paperwork.  

Linda Jensen was a business student from 1988 to 1991 when she learned how to prepare taxes.  In 1992 she was employed by CEU and continued this public service as a volunteer after her regular work schedule.  

The VITA program moved to Western Instructional Building which was renovated into the business building.  Another CEU employee, Hank Savage, joined the volunteers in 1995.  According to Olsen, “Linda and Hank’s contributions have been the reason for CEU/USUE VITA Site’s long-term success.”

With the advancement of technology, tax returns began to be prepared on computers.  At first the programs would print the numbers on white sheets of paper and using a template, they were transferred to an IRS-accepted form using a copy machine for both federal and state, which were both prepared separately.

Olsen said, “It was an exciting time when the Laser Jet Printer was invented.”  Now the tax returns were printed in acceptable IRS forms.  Commercial computer tax programs were written to prepare both federal and state returns together.  “Then much to our amazement, technology advanced to electronic filings.”

In subsequent years, a VITA partnership was established with the local government now lead by Tristin Garvin who is the VITA program coordinator for local government in Price. He is attending USU Eastern majoring in elementary education.  

In 2014, USU Eastern accounting student, Sarah Walters Hayward, prepared income taxes at the university.  After receiving her certificate of bookkeeping, she became the VITA Site Coordinator in Emery County.

With this year being a most unusual time in the history of the VITA sites due to the COVID 19 pan-demic during 2020-2021, led to the VITA program going “virtual.”  As of March 15, 2021, (with a filing extended to May 17, 2021), the class prepared about 180 returns at USUE and returned $273,779 cash back to the public.  

All this has been done “virtually,” using strict health guidelines (masks, six-feet distancing and curbside delivery).  Olsen said this would have not happened without the dedicated team of Jen-sen, Savage and Hayward plus his income tax class which included Sadie Utley, Jaysa Sparkle Esplin and Macy Madeleine Clements.

\With this year being a most unusual time in the history of the VITA sites due to the COVID 19 pandemic during 2020-2021, led to the VITA program going “virtual.”  As of March 15, 2021, (with a filing extended to May 17,2021), the class prepared about 180 returns at USUE and returned $273,779 cash back to the public.  

All this has been done “virtually,” using strict health guidelines (masks, six-feet distancing and curbside delivery).  Olsen said this would have not happened without the dedicated team of Jensen, Savage and Hayward plus his income tax class which included Sadie Utley, Jaysa Sparkle Esplin and Macy Madeleine Clements.

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