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San Diego State University

Fowler College of
Business Administration

Students Take the Sting Out of Tax Preparation

Students helping people with their taxes

Masters student and Naval officer candidate, Douglas Kelley, assists students Kyle McLeland (left) and Sun Hun Jung (right) as they prepare Emmanuel Palafax' tax returns.

San Diego State University's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program will assist middle- and low-income taxpayers ($55,000 and below) prepare and file their tax returns from February 19 through April 12, 2013.

Volunteers consisting of SDSU undergraduate and graduate accounting students have been certified by the Internal Revenue Service to prepare all federal and California state income tax returns. The students who gain valuable, real-world experience by working with actual clients are trained to file completed returns both by mail and electronically.

The VITA program was founded at Cal State Northridge in coordination with the IRS in 1971 and became an annual event at SDSU starting in 1974. The number of returns processed has steadily grown over the years with a peak number in 2011 with 604 and the average refund of $857.

Information about SDSU's VITA program, including preparation dates and times, can be found on the VITA website. Thirty taxpayers can be processed during each session, however, those with appointments made online will be given priority (domestic taxpayers may visit this page to make appointments, non-resident taxpayers should visit the SDSU VITA SOA Assistance page for details).

The student volunteers are supervised by experienced tax preparers and accounting professors Gene Whittenburg and Steve Gill. Whittenburg has been involved with the VITA program for nearly 30 years. "The VITA program offers the hands-on training to accounting students in the same way that a residency does for medical students," said Whittenburg.

This real-world experience prepares our students for what they will encounter as they embark on their careers.
Dr. Gene Whittenburg

Doug Kelley, M.S.A. student and a VITA coordinator concurs. "Running VITA this year has given me the opportunity to run, supervise and oversee the program operations which is a near-simulator to the real world and it gives me the opportunity to be a leader," he said. "Upon graduation, I will be commissioned in the Navy as an intelligence officer. Since VITA is offered on Navy bases, I'm hoping have the opportunity to manage the program at a base in the near future."