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14 VITA sessions, 260 volunteer hours and 43 tax returns filed
Photo shows Dr. Ching-lih Jan (top/middle) with student volunteers
This 2021 tax season, the College of Business and Economics at Cal State East Bay participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) and offered free virtual tax help. Taxpayers signed up for a Zoom appointment where they shared their computer screens so that student volunteers could help them complete and e-file their federal and state tax returns using TaxSlayer, a tax preparation software provided by the IRS.
Virtual VITA at Cal State East Bay was staffed with seven trained student volunteers who have passed the Advanced Certification Exam and the Foreign Student Exam and two faculty members, Dr. Pei-Hui Hsu and Dr. Ching-Lih Jan.
Known for preparing business students with practical skills for great careers, the College of Business and Economics seeks to provide opportunities for experiential learning or learning by doing and the VITA program is a great example of this approach. Students gained practical experience about tax preparation, honed their communications skills and had the opportunity to help the community.
Let’s hear from our student volunteers
My initial thoughts when I signed up for the VITA course were: 1. I’m not a tax person and 2. Am I truly ready to start assisting taxpayers? It was helpful to have the course divided into different sections/topics and practice using the software before assisting actual taxpayers. I have learned a lot not just about taxes itself, but also how to communicate effectively with different individuals. Overall, it was a great opportunity to collaborate with my classmates and our wonderful professors from problem solving complex situations to now being able to assist my own family with their returns. I’m very happy with the opportunity to provide such an excellent service. Plus, it counts towards CPA educational credits which is exactly what I need. I would definitely recommend this program to all students, especially those in Accounting majors.
The first time I helped a taxpayer, I was timid and afraid that I may mess their taxes - that was not the case. As I became more and more comfortable, I always looked forward to volunteering on Wednesdays and Saturdays. My biggest takeaway with VITA is that I can always search out information regarding taxes on the internet, mainly the IRS website. I think this experience is something that would benefit me throughout my career as an accountant. I think I will volunteer with VITA again next year.
All the taxpayers we assisted were very kind and friendly. My favorite part was the interactions I had with the taxpayer on each filing day and this gave me more reasons to look forward to the next filing day. This was an experience I will never forget and I wish to come back next tax season.
As an immigrant, it took me a lot of practice before being able to communicate with the taxpayer and convey my ideas clearly in English, my second language. On the last day of my volunteering service, I was able to guide two taxpayers alone in the absence of my partner. I was surprised and joyful that I could do it on my own. This service has quickly helped me build up confidence as well as helped me realize my interest in the field of taxation.
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