In its 50 years of operations, the CSUN VITA Clinic had to endure many unpredictable challenges. But none of those experiences truly prepared us for the monumental test of confronting a global pandemic, while striving to maintain access to vital services for so many low-income taxpayers who have come to rely on us each year.
The first six weeks of operations this tax season were characterized by hundreds of volunteers offering face-to-face tax preparation services at one of our 17 sites city wide. All came to an abrupt stop in early March following the closure of campus to ensure the health and well-being of our student volunteers and the taxpayers we serve.
Rather than surrender to this adversity, our student leadership team pivoted almost immediately to a solution mode. Following intense brainstorming sessions, the CSUN VITA leadership team led by Anna Hakopian ’20 (Accounting) came up with a detailed plan for offering services through a secured virtual platform. After obtaining the formal approval of the IRS, CSUN VITA Clinic embarked on complete virtual tax preparation in early May and operated fve days per week, offering appointments to taxpayers seeking to submit their tax return, or claiming the Economic Impact Payments provided for under the CARES Act.
In all, despite the unprecedented challenges, we helped 6,033 taxpayers during this tax season claim over $7.8 million in tax refunds and $3.6 million in tax credits, and saved taxpayers over $1.1 million in tax preparation fees.
With the continued support from Citi Community Development, the CSUN VITA Clinic helped veterans secure their tax refunds and credits and enhance their financial resiliency. In addition, Harvey and Harriet Bookstein’s $750,000 endowment to support the clinic in perpetuity continues to provide merit scholarships for VITA student volunteers. Further, with the generous contribution from Wells Fargo Bank, the CSUN VITA Clinic has integrated one-on-one financial coaching to low-income taxpayers. Also, with the financial help of City National Bank the CSUN VITA Clinic has been able to expand its free tax preparation services in North Hollywood at its local public library.
To expand access to the immigrant population in our region and with the generous support from Bank of Hope, the CSUN VITA Clinic has collaborated with CSUN’s Spanish Translation and Interpretation program to provide on-site Spanish interpretation services. Finally, with funding from the State of California, CSUN VITA Clinic once again led the CSU5 Plus VITA Collaboration, jointly serving over 8,700 taxpayers with the support of 944 student volunteers across the 11-campus collaborative. Our success would not have been possible without the commitment of our student volunteers during these difficult times. I want to particularly thank the exceptional service provided by our clinic faculty professor Lucy Nalbandian.
Finally, I’d like to acknowledge the phenomenal leadership exhibited by our CSUN VITA Coordinator, Anna Hakopian, who was assisted by the rest of her capable leadership team, including Cynthia Montes, Daisy Macias, Eduardo Torres, Faith Sevilla, Itzel Salinas, Jesus Vitug, Jonathan Banks, Mohamed Elmahdi, Manuel Martinez, Nicholas Di Lando, Huy Nguyen and Shweta Patel.