Thursday, January 16, 2014

Student Volunteers to Provide Free Tax Preparation for Local Residents

UC Hastings’ Volunteers in Tax Assistance (VITA) will once again be working with the United Way’s “Earn It! Keep It! Save It!” program to provide free tax-filing assistance to low-income individuals and families.

Student volunteers are trained and then become IRS-certified tax preparers. Last year, student volunteers helped 134 tax filers recoup more than $100,000 in refunds. The project is one of the college's numerous longstanding pro bono programs.

3L Jackie NicoraThis year’s program is run by 3L Jackie Nicora, who is completing coursework in the UC Hastings tax law concentration. “I like doing taxes,” Nicora said, a bit sheepishly. “It’s a thrill when I interact with clients and am able to tell them they are getting a refund. For many people, it is a lot higher than they expect, and they are just so happy.”

2L Corey Arnold2L Corey Arnold, another student volunteer and project organizer, agreed. Some clients, he noted, are students, the working poor, or may have recently been homeless. “It’s a wide range of individuals,” Arnold said. “It’s great to be able to take that tax filing load off their backs.”

Many clients don’t know they qualify for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Education Credit. “I helped one gentleman who had been living on the street with his wife and two children. He had just found a place for them to live, and he got a pretty good refund. I ended up really connecting with him,” Arnold said. “We saw each other on the street a week later, and he recognized me, and came up to me and thanked me again.”

Partnering with the United Way

UC Hastings has been partnering with the United Way on the project for more than 15 years. Over the years, numerous alumni have helped as returning volunteers, including trusts and estate attorney Dan Vermillion ’09, Jed Clark ’10 of Cole-Frieman & Mallon, and family law attorney Lauren Birnbaum ’13. Volunteer hours count toward students’ pro bono goals, which are encouraged but not required.

Assistance is available one week night each week, from February to mid-April, and an occasional Saturday. Click here for the schedule of assistance at UC Hastings, and other sites in San Francisco. To qualify for help, individuals must earn $52,000 annually, or less.

Students interested in training as preparers should contact Jayme Jackson, jacksoja@uchastings.edu, no later than January 21.

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