tom sanders

As tax season approaches, a group of Cal Poly students are easing the April 15th blues by doing taxes at no charge for low-income taxpayers.

Every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. until March 11, the Volunteer Income Tax Service, a group of Cal Poly accounting seniors, will prepare taxes for people with incomes of less than $35,000 for free.

“The program is sponsored by the IRS, it’s kind of a feel-good thing. It helps Cal Poly and it helps the community,” Andy Chaffee, a business senior, and a participant in the program said.

This year, 75 students are partaking in the program and many are using it as a senior project. This is the 15th year Cal Poly has offered the service.

The program is held on the third story of the Orfalea Business building, which is transformed into a tax center on Saturdays. Students can be found dressed in business attire moving quickly throughout the halls flanked by rooms filled with more professionally-clad students talking with people about taxes and electronically filling tax forms.

A person needs to bring in W2s and any other tax-related documents, a valid ID, and, although not completely necessary, last year’s tax return, Chaffee said.

Although Cal Poly students prepare the taxes, each is verified by a local certified public accountant.

“This is their first experience doing people’s taxes, and I have been doing it for 30 years. I am a final check,” Renee David, one of the local CPAs, said.

The local accountants donate their time and rotate through on different weekends because this is the crazy time of year for accountants and free time is sparse, David said.

“It’s fun and games for me, it recharges my batteries to come here,” David said.

With over two months left until the national tax due date in April, and over a month left to get taxes done at Cal Poly, there is time left, but the last few weeks get pretty busy and hectic Chaffe said.

“People tend to procrastinate with their taxes,” Chaffee said.

The program is popular within the community and although the program starts at 11 a.m., people are already waiting by 10:45 a.m.

The program caters to all people that fit into the income range, also offering Spanish-speaking preparers, but hopes to see more students over the next few weeks, because many fit into the income bracket the group is serving, Chaffee said.

“It’s easy to help students because we are students,” Chaffee said.

The program ends March 11. For information on forms or if you qualify for the service, call 756-2667.

“I used to do my taxes with my parents’ accountant, but he started charging way too much, and I’m a college student. I need this,” Jason Richmond, a computer science senior said.

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