Tax season is upon us and Lina Pan ’16 has laid the groundwork for an on-campus, free tax preparation program that can help CMCers and low-income families avoid the sting of big filing fees.
Pan, an ccon-accounting major, uses the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program under the auspices of the IRS, to provide free tax preparation services to lower-income individuals and families (i.e., individual gross income below $52,000). The IRS partners with organizations such as credit unions, schools, and businesses to offer this service around the nation.
Here at CMC, the program is administered by student microfinance organization The In-Lend Fund, with assistance from CMC’s econ-accounting faculty and Cal Poly-Pomona’s VITA program.
We asked Pan to elaborate a bit on how the VITA program came about at CMC and how it can help.
CMC: What encouraged you to start a VITA program at CMC?
Pan: First, I was surprised that our school did not already have a VITA program. Well established VITA sites are not hard to find in universities around the country. Quite a few high schools participate in VITA, too. Professor Marc Massoud then informed me that there had been an attempt to start VITA here about 15 years ago, but it did not take off for a number of logistical reasons.
VITA is effective because it connects those with much-needed expertise to those who are in want of it; it is exceptional because it opens the eyes of its practitioners to the greater potential of the tools in their hands. And that’s one reason why I was determined to bring VITA to CMC.
CMC: How has Prof. Massoud been involved?
Pan: Professor Massoud has been a great mentor, an amazing source of knowledge, and absolutely a huge reason why I have been able to take the program this far. It was a stroke of brilliant luck that he also happened to be close friends with Professor Ahmed Abo-Hebeish, who has lead the VITA program at Cal Poly-Pomona for the past 20 years. I cannot give Prof. Massoud enough credit for all he has done to help make this program a success.
CMC: Have you received assistance from CMC in any way on this program?
Pan: RDS was very happy to supply me with 60 flash drives to distribute volunteer training materials with. The Dean of Students, Facilities, and IT stayed amiable even as I pestered them daily about computer labs and printers and posters and parking lots. I’m glad for the support that I have received for this program.
CMC: What are your goals for the program at CMC?
Pan: I want us to help as many people as we can. I want our program to help spread awareness of the Earned Income Tax Credit—did you know California has the lowest participation rate in the nation at 71%? I want my volunteers to get excited about helping people. Yes, we work hard to get certified in tax law, but the returns to our time and efforts are proportionately and quantifiably immense (a site doing a good job can average $5000 in refunds for each return completed, and a first year site completes around 25 returns on average).
Pan’s VITA program can be found on-site at CMC:
Kravis Center, Room 165
888 Columbia Ave
Claremont CA 91711
Dates open: Feb 8, Feb 15, Feb 22, Mar 1, Mar 8, Mar 22, Mar 29, April 5
Hours: 9AM to 12PM
Eligibility: Individual gross income not exceeding $52,000