A select group of accounting students who have rigorously studied Internal Revenue Service materials and software will help people file their state and federal income tax returns beginning Feb. 12.
Those whose 2010 gross yearly income was $55,000 or less can have their taxes prepared by Cal Poly Pomona students for free in one of four Pomona locations. Many of the students also speak Spanish, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is offered as part of a course, service learning in taxation, taught by Accounting Professor Ahmed M. Abo-Hebeish, a certified public accountant. In the last three years, the maximum income level has increased significantly, from $40,000 in 2008 to $55,000 in 2010. Abo-Hebeish said that his students are committed to helping as many community members as possible.
“In this economy, everyone is looking for a way to save on costs,” Abo-Hebeish says. “With this service, not only do taxpayers get free assistance but they can tap into students’ extensive knowledge, all of whom have had to pass two IRS exams in order to volunteer.”
Abo-Hebeish also wants to encourage the Cal Poly Pomona community to take advantage of this free service.
Jimmy Wong (accounting, ’09) participated in the VITA program in 2009, the same year he graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. Wong said he enjoyed being an asset to the community so much that he volunteered in 2010 and plans to help again this year even though he has a full-time job as a systems analyst for Southern California Edison. This time Wong will serve as one of the supervisors, overseeing students’ work.
“I really like doing taxes and I feel like I should use my experience to help people out,” Wong says. “Being a volunteer has helped me too. I learned the people skills that you can’t learn in a classroom and this year I will be able to use my leadership skills as I manage students and pass on my experience.”
Wong is not the only former student who is assisting his alma mater in serving the community. Alumna Chau Truong (accounting, ’10), who participated in the VITA program in 2010 as a student, will return this year as well. Truong, a business analyst at Southern California Edison says she plans to volunteer for several more years. She says it helps that her employer encourages its workers to give back to the community.
In order to get the most out of the free service, Abo-Hebeish advises clients to come in at least an hour before closing and bring all necessary documents including identification cards and social security cards for all household members. Also, people should bring their W-2 forms and any other documents that show income such as child support, alimony and interest on money. To qualify for certain exemptions, people are advised to bring medical and child care bills and any other documentation. Even if people are not certain if something qualifies as an exemption, Abo-Hebeish said it also best to bring the paperwork just in case.
The service is funded by the College of Business Administration and the Accounting Department in conjunction with the Inland Empire United Way.
People can receive assistance at the following Pomona locations: Boys & Girls Club, Inland Empire Credit Union – Pomona, YMCA of Pomona Valley and Pomona Public Library.
WHO: Cal Poly Pomona accounting students
WHAT: Free tax return preparation and e-filing for people who earn $55,000 or less. No appointment necessary.
Boys & Girls Club
1420 S Garey Ave., Pomona
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Inland Empire Credit Union – Pomona
435 W. Mission Blvd. Suite 100, Pomona
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
YMCA of Pomona Valley
350 N. Garey Ave., Pomona
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pomona Public Library
625 S. Garey Ave., Pomona
Noon to 4 p.m.