Santa Ana, Calif. – Santa Ana College (SAC) accounting and business administration students are receiving real-world experience preparing taxes this season, as the college, in conjunction with Orange County United Way’s OC FREE TAX PREP program and the IRS, is offering free federal and state tax preparation to low- and moderate-income students and members of the community.
For the first time, SAC is a designated OC FREE TAX PREP site in the city of Santa Ana, and is offering free tax preparation through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) which provides free, basic tax assistance to individuals and households that make less than $60,000 per year who need help preparing their personal tax returns.
Now through April 7, SAC student interns are IRS-certified VITA Volunteers who complete tax return documents and electronic filing for qualified taxpayers. While providing a much-needed service to the community, SAC VITA interns will have their eyes opened to the wide range of people living in Orange County – from the family making ends meet by working 120 hour weeks at multiple low-paying jobs to the single person making $60,000 a year and trying to survive in a county with a high cost of living.
While helping our community save their hard-earned money, and access tax credits for which they qualify, like the California and federal, cash-back, Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), students gain confidence; skills and knowledge within the tax industry; learn problem-solving techniques and teamwork; and improve their communication skills. This invaluable experience paves the way for students desiring finance-based careers. Last year, 21 SAC students participated in a VITA off-site, donating over 800 hours to prepare nearly 300 tax returns, and 98 percent of students participating in the program were hired in their chosen field shortly after completing the internship.
“I gained firsthand experience using the tax software, following procedures, and successfully preparing tax returns,” said student intern Alex Burciaga. “The interpersonal relationships between interns was also great because they taught me how to interact in a team environment.”
“The SAC CTE Internship Program gave me confidence and assurance that I’m choosing a major and career path that I’m passionate about and enjoy,” said VITA student intern Eduardo Varela. “Now that I have related experience in taxes I think I am ready to apply for an entry level position in accounting.”
Five of last year’s participants are returning to volunteer at SAC’s VITA site and will be mentors for the new cohort of 2018 VITA student interns. Each student aims to volunteer over 100 hours during the 10-week internship. Theresa Hagelbarger, SAC’s Career and Technical Education Internship Program coordinator said the business administration program is the largest major on campus, and the overwhelming student response to the VITA Program has allowed SAC to create and offer a new tax course.
“We have students [volunteers] that are also graduates from our accounting program, and one, a UCLA graduate, who is here in our program to get hands-on training,” said Hagelbarger. “That’s how important this is. It’s not just current Santa Ana College students; it’s paraprofessionals or graduate students who enrolled at SAC as they study for their CPA exam. For most of our students, it’s a foot in the door for the job they want to get … We’re already placing the current students in paid internships or in unpaid positions where they’re getting more hands-on tax skills.”
Tax preparation appointments are filling quickly. Those interested should visit United Way’s www.OCFreeTaxPrep.com to learn more about qualifying for EITC and to make a VITA free tax prep appointment. If filing jointly, both spouses must be present to file electronically.
Once an appointment is made, taxpayers will need to bring the following:
A photo ID;
A Social Security card or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for every person on the return;
Wage earning statements (W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc);
1099 forms issued from their bank;
A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available;
A blank check or proof of bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit;
Day care provider information in the form of a Social Security number or business Employer Identification Number and total amount paid throughout 2017;
Health coverage statements (Forms 1095-A, B and C); their Health Insurance Exemption Certificate, if received;
Copies of income transcripts from the IRS and state, if applicable.
About Orange County United Way’s OC FREE TAX PREP:
Orange County United Way’s OC FREE TAX PREP program is a county-wide collaboration of 30+ public and private partners that conducts outreach and education for the federal and California Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC, CalEITC), and offers free tax preparation services to low-income residents. With the goal of bolstering low-income residents’ ability to be financially resilient by helping them access and save their hard-earned money through their tax refund, the program aligns with SAC’s endeavors to provide students avenues for success through exceptional services and dynamic partnerships, advance workforce development through regional partnerships, and offer a phenomenal, hands-on, learning environment. In 2017, United Way’s OC FREE TAX PREP filed almost 18,000 low-income tax returns, brought back to the community $16M in federal and state refunds, saving taxpayers around $3.6M in tax preparation fees.
About Santa Ana College
Santa Ana College (SAC), which turned 100 years old in 2015, serves about 18,000 students each semester at its main campus in Santa Ana. The college prepares students for transfer to four-year institutions, provides invaluable workforce training, and customized training for business and industry. In addition, another 11,000 students are served through the college’s School of Continuing Education located at Centennial Education Center. Ranked as one of the nation’s top two-year colleges awarding associate degrees to Latino and Asian students, the college is also recognized throughout the state for its comprehensive workforce training programs for nurses, firefighters, law enforcement and other medical personnel. SAC is one of two comprehensive colleges under the auspices of the Rancho Santiago Community College District.
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