At the 2016 Beta Alpha Psi Annual Meeting held in Baltimore in early August, Beta Chi’s VITA program was honored by the IRS as one of the nation’s top two Beta Alpha Psi VITA sites. University of Utah was the other University equally honored. Both VITA programs excelled in total return preparation and total volunteer hours. Almost all the nearly 300 U.S. based BAP chapters participate in VITA but only 28 chapters were awarded honors by the IRS for their programs.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program is an IRS program designed to help low and moderate-income taxpayers complete their annual tax returns at no cost. Gary Iskowitz, a former associate professor at California State University Northridge founded the program in 1971. The concept, as originally designed, was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, an effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves millions of taxpayers and (in many cases) still provides a valuable learning experience for accounting students.
SFSU’s program began over 20 years ago by two accounting students. Throughout the early years and until very recently, the program was provided invaluable assistance from Ed Sutton, E.A. Mr. Sutton conducted the weeklong training programs and was a frequent supervisor to our student site coordinators for nearly two decades. Over the years, the program has grown from 500 returns prepared (filing year 2005) to over 1,300 returns prepared (filing year 2015 – our award winning year!). Our volunteers come from all four-class years and while predominately from the College of Business we do have volunteers from other colleges within the University. Over 80% of our clients come from the local community, which sets our program apart from many of the other BAP run programs. The IRS has indicated that for every dollar received by a taxpayer as either a tax refund or tax credit equates to $6 to $7 increase in the local economy. Given this assumption, our students’ services yielded nearly $1.9 million in Federal refunds and credits or upwards to $12 million in economic increase to our local San Francisco community.
Many of our student volunteers hail from countries that do not have a tax system. They have embraced the program as a way to help those who have not been afforded the education they are obtaining at SFSU. They provide services in the native languages of our clients, numbering up to 20 distinct languages.
Our program is grateful to a variety of sponsors including: Moss Adams (computers), United Way of the Bay Area, Roger CPA Review, Becker CPA Review (financial support), Robert Half (gifts in kind), Patrick Brown (IRS), Jean Nelson, E.A. and Torie Chavez, E.A. (instructors). And finally our faculty advisors – Katie Hetherington, J.D./LLM (VITA) and Tina Caratan, MNA, CPA (Beta Chi).
Shawn Harter, President, International Beta Alpha Psi [2015-2016] presents the Superior award to Ben Gid, President, Beta Chi Chapter [2016-2017] on August 6, 2016 in Baltimore, MD