The Wayne and Roberta Colmer Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at CSUN is helping those who meet requirements with their income tax forms.
The VITA program, which will run until April 1, is available to those whose maximum gross income does not exceed $50,000, said Donna Watkins, a certified professional accountant and VITA program coordinator. The maximum is actually set higher at CSUN than at other VITA centers to accommodate CSUN employees.
The program offers assistance by training student volunteers who receive course credit in return, said Amity Ng, director of publicity for VITA. Ng said students are trained by volunteer Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and other professionals.
The students sign up during fall and the training takes place during winter while they receive course credit during the spring semester.
This year, about 250 students went through the training, Watkins said. The training includes information for both state and federal income taxes.
“Participating in VITA allows students to have hands-on experience, especially if they are in the accounting field and planning on doing taxes in the future,” Watkins said.
Many are able to file taxes online at www.irs.gov for free. Tax preparation centers like H&R Block charge depending on the amount of work, at about $70 for the EZ forms, Watkins said.
“We’re helping put money back in the community and in taxpayers’ pockets,” said Watkins.
There are over a dozen locations that offer the services on varying days and times. The information is listed on VITA’s Web site: www.csun.edu/VITA
The Web site also details the information that tax payers need to bring in order to complete the paperwork. Watkins said that taxpayers need their social security card, a form of I.D., and anything that said “Important Tax Document Enclosed” such as W2-forms or financial aid and tuition information. If taxes are being filed jointly, both spouses must be there.
Two of the centers are located on campus. They are open every Monday from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in Juniper Hall 4117.
Outside their office, a desk with information is set up where students who are waiting their turn are able to take advantage of the free service.
Inside the large, open room, about six round tables were set up. Each table, littered with papers, had about four to six people sitting around it. Several had their laptops out.
It was fairly quiet with only a few conversations going on at once. Cathy Jeppson, director of VITA and professor at CSUN, walked around and offered advice and answers to various students.
Amelie Fang, an accounting and finance major, said that although it does not help her career directly, it is a valuable experience for the customer service aspect of it. Fang, 20, is a junior and currently a supervisor in the program. She found out about the program when she took a class with Jeppson.
Shane Clark and Romy Ron, both 20 years of age and juniors in the accounting department, said that they found out about the program through a presentation in one of their classes.
Although, Ron said that others have told her this program doesn’t really prepare them for their careers because it is basically just data entry and it’s good to put on your resume.
Clark agreed and added that it will also provide a good basis for tax classes, providing them with familiarity of the terminology.