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April 30, 2019

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program Has Meaningful Impact on Accounting Students



Students help prepare tax returns to the Chico community.

California State University, Chico’s chapter of Beta Alpha Psi worked in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Community Action Agency of Butte County this spring to provide free tax-preparation services to the Chico community. This year, the services provided a total of 944 community members with nearly $1 million in tax refunds over the course of eight weeks.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is well known for its large impact on the Chico community, but also has a meaningful impact on the students that volunteer for its services.

“My favorite part of the VITA program is being able to provide the entire Butte County community with a free professional service,” said Oscar Diaz, a senior accounting major and this year’s VITA director. “We hear from so many clients on a daily basis how much they appreciate the services our accounting students provide. It feels incredible to know we are making an impact.”

The student volunteers for the program are thoroughly trained beforehand through an IRS-provided software package that teaches proper ethics, proper client management, and tax law. Students are able to utilize this training throughout the spring and experience working with real clients for the first time.  

“At the beginning of the program we were all green in our positions, but with advanced training we had major growth in our team and developed an incredibly efficient process. Many returning clients regularly commented that we had great quality service, and that is why they come back every year,” business accounting major Leilani Gigena said. “Some clients I worked with this year had just lost their loved ones, and I was grateful to serve them. They were so appreciative of our customer service and knowledge about current tax laws, and it made the whole process easier on them.”

Nearly sixty students volunteered in this year’s VITA program, totaling 1,700 hours preparing tax returns for low-to-middle income families. For most students, this is work is carried out in addition to a full-time class load.

For business accounting major Diana Tol Garcia, VITA was the first step toward a career in public accounting.

“I remember on the first day being anxious about what I didn’t know, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Tol Garcia said. “Thanks to the opportunity VITA provided, I realized how much I didn’t know about a real accounting position, and it became an essential part to understanding the career I’m pursuing.”

Tol Garcia served as VITA’s associate director this year to take the opportunity to learn something new and put herself in an unfamiliar situation, which helped forge a strong bond between her and her peers, as well as some clients.

“I think VITA is more important to accounting students than some might realize, and I hope more accounting students take advantage of this great opportunity to help our community and better ourselves,” Tol Garcia said.

This year, the VITA program was made possible by the support of California State University, Chico and the Community Action Agency of Butte County.


Kelsey Horne
College of Business
khorne3@csuchico.edu
530-898-4255