Tax Volunteer Spotlight: Changing the perspective on education
Although tax volunteers come from an array of professional backgrounds, the Free Tax Campaign has long been a favorite of accounting students across King County. It offers the unique opportunity to both give back and advance students’ academic and career goals. Anthony Gong, who is currently pursuing a Masters of Professional Accounting degree at Seattle University, juggled the academic demands of being a student with volunteering at the Downtown Library tax site where he contributed to the preparation of more than 4,000 returns. Learning about the volunteer opportunity from his professor, Anthony has gained insight into his future career in accounting through his experience as a tax volunteer. Anthony, who admittedly loves Seattle’s rainy weather, enjoys playing tennis and photography when not cooped up in a library studying.
Why did you choose to be a tax volunteer? What do you like about it?
I took a federal taxation class as a part of my graduate curriculum. Our professor, Dr. Susan Weihrich, was an extraordinarily fantastic teacher. She engaged her students and sparked my interest and curiosity in taxation. She told us about United Way of King County’s volunteer tax program. There was no better and more accessible way for me to explore this topic further, so consequently, I signed up to be a volunteer.
What I liked most about being involved in the UWKC tax program, however, was not the amount of taxation knowledge I have garnered during my tenure as a volunteer, but the magnitude of impact my actions had on people who came to UWKC to seek tax assistance. My knowledge and character was advanced by the very people I served for and worked with, and I am grateful for everyone who made this program possible year after year.
How has volunteering with the tax campaign affected your education?
Volunteering with the tax campaign has changed my perspective on the goals of my education. I think we are all capable of stating that the purpose of education is to benefit others through the betterment of ourselves. But, at least for me, what materialized that statement was in part due to my experience as a tax volunteer. During these hard times, I have witnessed solidarity and resolve through the lives of the very people in this community. The fact that I was able to use my knowledge and education to give these hardworking people that extra push helped me understand even if my career choice is not in a nonprofit organization, I can still have an impact in my community.
I know you had some huge goals as far as tax returns prepared (wasn’t it around 300?). Do you know around how many you prepared?
Honestly, I lost count the first day I was there. And that was a pretty farfetched goal to begin with. I had no idea what I was in for, especially when February rolled around! But I think in the end, what we, the volunteers, strive for is accuracy and efficiency rather than speed. I was just happy there were no major mishaps with the taxes I prepared.
What is the one thing you would like readers to know about the Free Tax Campaign?
The one thing I would like readers to know about the Free Tax Campaign is it is made up of wonderful volunteers and UWKC staffs who worked tirelessly to bring this program to the community. I will not encourage you to volunteer your time with UWKC, instead, I want challenge you to go out, push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and get involved. You will be surprised what you might find along the way. And remember, this program, amongst others put together by the UWKC, cannot happen without your continuous support.
Nickname: You can call me anything, just don’t call me Tony.
Tax Site: Seattle Downtown Library
Favorite Food: Wagu beef and Alaskan lobster tail, and anything made of chocolate.
If you had a superpower, what would it be and why: To have the entire collection of all human knowledge, because then I will be the most interesting person to talk to in a bar.