News Release| CSULA; Cal State L.A.; Los Angeles; CSU; VITA; income tax; preparation services

Free income tax assistance for 400 on Saturdays, Jan. 31-April 4

Cal State L.A students trained to help community,

committed to legacy of error-free tax returns

Los Angeles, CA – Starting Saturday, Jan. 31, the Cal State L.A. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program will offer free income-tax preparation services for low- to moderate-income individuals ($42,000 or less) who cannot prepare their own tax returns.

Since 1998, the Internal Revenue Service and Cal State L.A. faculty have trained Cal State L.A. students to make a difference in their communities as part of the VITA program, providing an excellent service-learning opportunity for the final-year accounting students. 

On Saturdays, from Jan. 31 through April 4, VITA services for the 2009 tax season will take place on the third floor of Salazar Hall, room 363. It will operate on a first-come, first-served basis from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Appointments are not necessary.

According to David Hossain, VITA site coordinator and assistant professor of accounting, “This year our goal is to reach the 400/400 mark; 400 tax returns with $400k of much needed tax refunds to taxpayers living in our surrounding communities.”

Last season Cal State L.A.’s VITA Program–with 42 student volunteers—helped to complete 266 tax returns, drawing in total refunds of $216,496 and total earned income credit refund amounts of $70,651. On average, each participating student volunteered about 50 hours to prepare tax returns.

Hossain said, “Throughout VITA’s existence at CSULA there have never been any returns rejected by the IRS.  Therefore, the service provides a viable alternative to other tax-preparation services where costs can range anywhere from $100 to $150 per return.  It is a service that is free and has a history of no errors.” 

In addition, with an average refund of $1,000, VITA can be a good sign in these times of financial stress.  For example, parents with two dependents may get back as much as $6,000.

Shannon Gonzales, student tax expert, said, “Not only do we have the opportunity to help out the community and student body in this time of economic need, but with such thorough guidance and training from CSULA and IRS professionals, we are guaranteed to keep the CSULA VITA legacy of ‘zero mistakes’ alive and well.”

Nataly Madrigal, VITA site manager, said, “The service and history of accuracy of the VITA program can also be attributed to the dedication exhibited by a select core of VITA personnel.  The student volunteers are required to pass a demanding comprehensive examination and attend a rigorous training program on the latest in tax preparation software. Some of the students are members of CSULA Beta Alpha Psi, Accounting Society, Toast Masters, and ALPFA (Association of Latinos Professionals in Finance and Accounting).” 

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Working for California since 1947: The 175-acre hilltop campus of California State University, Los Angeles is at the heart of a major metropolitan city, just five miles from Los Angeles’ civic and cultural center. More than 20,000 students and 205,000 alumni—with a wide variety of interests, ages and backgrounds—reflect the city’s dynamic mix of populations. Six colleges offer nationally recognized science, arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education and humanities programs, among others, led by an award-winning faculty. Cal State L.A. is home to the critically-acclaimed Luckman Jazz Orchestra and to a unique university center for gifted students as young as 12. Programs that provide exciting enrichment opportunities to students and community include an NEH- and Rockefeller-supported humanities center; a NASA-funded center for space research; and a growing forensic science program, housed in the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center.