What is Virtual VITA?
Virtual VITA is an alternate filing model offered by various VITA programs throughout the United States when the traditional face-to-face tax preparation isn't available. It involved a tax preparation process without the taxpayer physically present during the majority of the process. Due to the 2020 pandemic of COVID-19 and government shutdowns at the state and federal level, many VITA locations were forced to shutdown, including CSUN VITA.
With the help of the university and IRS, we were able to develop and offering a virtual tax preparation service for the remainder of the 2019-2020 tax season.
How does virtual income tax preparation work with VITA?
Your appointment will start with a telephone consultation with one of our IRS certified VITA volunteers will conduct a phone interview to verify if you qualify for our VITA services. Once we determine you qualify, we will explain step-by-step the virtual tax preparation procedure, which includes:
- Creating a personal password to encrypt all documents shared between you and the volunteer.
- Receiving a private, encrypted link to HIPAA Zoom.
- Discussing and preparing your income tax return over video interface.
You will have the option to also view the volunteer’s screen as they prepare your tax return. Upon the completion of your tax return, a second volunteer will be asked to join the Zoom session to review the tax return or answer any additional questions you or your preparer may have. After the tax return is reviewed, you will be given the opportunity to review the tax return yourself and address any additional questions or concerns.
If you believe everything is accurate and correct on the tax return, you will send an email consent authorizing your preparer to electronically file your tax return. A password-protected PDF copy of your Federal and State income tax return will be emailed or mailed to you based on your preference.
What services do we offer using Virtual VITA?
We are able to prepare individual income federal and state tax returns for the years 2007 - current tax year, including returns for international students, active duty military, and veterans.
Our services also include, but not limited to:
Amended individual income tax returns
ITIN applications and renewals
Understanding your IRS and FTB letters
Are there any additional requirements for virtual services?
Besides the usual documents and forms we require for tax preparation, we also require all taxpayers to have access to Zoom on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, Internet connection, and a valid email address.
Part of our virtual procedure does require you to consent to the virtual process by signing the Form 14446 - Virtual VITA/TCE Taxpayer Consent. Prior to signing this form, we disclose the whole process which is why we won't accept a signed copy before your appointment. We are not allow to proceed with any virtual services until we explain the process and you sign the form.
A blank copy is online at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f14446.pdf.
Do you offer any alternate filing options other than virtual?
At this time we can only offer virtual services. Other VITA locations may offer drop-off or face-to-face filing services, with adherence to social distancing guidelines.
In the future, we will update the community about any changes with our virtual procedure and if we are offering alternate filing options.
When will your office and remote locations reopen?
Since we operate under a university, we must follow any instructions provided by CSUN. This means until the university allows us to operate our physical locations again, we cannot be certain when we can see everyone's smiling faces again.
This also means we will remain closed even if the lockdown mandates are lifted and everything reopens until we are allowed by the university.
Is Zoom safe? or I don't feel comfortable using Zoom, can we use something else?
Zoom has made headlines in recent news for the last few months that it is vulnerable and not secure for confidential meetings. We understand these concerns and security and privacy can never be 100% guaranteed.
However, we do use a secure and encrypted version of Zoom known as Zoom HIPAA. Zoom HIPAA grants us an extra level of security by allowing us to lock meetings while we are in session and limit accessibility to specific users. For more information about Zoom HIPAA, visit this link: https://zoom.us/docs/doc/Zoom-hipaa.pdf
We also integrated our own Zoom protocols such as:
- Only sending a Zoom invitation after confirming the identity of the taxpayer for that appointment
- Create a new password for every meeting
- Identifying ourselves as your preparer prior to the Zoom session
- Locking the meeting for the whole session
- Conducting the meeting through a secure IP using a university provided laptop
If you are still unsure or uncomfortable using Zoom, we can't offer any alternates. Zoom HIPAA has been approved by our IT department and IRS for virtual use. If we chose to use another platform, we would need to develop protocols and be granted approval from IT and the IRS to use it.