Students file taxes for the community
Published: Monday, February 15, 2010
Updated: Monday, February 15, 2010 02:02
Baruch students and individuals around the Baruch community can benefit from other students' skills when filing their taxes. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program at Baruch, or Baruch VITA, offers the service free of cost to those interested.
"VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, and what we do is help low-income families file their income tax returns," said Diana Liang, a program coordinator and the president for the program at Baruch.
The VITA program established itself at Baruch in 1991 and has been here ever since. "We've evolved," said Liang. "It started out with two or three people and now we have nearly 400."
"Student interest in volunteering with our program has tripled from just a few years ago. Additionally, the number of clients we service has grown over six fold to more than 6,100 over the last five years," said Liang.
The joining process starts at the beginning of each fall and requires commitment on the behalf of the volunteer.
Liang described the process: "The first round of examinations, called the pre-test, is taken online. After you pass that, you go into training and begin three weekends of training in January. Then there is a fourth weekend when you take the last exam. After taking it, if you pass, you begin volunteering with [VITA] in February."
While Baruch VITA is considered a school organization, it is really a branch of the IRS program founded in 1969, reaching out to families all over the country. According to Liang, one of her responsibilities is keeping in contact with the IRS and New York State Department of Taxation.
VITA began offering assistance this year on Feb. 4, and will continue the program until tax day on April 15.
"So far, the tax season has gone pretty well," said Liang. "We're going to start advertising more and marketing more." This is all in hopes to improve their client base.
A couple tips she mentioned for students opting to do their own tax returns this year are: "[To] get their W-2, 1098-T if they have paid tuition so they can get credit for it on their tax returns, and they should know whether they were claimed as a dependent on their parents' tax return."
Looking to the future, Liang said, "One of the things VITA started this year at a different location was e-filing, which we hope to implement at Baruch in the coming years. That way, everything is done electronically."