Volunteer Income Tax Assistance supplies Davis community with free tax assistance

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance supplies Davis community with free tax assistance

Photo Credits: JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

IRS-certified student organization looks to expand tax services

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is a nonprofit student organization that provides free tax assistance to the Davis community, including students, who need their taxes filed. It is IRS-certified and centered in the city.

Carrie Cho, a fourth-year managerial economics major, is a part of VITA as one of its marketing directors. Cho elaborated on how the program started.

“It started as this IRS-sponsored program,” Cho said. “We partner with them, and they provide us with all the materials to certify all the interns to make sure that we’re doing everything correctly so that we are qualified to file tax returns for clients.”

Second-year managerial economics major Noah Bassi is VITA’s marketing director. Bassi explained that its members are interns who must pass an exam in order to help with the process.

“As an intern, you will be paired with someone in the community who is filing for their tax return,” Bassi said. “Through Fall Quarter, we train interns to be ready for the tax season. We tell them all about types of credit and how much they’re allowed to claim, as well as deductions. We basically teach them everything about how to do a tax return, and that allows for the interns to be prepared for their examinations for IRS certification to pass with an 80 percent or more. Every intern will be IRS-certified so that when they start doing tax returns, they will be fluent in taxes and accounting.”

“The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $55,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals,” according to the IRS’s description of the program.

Since the student organization has successfully filed under the IRS, it has been able to attain sponsorships.

“I think that because we were successfully filed, we were able to get sponsorships from other companies like [PricewaterhouseCoopers] that see the girth that we do and want to expand on VITA,” Cho said.

Cho also mentioned that the organization has been recognized for their impact on the community.

“Just last year, we were able to prepare 393 tax returns and give back over $330,835 in tax refunds to the community,” Cho said. “I think this is a pretty great accomplishment, considering that this is a lot of money that is going back to the people of Davis or the community in general. We also received the UC Davis community service award as the gold recipient for 2017-2018. This recognized our organization’s generous dedication to serving the community.”

Bassi noted that they have been working on new strategies to get the word out and help more people file for their taxes.

“We’re actually working on a new marketing strategy, where the school district will be sending out newsletters instead of flyers,” Bassi said. “Instead of posting flyers, we were actually able to send an email out to parents over the next few months for people who are interested to do tax returns with us. We plan to open more sites with available times. We’re working with more community centers so that we can have more dates opened and clients. We’ve actually seen so many people trying to file their returns earlier in the year.”

Bassi added that similar organizations have personally impacted his life, so he had faith the program would be effective.

“I’m really proud to be a part of the organization that is so beneficial for anyone to benefit from the program,” Bassi said. “I am low income as well — when I was in elementary school and middle school, my mom would benefit from these programs. It’s always nice to have someone who is knowledgeable to help out at no cost. It really is a program for the community. We’re really an all-around great program, and the only thing we need to do more is to get more people. We’re always trying to get our name out there and reach out.”

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org