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Student VITA Program At CSULB Offers Free Tax Assistance

Published: March 15, 2011

Accounting majors at CSULB are assisting students and members of the community with their 2010 tax returns free of charge through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which will run through Friday, March 25 at the university.

VITA is a cooperative effort by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and many individual states to provide income tax assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals, the handicapped and the elderly. Volunteers are trained to prepare basic income tax returns at VITA sites, and returns can take up to 30 minutes to prepare.

Every year, Cal State Long Beach’s volunteers prepare hundreds of returns for individuals both on and off campus.

“Cal State Long Beach provides this great program every year, and it’s a win-win for our clients who receive the service, and for the VITA volunteers, who get valuable hands-on experience. We want to make sure that more students and community members are aware that they can have their taxes done at the campus for free,” said Amanda Baldwin, this year’s student VITA coordinator. “The program is just one of the many examples of how Cal State Long Beach students help serve the Long Beach community.”

Sponsored by the IRS but funded through the campus’ Beta Alpha Psi and Accounting Society, 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.

This year’s program has about 40 volunteers who 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.

There are limitations to those who can use the service, however. VITA program volunteers do not prepare business tax returns. In addition, the CSULB program can only assist those who made less than $50,000 in 2010.

Those interested in having their 2010 tax returns prepared through the CSULB VITA program should bring the following items: 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 tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security number or the provider’s business employer identification number); and, if a client paid rent for at least half of 2010 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.

The CSULB VITA program operates Monday through Friday out of Room 237 on the second floor of CSULB’s College of Business Administration (CBA) Building. It is open to assist students and members of the community. There is metered parking in Lot 15, adjacent to the CBA Building.

Walk-ins are welcome, but an appointment can be made by contacting Baldwin at 951/235-1421. Those interested can also visit the website and click on VITA.

–Ken Swisher