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VITA Program Continues Tax Help

Published: January 23, 2017

Need help doing your taxes? Of course you do.

Though the tax deadline for 2017 is April 18 rather than the traditional April 15 date, it will still be here before you know it. It just sneaks up on you.

To help, once again accounting majors at CSULB are offering free income tax preparation assistance for students and members of the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

The CSULB VITA program operates out of Room 237 on the second floor of the campus’ College of Business Administration building. Volunteers will prepare returns from Jan. 30 to March 24, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Thursdays, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays. VITA will be closed on Friday, Feb. 10, and Monday, Feb. 20.

Offering free e-filing for federal and state tax returns, VITA is a cooperative effort by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide income tax assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals, the handicapped, the elderly and limited-English-proficient individuals. Every year CSULB’s student volunteers prepare hundreds of returns for individuals from both on and off campus.

“The program serves both the students and the community,” said Philip Nguyen, a senior accounting major who is also the 2017 VITA coordinator. “Last year, we prepared 1,876 federal and state returns, providing over $800,000 in tax refunds. VITA provides our students with a bit of real-world work experience in interacting with clientele and working as a team.”

In 2015, the program secured approximately $816,012 in total refunds for individuals and more than $825,047 in 2016.

Nguyen noted that 60 accounting majors will serve as volunteers for the 2017 program and anticipates that they will exceed refunds provided to clients in the past. The students have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare and e-file basic income tax returns and foreign student tax returns. They are also qualified to answer many tax questions or concerns that those coming in for assistance may have.

Sponsored by the IRS but funded through the campus’ Instructional Related Activities Fund, VITA helps students on campus and people from the community who cannot afford to go to paid preparers to get their taxes filed. At the same time, the program gives student volunteers valuable experience that can further help them to attain full-time employment in the accounting field.

“VITA has been growing every year,” said Kyla Tamondong, also a senior accounting major who served as the VITA site coordinator in 2016 and is co-coordinator this year. “The program is now offered as a class that accounting students can take not only to gain first-hand experience in tax preparation but also to fulfill the 150-unit requirement for their CPA licensure.

VITA students helping clients

“It teaches our volunteers technical skills when given a complicated tax return as well,” she added, “such as social skills when they have to deal with difficult situations like when a client finds out that they owe the IRS money. Volunteers gain different experiences that they can learn from and apply at their workplace.”

There are limitations to those who can use the service, however. VITA program volunteers do not prepare business tax returns and they do not do itemized returns. In addition, the CSULB program can only assist those who made $54,000 or less in 2016.

Those interested in having their 2016 tax returns prepared through the VITA program should bring proof of identification; Social Security cards, including spouse’s and dependents’ (or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration); birth dates, including spouse’s and dependents’; current year’s tax package; wage and earnings statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers); and interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms).

Additionally, clients also should try to bring a copy of their federal and state returns from last year, if available; bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit; total paid for day-care provider and the day-care provider’s Social Security number or business employer identification number; and, if a client paid rent for at least half of 2016 for property in California, he or she should have the rental dates and landlord’s information (name, address, phone number).

It is also important to note that when filing taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

Members of the community are advised to use the metered parking in Lot 15, adjacent to the CBA Building. Walk-ins are welcome.

For more information, contact Nguyen via e-mail or by phone at 562/985-5752. Additional information can also be found on the Beta Alpha Psi website.