Faces of Success: Chuck Harper
Chuck Harper got involved with United Way’s VITA Free Tax Prep program in a very unique way. Although Chuck ran a successful family business from 1988 to 2013, he was ready for a new challenge. Chuck decided to follow his passion and go back to school to study finance and accounting. In order to graduate, Harper was required to complete an internship in his field of study. He began applying to companies all over Nashville and was surprised when he was not receiving any internship offers even though he had 25 years of work experience as the CEO of his company.
“I was getting desperate and went to speak with a professor at my school to see what I could do. He mentioned the VITA Free Tax Prep program to me. The only company who opened the door to me to do an internship was United Way. I took the offer because I had no other choice but it ended up being serendipitous. It was an awesome experience and I am so glad I did.”
After completing his internship and graduating from Lipscomb University with a double major, Harper went on to complete his master’s degree and obtain his CPA at 60 years old. He also continued to volunteer for VITA even after his internship with United Way was over.
VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and is a nationwide program that runs from the end of January through mid-April. IRS-certified volunteers prepare tax returns for individuals & families who qualify based on income (earning less than $66,000 in 2017). Last year, VITA volunteers prepared more than 15,000 returns across Middle Tennessee and returned nearly $24 million in refunds and saved clients $4 million in filing fees.
Although Chuck is busy with his new company and is still actively looking for full-time positions, he hopes to find time to volunteer again this tax season.
“If I can, I will. There is no question about it. Every single day you go to a VITA site and work on tax returns, you will impact at least one person’s life. But the odds are, you’re going to impact the life of every single client you help. United Way is really focused on getting refunds for the clients. My favorite part about volunteering is sitting down with single moms who bring you six or even eight W2’s. You know they are out there working as many jobs as possible to support their families. Some of them even still live with their parents or grandparents. When a single mom is only making around $17,000 a year and you’re able to find her $6,000 or $7,000 in refunds, it’s awesome. I even found an $8,000 return once which increased a mother’s income that year by half. That is an impact. How often do you have a job that every single day you walk out the door you can say, I had an impact? I even have people in the community who stop me and ask if I am going to do their taxes again this year. You know you made an impact when people still remember that you helped them with their taxes the year before.”
Volunteers are what make this program possible. We need tax preparers, screeners, site assistants and quality reviewers. You don’t need tax experience, just computer skills and a willingness to volunteer. Training and IRS-certification are provided by United Way.
Want to learn more? Visit www.volunteerforvita.org for details.