Oceanside CA— Cha-ching! That’s the sound of success for MiraCosta College-trained volunteers working with an IRS-sanctioned program offering free tax help to local residents who qualify for the service. For the 2016 filing season, North County volunteers – more than half of whom were trained at MiraCosta College – helped nearly 2,300 residents receive more than $3.9 million in federal refunds.
The refunds were secured through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which assists with basic income tax return preparation via electronic filing to families earning $54,000 or less, people with disabilities, and those with limited English-speaking skills.
“We can’t say enough about our appreciation for these volunteers who are investing a tremendous amount of time and commitment toward helping others in our community,” said MiraCosta College accounting instructor Mike Deschamps, who coordinates the local program in conjunction with IRS senior tax consultant Ron Wicks. “And because the service is aimed at helping lower-income residents, these refunds can go a long way in making an impact in their lives.”
Some 40 IRS-certified volunteers in all helped prepare taxes at six different community centers from Encinitas to Escondido. Roughly half the volunteers were trained at MiraCosta College, almost all of whom were MiraCosta College students.
Training is extensive. It includes classroom sessions of about 14 hours during which volunteers learn how to use IRS-licensed, tax-preparation software. Training also involves preparing sample tax returns and reviewing issues that may come up while working with clients.
Nearly half of the refunds secured through the program – nearly $1.9 million – came through the Earned Income Tax Credit. An additional $1 million was secured through the Child Tax Credit.
Many of the students taking part in the volunteer program are studying accounting and this provides them with hands-on, real-world experience in their craft, said Deschamps. The program has expanded rapidly over the past several years, with the amount of refunds rising from $1.7 million just four years ago.
In addition to the VITA program, MiraCosta students also volunteer with a related Facilitated Self-Assistance Program. That program, coordinated by accounting instructor Dolores Loedel and Mike Dear and Alison Cotter of the Financial Aid Office, enables MiraCosta College students to file their tax returns using IRS software with assistance from volunteers at the campus library.