Students and others in need of help this tax season have a great resource right here on the CSUDH campus – the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, staffed by Toro students.
The no-cost tax preparation service is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) program open to any individuals whose 2019 income was less than $56,000. It is designed to provide assistance to low-income citizens, students, the elderly, disabled, and those with limited English proficiency.
In 2019, VITA volunteers helped file over 300 returns, and that number is expected to increase this year.
The program started over 20 years ago, and has been primarily administered by students through most of its history. In 2019, the CSUDH College of Business Administration and Public Policy (CBAPP) joined the CSU5 initiative with the aim of growing the VITA programs across the five California State University campuses in Los Angeles County . Currently, the program is administered by the Accounting and Finance department.
Student VITA volunteers engage in five weeks of training, with six-hour sessions every Saturday leading up to tax season. After their training is complete, volunteers must pass an IRS exam to become certified for VITA tax assistance. This year, around 30 student trainees are expected to complete the course.
Faculty coordinator Arek Arakelian is enthusiastic about the program’s continued growth. “I like that the program is ‘win-win’. It’s a win for society and the people who get help, and it’s also a win for the students. They learn a real-life skill that they can use, working with real clients in a realistic office environment.”
For the accounting students who make up the bulk of the VITA volunteer force, the hands-on experience is invaluable. “Volunteering at VITA helps us become better suited for the actual accounting workforce,” says Jasmin Martinez, Accounting Society member and lead student coordinator for the program. “It increases our experience and credibility, and is also a great way to network with fellow accounting majors!”
VITA volunteers are trained to assist individuals prepare and file income taxes, as well as to help qualified citizens take advantage of programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. Spanish-speaking volunteers are always available; volunteers who speak Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Urdu, Hindi, Arabic, French, or Japanese are available by appointment.
The VITA offices are located in Room 2101 of the South Academic Complex 2 building (SAC-2), and will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday through April 12. (Due to time restrictions, the office will not accept clients after 2 p.m. on April 12.)
VITA services are available by appointment, which can be scheduled at www.csudhvita.tax or (424) 888-3026. A list of documents to bring to your VITA appointment is also available at the above website.