California State University, Long Beach
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VITA Offering Free Tax Return Help to Students, Community

Published: March 15, 2012

Accounting majors at CSULB will be offering free income tax preparation for students and members of the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which runs through Friday, March 23, at the university.

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 and the elderly. Every year CSULB’s student volunteers prepare hundreds of returns for individuals both on and off campus.

“Each year, accounting majors at Cal State Long Beach look forward to the start of the VITA program,” said Fatima Montes-Alvarez, this year’s student VITA coordinator. “VITA is a rewarding program that benefits our community and our students. Volunteers get valuable hands-on experience and community members, on and off campus, get income tax preparation for free. We hope the program continues to grow.”

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 45 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 2011.

Those interested in having their 2011 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 2011 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 out of Room 237 on the second floor of CSULB’s College of Business Administration (CBA) Building off of Bellflower Boulevard. Hours run from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays.

Members of the community are advised to use the metered parking in Lot 15, adjacent to the CBA Building. The cost is $2 per hour.

Walk-ins are welcome, but an appointment can be made by contacting Montes-Alvarez via e-mail.

–Rick Gloady