Beta Alpha Psi provides free tax filing

Smit Parekh, Staff reporter

Last week, an article was published about the VITA program, a free tax preparation service. The headline of the article misrepresents the sponsoring organization of the program, Beta Alpha Psi, as a fraternity. 

The original article mentioned students volunteered two weeks before the IRS started accepting tax returns on Jan. 27 but in reality the training was for one week from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10. 

The article also falsely mentioned that site coordinators receive credit units for working at the VITA program but truly, site coordinators get a stipend for their services.

 

The IRS-certified Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program is now offering free tax filing services for taxpayers with an annual income less than $56,000

Last year, about 1,200 people were helped by VITA volunteers at SF State who got back an average of $800 in refunds.

The VITA program is now open in room 205 of the Science building Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until the tax filing deadline, April 15. 

The IRS started accepting individual tax returns on Jan. 27, weeks after student volunteers finished their training for the program. 

“If you are an undergraduate student enrolled in a four year degree, you get a credit of $2,500 of which $1,000 is refundable. Not everyone knows that, and you might end up paying fees for some website for filing for the refund whereas VITA can do that for you for free,” said Mitesh Kalathiya, site coordinator for VITA and a graduate student of accounting at SF State. 

More than 80% of tax filers between the age of 21-24 are using online tax programs, according to data provided by Experian and Axicom. According to Kalathiya, websites such as TurboTax don’t request the forms one could offer in order to get a refund of all the taxes paid and result in lesser refund amount.

 The VITA program is sponsored by Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor organization for accounting, finance and business majors to cultivate skills in their field by encouraging students to participate in programs sponsored by it. This year, ten student tax preparers are from the organization and others are a mix of business, finance and accounting students. 

While a site coordinator gets a stipend for their work at the VITA program working as a graduate assistant for an accounting class. Other preparers volunteer to strengthen their resume and improve their skills.  

Site manager Meqi Tao says she enjoys working at the program because of the volunteers’ willingness to give back to the community. 

“Fortunately, you don’t have to be a member of Beta Alpha Psi,” said  Ezekiel Fung, a site manager and an Accounting major at the university. There are multiple requirements to be admitted in Beta Alpha Psi, and Fung says he did not meet them at the time. 

The group of over a dozen people who work in the small classroom turned office, offer people assistance in over 20 languages, regardless of them being a student.

“The whole point of VITA is that we are open for all, we are here for the community,” said Chad Kesley, Manager of VITA and the president of Beta Alpha Psi at San Francisco State. 

Kesley has been filing his own tax returns for the past twenty-five years using TurboTax.com which costs him money for state refunds. He claims, students who are not affiliated with their parents’ tax programs, such as international students, would pay more fees to websites and other preparers than their refund amount itself.   

“I had no idea there was a program like this on campus, I’ve been spending over 3-hours on TurboTax for the past two years by myself,” said Ananda Aw, an international student who works part-time on campus. 

Getting taxes done in person from the students at VITA program, takes about an hour. After the filer leaves the office with their tax return sheets, the volunteers spend two hours on each filer to verify the information filed. Last year, they generated over $1 million in tax refunds for low-income tax filers last year.