By Marvin Garcia |Staff Writer|
CSUSB’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, provided by upper-division accounting majors, will be offering free income tax preparations to eligible taxpayers.
The VITA program, started in the early 1970’s and sponsored by the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board (FTB), is intended to provide free tax return help to people with an income under $60,000.
It assists residents with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers.
VITA is managed by Accounting and Finance Professor, Janet Courts, who has coordinated it for 11 years.
“In our VITA program here at CSUSB, we prepare students through an advance online training program developed by the IRS that runs through December to early January. Starting the second week of January, students take three classes that are about nine hours long. The first one is procedures process and tax law, and [the] last two are simulation training,” said Courts.
Throughout the first week of operations, VITA volunteers performed 115 tax returns.
According to Courts, VITA volunteers consist of juniors, seniors, and alumni who are certified public accountants (CPAs) for a total of 65-70 participants. They must pass through the rigorous online IRS training and paper simulation exercises.
Tara Thorp, a volunteers, said she is very glad to be involved. It took her four days, five to six hours a day, to complete the online training to become certified.
“VITA has helped me gain real life experience and gives me an idea of what I am getting into once I graduate,” sad Thorp.
Salvador Marrufo, a first-time volunteer, praised the program in terms of quality preparation and function.
“I really enjoy it. It is great for the community, considering other firms charge and taxpayers don’t have money to give, and a great way to get taxes done,” said Marruffo.
Marruffo also said he considered it a big responsibility.
“There is a lot of pressure for sure, but it all comes with practice, because sometimes you got to ask personal questions, yet all those people are very trusting of us students and that helps alleviate the pressure,” said Marrufo.
Thorp and Marrufo agree that VITA preparation is more thorough, and are confident they stand out more in comparison to H&R Block or Turbotax services.
Furthermore, according to Courts, VITA is a highlight for the Accounting and Finance Department because of their well-grounded premise and quality preparation.
VITA began tax preparation on Feb. 4, and will continue until April 11.
Their locations are stationed in Jack Brown Hall, the Family Resource Center in San Bernardino, the Family Service Association of Redlands, Feldheym Library, Villa del Norte Community Center, and the Fontana Boys and Girls Club.