Sac State students offering free tax help

College students who could not qualify for Cal EITC before may be able to in 2019


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Last year the Cal EITC was expanded to be available to more taxpayers including anyone over the age of 18 with no dependents. Sac State is hosting free tax prep events where trained volunteers will help you get your paperwork in order and help maximize your return.

Luis Platero

Sacramento State is hosting free tax preparation events at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services this Saturday and on March 16.

Sac State students will have the opportunity to receive assistance in filing their taxes by trained student volunteers at no charge.

The events are put on through the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, with Sac State working with United Way who heads VITA events, according to assistant professor of accountancy Elizabeth Lyon.

This is the third year Sac State has participated. Last year, 161 tax returns were prepared over two days and the hope is to reach that mark again, Lyon said.

Sac State accounting student volunteers have gone through VITA training and certification tests to be able to prepare tax returns at the events. Lyon, who is also Sac State VITA coordinator, said training coursework focuses on recent tax law and specialty software training. Volunteers must complete in-person test returns and pass three required IRS tests.

“From student volunteers, between the two days, we have 40 volunteers,” Lyon said.

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), which handles state income tax, is also involved with the events, said spokesman Jason Montiel.

“One of the coolest things about this is it’s students helping students,” Montiel said. “And in the process, they’re helping their fellow students not only get their returns done but connect with valuable refunds and income tax credits.”

According to Montiel, the FTB’s focus is on the California Earned Income Tax Credit (Cal EITC), which was made in 2015 as a supplement to the federal earned income tax credit and to help low-income families receive a little extra cash to pay for bills.

However, Montiel explained that this past year the Cal EITC was expanded to include anyone over the age of 18 with no dependents. This opened the door for many who couldn’t qualify in the past, such as college students, to qualify for the credit once they file and claim it.“It’s a lot easier for students to qualify for the credit and end up putting extra money in their pocket, on top of their regular refund,” said Montiel.

At the events, volunteers will not only help those who attend prepare and electronically file tax returns — both state and federal — but also claim income tax credits such as Cal EITC if they qualify.

Although students are encouraged to attend, the event is open to all qualifying taxpayers, Lyon said. Those wanting to attend can schedule an appointment up to the day before. While scheduling, people will be told what to bring, like tax documents, photo identification, social security number and direct deposit information.

The tax preparation events will be at the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services located at 3308 3rd Ave from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. To schedule an appointment call (916) 498-1000.