In partnership with the IRS and United Way of the Bay Area, CSM students enrolled in Accounting 175 prepared and e-filed federal and state tax returns for both students and community members for free. CSM’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program began in 2008 with the preparation of about 90 returns. This year, 522 tax returns were prepared and 502 were e-filed during 7 class meetings by 25 students. The students were assisted by 25 experienced volunteers who answered questions and reviewed every return that was completed. CSM has e-filed the most returns of any VITA site in San Mateo County for the past two years.

The returns generated $653,000 in IRS and $161,000 in California refunds to the community. Of the IRS refunds, $121,000 was Earned Income Credit (EIC) received by 79 low income wage-earners and $76,000 was child tax credits received for dependent children under the age of 17. Of the California refunds, $11,600 was Earned Income Credit received by 53 very low income wage-earners. These amounts are free money provided to the taxpayers over and above what they had withheld from their wages.

Returns were prepared for students and members of the community. Many have returned year after year to have their returns prepared for free – a credit to their confidence in the service provided.

The students and the college have provided a valuable service both to its students and to the community. The class serves as an internship where the students learn basic income tax law and interact with real-life clients. Students have an opportunity to use classroom skills in real situations, to determine if the income tax preparation field is of interest to them and to assist low-income individuals in receiving accurate tax returns without cost.