The Tax Man Cometh:
Published: Monday, March 24, 2003
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 03:02
V.I.T.A., the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, is back for another year. This year the program, hosted by the Golden Key International Honour Society, trained nearly 150 volunteer Baruch students in the art of tax preparation.
Baruch scholar and Golden Key Honour Society scholar Julia Golbina coordinates the program. Volunteers must undergo a rigorous training program and must pass an IRS qualifying exam in order to ensure their proficiency. Students who made it through the pipeline, most of whom are upper class accounting majors, are ready to prepare student's taxes. VITA professionals are qualified to complete IRS forms 1040 and 1040A and New York State forms IT200 and IT201.
"VITA is assisting people who want their taxes done and don't want them done by tax professionals (who charge)," said Sangeeta Prasad, a VITA tax advisor. "If they need advice or help with taxes, they come to VITA"
Armed with excellent tax knowledge and a desire to do their best the VITA program once again opens its doors to the public.
Best of all, the advice and tax preparation services VITA provides is free. While the program is an excellent experience and teaches a useful skill to the students, it also provides an invaluable service to different communities.
A main objective of the VITA program is to reach out to underserved immigrant communities. For this reason there are also VITA locations in Chinatown, the Lower East Side, Coney Island, the East Bronx, Long Island City, and Flushing, Queens. At these sites there are bilingual Baruch students tailored to accommodate the ethnic groups of the serviced areas.
There is a tax preparation site at Baruch College as well. There are numerous reasons why students can benefit from the services VITA offers. VITA is beneficial to students who may only work part-time or only had summer jobs. Students who fall into these categories may think their income is so low that it is not worth it for them to file their income tax. While it is true that if their income is very small they may not require them to file, they still may be entitled to some nominal amount of refund.
In this situation, which many Baruch students find themselves in, the fee for tax preparation from an outside source maybe equal to or more than the amount of their refund. Since the VITA program is free there is no reason every student that worked during 2002 cannot file taxes.
"Last year I only worked one month in the summer," said Paul Tumasi, a VITA customer "In 2001 I worked about the same and every place I went said it was not worth it for me to file (income taxes). The guys at VITA got me a refund of $25 from the federal government and $63 from the state. Hey, it's not much but it is more than I have now."
VITA is a nationwide endeavor established and sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Students have been volunteering do help others with their tax forms through VITA for the past eight years. VITA is one of the most successful volunteer programs at Baruch College.
Volunteers can work on different jobs such as directly preparing returns, teaching taxpayers to prepare their own returns, or managing a VITA site. No prior tax experience is required.
The VITA location at Baruch is preparing taxes in the library and technology building, 151 E. 25th Street, in room 330. Its hours of operation are from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The phone number to reach the Baruch VITA program is (212) 802-2419.