CSUN’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic, known as VITA, truly serves the mission at the heart of this university – benefiting and improving our community while providing experiential learning to students. Through VITA, CSUN students gain great career experience when they provide no-cost tax preparation assistance to low-income taxpayers. Thousands of individuals and families in our local community benefit from this invaluable service that puts money back in their pockets and provides real-life learning experience for CSUN students.
CSUN Accounting faculty and students first started the valuable VITA program in 1970. It has since spread across the country to include more than 5,100 clinics, helping families in all 50 states.
The CSUN VITA Clinic has also experienced amazing growth, from completing 369 tax returns in 2015 to 7,549 returns in 2018. Under the leadership of Dr. Rafi Efrat, and thanks to the generous support of our outstanding donors, the CSUN VITA Clinic is now the largest clinic of the 378 clinics in Southern California, and the second-largest such program in the state.
This wonderful work has made a difference in the lives of more than 7,500 households that otherwise would not have been able to afford tax preparation assistance, giving them peace of mind that their tax documents were submitted correctly and will result in the best possible return. This year, the CSUN VITA Clinic expanded its focus on empowering taxpayers to achieve financial security. This includes a new initiative emphasizing financial education, as well as one-on-one financial coaching to taxpayers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In addition, the program launched free tax preparation clinics for veterans in Los Angeles, an innovative effort in collaboration with Citi Community Development and the Los Angeles Veterans Administration.
Not only does this innovative program benefit local residents, but it also transforms the lives of the hundreds of students who volunteer in the clinics each year, giving them a head start on their professional careers and instilling them with the self-confidence they will need once they graduate CSUN. The vast majority of these students choose to stay in Southern California to continue to positively impact our community.
The CSUN VITA Clinic is yet another example of how our university partners with the Los Angeles community to create successful outcomes for both residents and students. I am proud of the work CSUN’s VITA Clinic has done for nearly 50 years, and I look forward to our students, faculty and community partners continuing to make a difference for years to come.