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Students, faculty offer free tax help

Karo Chakhlasyan
Staff Writer 

IRS-trained University of La Verne students and faculty volunteered to provide community members with a free tax return Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings in the Enrollment Management building as part of the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

The IRS provides free tax preparations for incomes of up to $50,000 through the VITA program.

When a challenge to give back to the community while providing students an educational opportunity was proposed at a facility retreat last year, adjunct professors and IRS agents Maria Nieto and Carolyn Payne saw the VITA program as the answer.

“We thought it was a win for the students, because they can get the opportunity to prepare taxes,” Nieto said. “We thought it was a win for the community because we’re offering a service to them. They’re providing a community service.”

ULV completed an application process through the IRS. Once approved, it became a site for the VITA program.

“The students who volunteer for the program have to go through a month of training and sit in the exam at the end, pass the exam for them to become eligible to prepare the taxpayers,” said Abe Helou, dean of the college of business and public management.

IRS agents supervise the students and authorize all tax returns that are prepared through the VITA program.

“I think it’s more user friendly,” adjunct professor of accounting Carolyn Payne said. “I think they immediately have a comfort level that they normally wouldn’t have with a professional,”

Each station is equipped with the 2011 IRS codebook, and laptops with IRS-approved software to make the process easy for the staff and customers.

“We put in so much effort and time to learn all this material to help people out,” accounting major Lauraliz Vilchez said. “It’s been great, a good experience.”

Accounting major Umair Amjad said it has raised his awareness as well.

“Now working for them (IRS) I realized that they try to do everything they can to make sure people do their taxes and get their returns,” he said.

The VITA program and staff members hope to provide a positive outlook to the daunting task of filing taxes.

“In general people are afraid of taxes, they have that perception, and if we offer the free service, it helps them because someone is guiding them through the process and assisting them to file the tax return,” Nieto said.

The opportunity provides community members a free alternative instead of paying up to $300 for the same service.

“It’s a fact of life, it’s something we have to deal with on a regular basis,” Helou said.

The VITA program asks to bring all W-2, 1099s, information of other incomes, deductions/credits, voided check, proof of identification and Social Security cards from those who will be prepared.

The VITA program is available on 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Those interested can call for an appointment at 909-593-3511, ext. 4432, or email vita@laverne.edu.

Karo Chakhlasyan can be reached at karo.chakhlasyan@laverne.edu.

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