New and returning students and administrators gathered in the Business Education building Saturday morning to serve their community by preparing tax returns at no charge.
As one of many locations that teaches and participates in the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), Pierce College invites local community members to have their taxes prepared for free every Saturday morning.
“It’s one of the ways in which we serve the community,” said Norachai Chawareewong, an administrator and former board member for Cal CPA. “We have many taxpayers who have been returning clients for many years.”
The program at Pierce receives as many as 700 applicants filing returns each year, filed on paper and online. In previous years, the volunteers would work both Wednesday and Saturday, but due to a shortage available lab space they are limited to one day per week and are already operating at full capacity.
“I’m sure there are people that are coming on Wednesday nights that have been Wednesday night clients and finding it not open,” said Hugh Laughlin who has been volunteering with the program for over 20 years. “We won’t know until the end of the season how this has affected us.”
Sponsored by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the California State Franchise Tax board, the class provides certification and experience with simple tax returns at no cost for books or materials.
Students who speak Spanish and Farsi are participating this year, making it even easier for community members to get their returns filed.
“We try to service the community even if English isn’t their first language,” said Chawareewong.
About half of the clients are repeat clients and many of them come back as students and volunteers, according to administrator Ian Hall. Only a small portion of these applicants are students.
“We do get Pierce students and we should be getting more of them,” said Francisco Ortega, a teacher at Northridge Academy High School and Cesar Chavez High School who volunteers with VITA after taking the Business 10 course. “We could even show them how to do it. We’re more than happy to do that.”
It is also a good experience for the students taking the class.
“Some of us do it to make a career out of it. Some of us, like in my specific case, we do it because we want to be able to manage our future business endeavors,” said Ortega. “It’s a very complementary course to take for any students out there for any major.”
Chawareewong stressed the importance of tax knowledge to students when applying for jobs and scholarships, both for the technical and real-world experience.
“In fact, it’s beneficial for any students because everyone, unfortunately, has to pay taxes,” he said.
This program will continue through April 5, in Business Education 3218. For more information about the program, visit http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Free-Tax-Return-Preparation-for-You-by-Volunteers.