LONG BEACH - Accounting majors at Cal State Long Beach (CSULB) are assisting students and members of the community with their 2009 tax returns free of charge through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.The program will run through April 9 at the university, but volunteers will not see clients when the campus closes for Spring Break, March 29-April 4. VITA is a cooperative effort by the Internal Revenue Service and many individual states, including California, to provide income tax assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals, the handicapped and the elderly. Volunteers are trained to prepare basic income tax returns at VITA sites, and returns can take up to 30 minutes to prepare. Last year, Cal State Long Beach's volunteers prepared more than 550 returns for individuals both on and off campus. "Cal State Long Beach has had the VITA program for a number of years, and it's really a great program. Unfortunately, many students and community members are unaware that they can have their taxes done at the campus for free," said Bernadette Hunter, a senior accounting major and this year's campus VITA coordinator. "The program is just one of the many ways in which CSULB continues to be conscious of the needs of its students and the Long Beach community." Sponsored by the IRS but funded through the campus' Beta Alpha Psi & Accounting Society, VITA helps students on campus and people from the community who cannot afford to go to paid preparers to get their taxes filed. At the same time, the program gives student volunteers valuable experience that can help them to attain employment in the accounting field. Hunter noted that this year's campus VITA program has 37 volunteers who have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare and E-file basic income tax returns and foreign student tax returns. They are also qualified to answer many tax questions or concerns that those coming in for assistance may have. There are limitations to those who can use the service, however. VITA program volunteers do not prepare business tax returns. In addition, the CSULB program can only assist those who made less than $50,000 in 2009. Those interested in having their 2009 tax returns prepared through the CSULB VITA program should bring the following items: proof of identification; Social Security cards, including spouse's and dependents' (or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration); birth dates, including spouse's and dependents'; current year's tax package; wage and earnings statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, from all employers); and interest and dividend statements from banks (1099 forms). Additionally, clients also should try to bring a copy of their federal and state returns from last year, if available; bank routing numbers and account numbers for direct deposit; total paid for day-care provider and the day-care provider's tax identifying number (the provider's Social Security number or the provider's business employer identification number); and, if a client paid rent for at least half of 2009 for property in California, he/she should have the rental dates and landlord's information (name, address, phone number). It is also important to note that when filing taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. The CSULB VITA program operates out of Room 237 on the second floor of CSULB's College of Business Administration (CBA) Building. It is open to assist students and members of the community on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays-Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members of the community are advised to use the metered parking in Lot 15, adjacent to the CBA Building. The cost is $2 per hour. Hunter said returns can take up to 30 minutes to prepare. Walk-ins are welcome but an appointment can be made by contacting Hunter at 909/645-5488 or by e-mailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Those interested can also visit the Web site at csulb.edu/~bap, then click on VITA.
********** Published: February 26, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 45