Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program aids low-income individuals

Stefanie De Leon Tzic

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Free tax returns for low-income students and residents of the San Fernando Valley area are available through a student-run program at CSUN.

CSUN’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is designed to provide timely and relevant federal and state information to low-income individuals, senior citizens, non-English speakers and the disabled.

The program, which emerged in 1971, aims to educate the culturally and linguistically diverse residents of the valley area of their tax rights and responsibilities.

“It’s a good chance to give back to society what you learned in school,” said Jaewoo Chung, 21, supervisor and junior majoring in accounting and finance, about the VITA program. “You get to actually meet a lot of different people and look at their tax returns so you learn a lot from that.”

VITA offers many basic income tax return services such as  filing student loan interests, preparation of federal from 1040 and 1040A, filing out child tax credit and educator expenses. Despite the wide range of assistance the program provides, it does set a $50,000 maximum gross income (total) per income tax return because of the high demand for the service.

According to Casey Binafard, 23, director of external publicity and a senior majoring in accounting, VITA has sites all over the valley area, including the Van Nuys Library, Sylmar Library, Panorama City Library and several more locations.

According to Binafard, many of the students who use VITA don’t always have the money to pay for a certified public accountant to file their taxes and the program alleviates some of that stress.

“When I used to be a preparer three years ago, I remember a gentleman coming up to me and saying ‘If it wasn’t for your program I don’t know what I would do with my taxes,’” he said.

Besides aiding the community, the program also allows students to gain field experience preparing tax return forms. It is open to students from all majors with a sophomore standing. Before volunteering for the program, students must attend a 24-hour training program during the month of January.

Volunteers with experience filing tax returns can take advance classes that would allow them to become site supervisors.

“A lot of people don’t know about tax returns, they think it’s really complicated,” Chung said. “It’s really simple so what we try to do this year is try to teach them how to do it by themselves so next year they don’t have to come back to us.”

VITA Office
Where: Juniper Hall 4117
Time: Mondays from 5 – 7:30 p.m. until March 26, Thursdays from 5 – 7:30 p.m. until March 29
Contact info: 818-677-4519, vita@csun.edu