CSULB program offers free tax assistance to students

To many students, filing income taxes could seem daunting, but luckily the Department of Accountancy is here to help.

The annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program began Monday at Cal State Long Beach where 65 student accounting majors volunteered to help fellow students submit their taxes before the April 17 deadline.

“[VITA] is really useful, especially for people who are far from home and it’s their first time filing their taxes without their parents,” said Daniella Lieato, a senior English education major.

These volunteers are providing university students and members of the community with free income tax preparation services from Jan. 29 through March 23 on campus in the College of Business Administration computer lab.

“We welcome all of Long Beach community to our site,” said Adrian Torres, program coordinator and sophomore accounting major. “We would like to provide a good experience for both our community and our students.”

According to Torres, the Internal Revenue Service certified volunteers are also offering assistance to the elderly, non-resident, disabled, limited English speakers and individuals earning less than $54,000 a year.

Clients can electronically submit with the IRS in the computer lab. The assistance program files individual tax returns, which includes single, head of household/widowed and married couples filing jointly. If a couple is filing jointly, then both must be present to sign the final paperwork, Torres said.

Those hoping for help also need to bring all W-2 forms, other income forms and expense information, 1099-T tuition statement form and school related expenses.

Other important documents that students should bring are tax returns, a government issued I.D. and a social security card.

“CSULB students should take advantage of our free tax assistance since it is right on campus, before it starts getting busy in March,” Torres said.

Garrison Ralston, an accounting major, is volunteering for the first time this season. By participating in the program, Ralston and the other tax preparers are gaining real world experience.

“You learn from every interaction,” Ralston said. “It is an opportunity to improve yourself.”

All the volunteers are student accounting majors. Last year, 59 students helped to file 717 federal tax returns, which totaled to approximately $834,900 in returns.

Before rushing to the computer lab with documents in hand, some students are looking at all their options. Christopher Olvera, a senior religious studies major, may stick to his family’s tax expert, instead relying on accounting majors for free assistance, because he said the tax system seems difficult.

“It sounds too good to be true,” Olvera said.

The idea of getting their returns filed here on campus may be more comfortable for students than seeking assistance elsewhere.

Anyone who has had their returns filed through the campus tax assistance program that is audited are referred to a number of services who can help them through the process. According to the IRS, there are Low Income Taxpayer Clinics throughout Los Angeles County who represent low-income taxpayers and assist clients in audits, appeals and collection disputes.

The site can be found in the College of Business Administration computer lab in room 237 at computers 74, 75, 77, 78 and 79. Their hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday.

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