UPDATE (May 2012): The VITA program was named the winner of this year's Penn Partnership Award. The annual award honors partners who make service learning possible and powerful. Named after Marian Penn, founding director of the Service Learning Institute, the Penn Partnership Award recognizes community partners and faculty who have demonstrated exceptional commitment, communication and success in strengthening communities through service learning programs. This year's faculty honorees are Susan Morse and Cathy Ku of CSUMB's School of Business. 

Help available on campus and in the community

CSU Monterey Bay student volunteers from the School of Business have provided free income tax preparation for the public on some Saturdays in March at the university.

The last session will be held on March 24 from 9 a.m. to noon in Room 115 of Valley Hall. For driving directions and a campus map, click here

Families and individuals who earned less than $50,000 in 2011 are eligible. Filers must bring photo identification, Social Security card or ITIN card for workers and all family members, their W-2 and 1099 forms and a copy of last year’s return. It's not necessary to make an appointment.

Tax forms will be filed electronically. If a refund is due, it will be deposited in the taxpayer's account in approximately 10 days.

The service is part of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, sponsored by United Way Monterey County. It’s being offered at 10 county locations in addition to CSUMB. 

Student volunteers are working at most of those sites. All volunteers have completed a training course and have been certified by the IRS.

Jennifer Warner, an aspiring accountant who works at a location in Salinas, has participated in the program for the past two years. She volunteers to gain professional skills and experience, and to help families who really need every penny. “There are a lot of unclaimed credits in the system, so we try to help families get every credit they are eligible for. The people are very grateful,” Warner said.  

Business students will prepare taxes for those who qualifyAccording to Dr. Cathy Ku, professor of accounting at CSUMB, “It’s a good service learning opportunity for students. The first year – 2010 – five students participated. Last year, 20 students volunteered at eight locations in the county and helped families claim $1 million in refunds.

“This year, the number of volunteers has grown to 50, and they provide services at nine sites.”

While all 50 students passed the required basic certification course, “10 students and I passed the intermediate level course. That’s why we were able to set up a VITA site at CSUMB,” Dr. Ku said.

The United Way emphasizes that the program is free to those who qualify.

“There’s no charge for the tax preparation, no charge for direct deposit to the taxpayer’s bank account and no hidden fees,” said Fatima Dias, director of marketing and communication for United Way.

To learn more about the School of Business, click here.