Dayanna Cardoso is a student at Monticello High School. She's your typical high school junior. Between juggling homework and preparing for SATs, she’s also an IRS-certified tax preparer.

Cardoso is a member of the Academy of Finance Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA). The students train for months with Finance Director Susan Bahrenburg of VITA and math teacher Eric Shewmaker, doing practice tax returns and even learning tax law.

They're required to pass an IRS exam before they can prepare taxes for members of the community, free of charge.

"It feels really good because I know that I'm helping. It’s a free service and it's something for the community," said Cardoso.

What You Need To Know

  • The students, mostly high school seniors, are IRS-certified tax preparers

  • In order to qualify to get your taxes prepared by students in the program, you must make under $57,000 a year

  • Students in the program say it teaches them a vital life skill they can pass on to friends and family

The students take the job very seriously, poring over clients’ W-2 forms and documents for hours every week. They're helping the community, but they’re also learning a vital life skill.

"Taxes are something that everybody talks about and you hear it your whole life, so I just thought that it would be a really great chance to understand something a lot of kids don’t get to do in high school," said Monticello High School senior Fiona Hajdaraj.

Now, she can help out her parents, too.

"They're like, 'Please learn it because we didn’t get this in high school,'" said Hajdaraj. "They're foreign, so they don’t really understand it at all. I'm also doing it for them so I can teach them in some ways."

After a student is done with each client’s file, it’s reviewed by Shewmaker before it's officially filed.

"I was questioning it in the beginning, as well. I'm only 17. How am I going to do someone's taxes," said Hajdaraj. "But once you understand the basics and you do as many taxes as we did, it's definitely something that could be understood easily."