Public Affairs

CSU Students Lend a Hand at Tax Time

March 3, 2011
By Elizabeth Chapin

This spring, thousands of families in need of tax help will turn to a CSU student.

Nearly every CSU campus has an IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. With the help of student volunteers, the programs provide low-income families with free e-filing services.

VITA benefits every party involved: The IRS gets volunteer help throughout the busy season, low-income families save money, and students get hands-on experience while serving their communities.

According to IRS spokesman Jesse Weller, most VITA sites are set up by university accounting, business and law departments as well as student clubs. The IRS retrains volunteers every year to keep them certified.

The students’ service pays off with valuable experience.

Sonia Morentin, the VITA coordinator at Cal State Bakersfield says that the students are getting hands-on work experience by working one-on-one with clients and processing their tax returns.

“Local accounting firms prefer that students take the VITA course and get volunteer experience. They’re more likely to get hired with this background,” Morentin said.

In addition to campus VITA programs, Cal State San Marcos and San Diego State students are teaming up to help families at several local income tax preparation sites. Under a campaign called Thrive San Diego, the students will help low-income families file their taxes as well as provide information about other available services such as food stamps.

“With the economic conditions in the state, we’re expecting a high demand for VITA services,” Weller said.

Weller said that last year 181,823 VITA-prepared Federal Tax Returns were filed in California and that this year the IRS expects even more.

“We’re just grateful to have the help,” he said about the CSU student volunteers.

The thousands of Californians they assist throughout tax season are likely feel the same way.

More information on VITA programs can be found at IRS.gov