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Tax Preparation Available On Campus

Published: February 2, 2015

Did you need to file a tax return but don’t know where to begin? Get your tax returns prepared for free at the CSULB Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site located in the College of Business Administration (CBA) Computer Lab. IRS-certified tax preparers can assist you in preparing both a federal and state tax return—all for free. The program runs through March 27.

VITA is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) program that provides free income tax preparation to low-income individuals as well as students, the elderly, non-residents, the disabled and individuals with limited English proficiency.

“Our CSULB VITA site is available to qualifying taxpayers with an income level of $53,000 or less,” explained accountancy’s Sudha Krishnan. “IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing for federal and state tax returns.”

Throughout the history of the campus’ VITA program, there have been 930 returns (including paper returns, electronic returns and tax day) for $587,992 in refunds and $33,632 in taxes due. On the campus’ most recent tax day of March 22, 2014, there were 76 returns filed for $84,831 (including federal and state taxes) in refunds.

Offering free e-filing for federal and state tax returns, VITA is a cooperative effort by the IRS to provide income tax assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals, the handicapped, the elderly and limited-English-proficient individuals. This year’s program has about 60 volunteers who have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare and e-file basic income tax and foreign student tax returns.

VITA program volunteers do not prepare business tax returns, she added. “The CSULB program can only assist those who made less than $53,000 in 2014. If you have gross income below $53,000, we will file free returns for you,” said Krishnan, a member of the accountancy department since 2007.

The VITA program is a four-unit accounting course geared to assist the community and provide training to students.

“As volunteers, their duty is to simply help these individuals in preparing their tax returns and answering their questions,” she said. “Volunteers are asked to put in at least one to four hours a week in two shifts based on enrollment.” Training is offered in four parts—Federal tax I and II, TaxWise software, foreign students and hands-on experience.

The students learn how to prepare basic returns and talk to clients.

“The students take online exams the week before the program begins,” explained Krishnan. “This year VITA volunteers will file returns for veterans and learn to deal with the issues that veterans have which other clients do not.”

Those interested in having their 2014 tax returns prepared through the CSULB VITA program should bring the following items—proof of identification such as Social Security cards, including a spouse’s and dependents’ (or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration), birth dates, including a spouse’s and dependents’, a current year’s tax package, wage and earnings statements (such as the W-2, W-2G, the 1099-R from all employers) as well as interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms.)
Please note that when filing a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

The CSULB VITA program operates out of Room 237 in CSULB’s College of Business Administration building from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. Metered parking in Lot 15 adjacent to the CBA building is available for $2 per hour.

Krishnan believes that accountancy has more outreach potential than many departments on campus.

“Our aim is student success through jobs and this kind of experience is what does that,” she said. “Student volunteers have gone on to jobs in the profession. It goes on their resume that they volunteered and coordinated VITA. This project is vibrant and going forward. We’ve been doing it for 20 years and it’s not going away.”

She encourages the Long Beach community to participate.

“It’s free,” she said. “These are experienced students with the knowledge to prepare returns. These are dependable students who know they will be graded on their performance. More than anything else, they are IRS trained and approved. You can’t go wrong.”

Walk-ins are welcome but an appointment can be made by by e-mail at Vita.Csulb@gmail.com.

–Richard Manly