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Preparing a tax return? Free help is available for some underserved communities on the Central Coast

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Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business
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Free tax preparation assistance is available to some on the Central Coast

It’s that time of year again when we have to think about preparing a tax return.

No one much looks forward to preparing a tax return – apart from – says Ahmed Cruz from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo – more than 50 IRS-certified accounting students, like himself, who will be preparing basic forms for individuals and families in the local community, earning less than $58,000.

"It's really meant to help out the community," he told KCLU.

"Normally you'd have to get your taxes done by someone that will charge you. Why not do the same for free by someone just as qualified and happy to help you? And you'll leave with a smile on your face," Cruz said.

Cal Poly's on-campus VITA clinics will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays from January 29 through March 12.

The Cal Poly clinic will be held on the third floor of the Business Building (No. 3). The clinic is wheelchair accessible. Visitors should enter the western edge of campus on California Boulevard and follow the signs. Parking is free and available in lots C4 and C7 near the Business Building. See https://maps.calpoly.edu/ for parking lot locations.

Participants need to bring their ID, Social Security card and/or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; 2020 tax returns; and all 2021 tax-related documents, including: child-care expenses, Letter 6419 for monthly advance Child Tax Credit payments, Letter 6475 (if you received a third round of stimulus checks in 2021), and health insurance coverage information.

Due to new COVID protocols, participants must wear a mask and bring proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of visit. In addition, only one representative from each family will be permitted to enter the building.

Clients have the option of filling out necessary forms available on the VITA program website (vita.calpoly.edu), dropping them off at the clinic, and returning the following weekend to review the tax return and sign necessary documents.

The students, in partnership with the United Way of Northern Santa Barbara County, will also host additional VITA clinics at two other Central Coast locations:

-Allan Hancock College Community Education Center (Building S-103), 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria

Seven Saturday sessions, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 12 through April 9 (closed Feb. 19, March 26 and April 2)

By appointment only; visit www.myfreetaxes.org

-Oceano Elementary School, 1551 17th St., Oceano

Five Saturday sessions, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Feb. 12 through March 12

By appointment only; visit www.myfreetaxes.org

Cal Poly’s Orfalea College of Business has hosted VITA clinics on campus since 1992. In the last decade, students have helped prepare more than 7,000 tax returns for community members. The clinics serve as a valuable, hands-on senior project, allowing students to prepare returns, interact with clients and help underserved communities.