Public Affairs, The California State University

CSU Students Give Free Tax Prep

Student volunteer at Cal Poly Pomona's VITA program
By Elizabeth Chapin

This tax season, CSU students are giving back by helping low-income Californians get back more in their tax refunds. Through a national Internal Revenue Service program called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), business and accounting students are getting real world experience as they give back to the community by providing no-cost tax advice and assistance.

Last year, CSU student volunteers helped more than 10,000 low-income taxpayers file returns, bringing nearly $6 million back into their pockets and California’s economy—site coordinators project to make an even larger impact this year.

Hundreds of students and faculty at VITA programs run by CSU programs are serving primarily low-income individuals, senior citizens, non-English-speaking individuals and the disabled. In order to volunteer, they must undergo four intensive days of training to get certified by the IRS. Students learn everything from e-filing to how to make sure clients receive the tax credits they are qualified for.

According to IRS spokesman and proud CSU Northridge alumnus Raphael Tulino, many low-income taxpayers may be uninformed about certain tax breaks including the Earned Income Credit and CSU volunteers are doing an excellent job getting them back what they deserve.

“The IRS is proud to work with the CSU system and all our community volunteers,” said Tulino. “Their work is furthering the impact of VITA and free tax prep for California’s low-income taxpayers.”

In addition to filing returns, VITA student volunteers are also providing financial education. For example, Cal State L.A. is offering on-site financial awareness and money management sessions. The service enhancement means that the students need to be certified at an advanced level, says Cal State L.A. VITA site coordinator and Associate Professor of Accounting David Hussain.

“Our VITA program and financial education helps empower our local community and the students,” Hussain said. “Low-income underrepresented people in our community learn more about tax law and receive financial advice. The students also get real world experience.”

At CSU Northridge, student volunteers have already served 6,600 hours and prepared approximately 6,000 tax forms this tax season. The CSUN program is the first in the United States and remains one of our nation’s largest with eleven sites serving the San Fernando Valley, says director Catherine Jeppson.

“Not only do we help the larger community, but we also have made an impact on our campus as numerous CSUN students and staff who take advantage of our services,” Jeppson said.

Learn more about CSU VITA programs at the links below or find a program near you at