JAN. 9, 2003
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu

Taxpayers can get free reporting and filing assistance at California State University, Bakersfield through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA as it is known. Accounting students at CSUB provide free preparation of California and federal tax returns during the tax season beginning Saturday, Feb. 1, and continuing every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through April 12.

CSUBís VITA program will be held in the second floor lobby of the new Business Development Center on the CSUB campus. Free parking is available in either parking lot E or lot J.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) is a nationwide program that provides free tax assistance to individuals who need help with basic income tax return preparation. VITA volunteers at CSUB will prepare federal 1040EZ and 1040A returns and California 540EZ and 540A returns. They will also prepare less complex "long form" 1040 and 540 returns. VITA volunteers will assist in completing returns and check the accuracy of returns. They will also answer questions from those who wish to file their own returns.

Jim Patten, CSUB accounting professor and a certified public accountant, oversees the program and said all clients get attentive treatment from the student volunteers.

"We have about two dozen of our students volunteering to help people free of charge," Patten said of the program, now in its 11th year at CSUB. He said VITA is geared to helping elderly and low-income taxpayers, "but our experience over the years has shown that VITA serves a broad range of taxpayers."

Also, he said, "the VITA experience is one of the most important items that accounting students can report on their resumes, so VITA is a win-win situation for both taxpayers and volunteers."

Patten trains all the CSUB volunteers, who are upper division accounting majors.

"It's a national program," Patten said of VITA, adding it has been in existence about 30 years. "There are a couple dozen VITA sites in Kern County.î

The VITA site at CSUB will also have electronic filing available for both federal and state returns. Volunteers will electronically file returns they have prepared and they will electronically file those returns that taxpayers themselves have prepared. All returns will be computer-checked and processed. VITA volunteers can also provide guidance on using the Internet for tax research.

Individuals seeking VITA assistance should bring a copy of 2001 tax returns, copies of 2002 W-2 forms and 1099s, and all taxpayer and dependent Social Security numbers and dates of birth for identification.

To make an appointment at the CSUB VITA site, or to obtain a list of all Kern County VITA sites and hours, please call Patten at (661) 664-2339.