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Students skip tax stress with VITA

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

by Briana Stanley

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San Diego State’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, an IRS program that helps low-income taxpayers with their tax returns, is offering free tax services to the SDSU community.

Individuals who have earned less than $55,000 in 2013 can visit room 113 of Education and Business Administration on Tuesdays from 4-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9-10:30 a.m. The first 30 taxpayers to arrive will be serviced during each session.

The program runs through April 12, with the exception of spring break.

Individuals interested in the program should bring a valid photo ID, proof of tax residence for the taxpayer and the taxpayer’s dependents, birth dates for all dependents, tuition statements from the taxpayer’s school, wage and earning statements from all employers, interest and dividend statements from the bank, bank routing number and account number, and any other paperwork that may be applicable.

SDSU accounting professor Gene Whittenburg is the faculty sponsor of the program.

Whittenburg said VITA has hosted the program for almost 40 years and they process about 300-350 returns each year for free. He said 300 tax returns done by a certified public accountant would total about $30,000.

VITA also e-files the tax returns for free, which would normally cost roughly $30 through TurboTax. They can help qualifying taxpayers receive a California Renter’s Credit, and also assist with any scholarships and grants received, Earned Income Tax Credit American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credit, and more.

“Obviously there are some things that students will miss if they aren’t used to doing tax returns,” Whittenburg said. “There are some things available specifically to students that we can help them with.”

The volunteers who prepare the income tax returns are SDSU accounting students. There are approximately 40-50 student volunteers each year. All volunteers have been trained and certified by the IRS to prepare tax returns.

Accounting senior and previous VITA volunteer Matt Shakowski said the program gave him valuable experience.

“My favorite part was giving people the final product and being able to tell them that they had a huge return,” Shakowki said.

VITA will also be preparing nonresident tax returns for international students every Friday between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. until April 11.

The deadline to file all individual tax returns is April 15.

 Photo courtesy of Thinkstock  

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