The impact of COVID-19 over the past year has brought on additional hardship for many low-income taxpayers. With “stay-at-home” orders in place on-and-off throughout the pandemic, the idea of filing taxes was made more stressful for taxpayers in need of services provided by CSUN’s VITA Clinic.
Wells Fargo Bank tried to relieve that strain by awarding California State University, Northridge $50,000 for launching and expanding the virtual services offered by its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Clinic in CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics.
The bank has awarded the university $50,000 for the last four consecutive years to support the clinic and provide financial education and financial coaching to low-income taxpayers for free.
“Wells Fargo Bank’s support over the past several years and commitment to the continued growth and expansion of the CSUN VITA Clinic has been vital to our success,” said accounting professor Rafi Efrat, Bookstein Chair in Taxation and the director of CSUN’s VITA Clinic. “This year, Wells Fargo Bank’s investment in the CSUN VITA Clinic enabled us to launch and expand the virtual tax preparation services to members of our community during these challenging times. We are fortunate to be able to partner with Wells Fargo Bank in providing free tax preparation services and financial coaching to those in need in our community.”
Face-to-face tax preparation services came to a halt last March, following the campus closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than surrendering to this unprecedented time, the CSUN VITA student leadership team pivoted almost immediately to solution mode, and obtained formal approval from the IRS to pursue virtual tax preparation services, offering appointments to taxpayers seeking to submit their tax return or claim the Economic Impact Payments provided for under the CARES Act.
“In its 50 years of operations, the CSUN VITA Clinic has had to endure many unpredictable challenges,” said Efrat. “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 bank’s financial gift supported CSUN’s VITA Clinic in launching a visionary and innovative virtual platform to scale up cost-free tax preparation services to low-income taxpayers in Los Angeles County. Additionally, low-income taxpayers can obtain free one-on-one financial coaching services from certified student financial coaches, where they will develop a customized budget, and a strategy to pay down debt or put money towards their savings.
“Wells Fargo Bank’s support of the CSUN VITA Clinic has been crucial to its success and ability to expand its reach in the community of Los Angeles,” said Chandra Subramaniam, dean of the Nazarian College. “The benefit is two-fold: allowing the CSUN VITA Clinic to provide support to low-income taxpayers and the Nazarian College to give students the opportunity to gain real-world experience and provide community service. We are extremely grateful for their partnership.”
Furthermore, Wells Fargo Bank’s support will also contribute to the training, education and supervision of the CSUN VITA Clinic’s student volunteers, offering them the opportunity to gain valuable clinical experience in the field of taxation, enabling them to successfully transition into the workforce upon graduation.
“We are pleased that Wells Fargo Bank can continue support of this impactful local initiative that assists so many of our community members, while additionally providing hands-on training to CSUN students,” said Jack Olree, Wells Fargo vice president social impact and sustainability.
VITA has been offering free assistance with state and federal tax preparation to eligible low-income individuals and families for five decades. Additionally, CSUN’s VITA clinic gives students an opportunity to gain knowledge and experience in their field of study by training CSUN student volunteers on handling federal and state tax returns.
Established in 1970, the CSUN VITA Clinic, located in CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business and Economics, serves as a valuable community partner that is responsive to the culturally diverse San Fernando Valley.
For more information about news surrounding CSUN’s VITA Clinic, including locations and qualifications for its services, visit its website at vita.csun.edu.