Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Initiative – Free Income Tax Preparation Services to Los Angeles County Residents
The CSU5 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) initiative was awarded California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC) Free Tax Preparation Assistance Grants by the California Department of Community Services and Development for the 2019 and 2020 tax seasons.
VITA programs provide free tax services to individuals and families with low-to-moderate incomes, including the elderly, those with disabilities and/or those who lack English language proficiency. These tax services are provided by IRS trained Accounting student volunteers on CSU5 campuses and their local community colleges partners.
In addition, CSU 5 VITA provides Accounting students with professional experience while providing valuable community service and demonstrates the social value of CSU campuses in local communities and the regional economy.
Each CSU5 VITA campus disseminates information about VITA to parents at local feeder high schools, recent alumni, local community organizations, local public officials, and elected representatives to spread the word about the free tax preparation services.
VITA student volunteers reflect the diversity of Greater Los Angeles and often work in the languages of their local communities. Flyers are disseminated in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, and Cambodian, for example, and volunteers engage with clients in these languages. Languages utilized vary across campuses and reflect the communities served.
2019 Tax Season. CSU5 VITA in 2019 generated $17.8 million in tax refunds and tax credits for Greater Los Angeles taxpayers. Total clients served were 14,596, or 20.2% more than the participating campuses served working independently in 2018.
2020 Tax Season. Just as CSU5 VITA clinics were hitting full stride, the global coronavirus pandemic hit Greater Los Angeles in mid-March. Total clients served declined 40.1% to 8,749 and sites staffed declined 30.0% to 30, but CSU5 VITA still generated $13.7 million in refunds and credits, about 23.0% lower than 2019.
2021 Tax Season. Governor Newsom could not include Cal EITC Free Tax Preparation Assistance Grants in his proposed budget, leaving CSU5 VITA 2021 funding unclear. Individual campuses reverted to previous funding models.
2022 Tax Season. With the support of Wells Fargo Bank, in 2022, the CSU5 VITA Initiative deployed almost 500 student volunteers, who provided free tax preparation services to more than 9,800 low-income taxpayers. With over 29,000 hours of student volunteer services, the CSU5+ initiative generated over $13.1 million in tax refunds, as well as over $3.6 million in Earned Income Tax Credits.
The five CSUs – along with several community college partners – provide free clinics on their campuses and throughout Los Angeles County. Please click the campus below to see a list of free VITA income tax preparation locations, hours of operations, and contact information (in English and Spanish).
FREE INCOME TAX PREPARATION CLINICS – click the campus below to find a location near you:
West LA County: Santa Monica College