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Free tax preparation by Pierce business students

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Low-income families and community members can get their taxes prepared for free through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistant program, provided every year in the Business Education building at Pierce College.

Students in Business 10 learn the fundamentals of how to prepare both state and federal personal income tax returns for people who have an annual income of $50,000 or less. Instructor Norachai Chawareewong has been teaching the class for the past two years and said the experience is rewarding for students involved.

“I really want to see this program grow. You can not sign up for this class twice. Many of the preparers are returning students and cannot re-enroll and they have taught themselves to qualify for advance certificate provided by the IRS,” Chawareewong said.

Experienced volunteers and students come together to prepare the taxes for an average of 50 people. Each community member’s tax process can take up to two hours, based on the complexity of their tax returns and the availability of the service.

About eight students and returning volunteers from previous programs try to attend to each client on a first-come first-served basis.

“It’s really rewarding. You get to see people get their tax return done and they are really happy because some people actually get money, thousands back,” said Helen Jung Suh, a 22 year-old accounting major in the program. “I thought it would be just beneficial to me, but at the end of the day it didn’t just help me, it also helped other people.”

For many years the Business Administration Department has worked together with the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board to provide this service.

47 year-old Jackie Zhuang is a travel agent who signed up for the class to gain experience in another field, and to have something else to fall back on.

“I was just thinking of getting a side job and expanding myself in another kind of field, because I have a small business myself, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last,” Zhuang said.

Chawareewong suggests arriving at 9 a.m. with W-2 forms in-hand to help ensure a smooth process, and to allow for the largest refund possible.

The last days to attend are Saturday, March 28 and Saturday, April 4 at BUS 3218 starting at 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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