Free tax help available on campus

Room 205 in the Science building has been bustling since January as hundreds of student volunteers prepare tax returns for members of the community through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

A photo of the student volunteers helping prepare taxes

Last year, student volunteers at SF State completed 1,074 e-file tax returns -- a 20 percent increase from the previous year -- and are on pace to pass that mark this year with the flood of late filers still to come.

The service is provided through VITA, an Internal Revenue Service program that provides free assistance to low-income, elderly, limited English-proficient and disabled individuals who require assistance in preparing their tax returns and cannot afford the services of a paid professional tax preparer. Accounting Professors Jodi Duke and Mike Braswell advise the Beta Alpha Psi student volunteers, who provide tax services for those with an annual household income less than $49,000.

VITA isn't just good for taxpayers. Volunteers get valuable real-world experience preparing taxes for clients and a four-day training by the Internal Revenue Service that builds their tax prep skills.

"So far, we've been going to class and learning concepts, but this is an excellent chance for people to put their skills into practice and gain experience interacting with clients," VITA Coordinator Christina Latief said.

The 200-plus volunteers speak a variety of languages -- Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese Russian, Japanese and Indonesian among others -- to help members of the community and international students navigate tricky tax forms.

Drop-in hours are available Monday to Friday from 12:30 to 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. The tax deadline has been extended to April 18 because Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls on April 15 this year.

Taxpayers who plan to utilize VITA to file taxes should bring:

  • Photo ID
  • Social Security or ITIN card for all family members
  • All W-2s, 1099s (1042s) and 1098T (if any)
  • Bank account and routing number if using direct deposit
  • 2009 tax return
  • Taxpayers can also bring: evidence of total tuition fees and expenses, total expenses paid for child or day care ad tax ID #
  • Landlord information (if any)

For more information on SF State's VITA program, watch the video or visit

-- Michael Bruntz