Student organization offers free tax preparation assistance

Marshall has an opportunity to support USC VITA’s Program.


USC’s Marshall School of Business should support the nonprofit student-led Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. The VITA program was established over 50 years ago to provide free basic income tax preparation to low-to-moderate- income individuals, individuals with disabilities and limited-English-speaking individuals.  

With the 2024 tax season underway, VITA sites are open now. If you made less than $64,000 annually in 2023, you may be eligible to receive services through a VITA provider.   

Daily headlines, sent straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our newsletter to keep up with the latest at and around USC.

VITA, as its name implies, is driven by volunteers trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service. The program launched on the grounds of a college campus in Los Angeles County in 1971 and now operates in over 6,000 locations across the country every year.  

College campuses continue to play a vital role in helping thousands of individuals navigate our country’s complicated tax policies by putting money back into the hands of those who need it most, rather than fattening the pockets of the likes of H&R Block. 

USC is a powerful institution in a city surrounded by neighbors who directly benefit from services like VITA. According to 2022 United States Census Bureau estimates, the median income throughout USC’s zip code is just shy of $36,326; the median income in L.A. County is $83,411. USC has a student-led VITA organization on campus;, however, the program has room to grow.  

California State University, Northridge, operates a VITA Clinic with the full support of the president of the university, the dean of the college of Bbusiness and Eeconomics, and sponsorships from local business leaders such as Wells Fargo. In 2023, over 250 CSUN student volunteers donated over 31,000 volunteer hours, providing over 8,500 taxpayers free tax preparation assistance and financial coaching.  

According to the CSUN VITA Annual Report, they helped taxpayers collect close to $8 million in tax refunds, and $2.8 million in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits. This past year, Cornell University implemented an undergraduate course to teach students how to run a VITA program. Both schools have clear support from their business school leadership.

USC is one of the top business schools in the country, located in the heart of a city with over 600,000 individuals living below the poverty line, according to 2022 U.S. Census estimates. Last year, USC’s VITA site prepared 834 tax returns, helping individuals collect $25,000 in total Earned Income Tax Credits. However, their website indicates they don’t have the support to meet the demands of our students or our community.

I heard of the VITA program many years ago while working for Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix, Arizona. A single mother hadn’t filed her taxes in two years and needed help. She walked out expecting to receive a $10,000 refund. 

USC has an opportunity to contribute to our neighbors in a significant way through the VITA program. Marshall and Leventhal School of Accounting leadership could implement an undergraduate course to train students on how to run a VITA program. 

Marshall and Leventhal leadership could also explore sponsorship and scholarship opportunities with new or existing partners to grow our program. The leadership could also leverage the VITA program as a way for students to increase the financial literacy and education of our neighbors by connecting them with resources.  

Complex tax codes create opportunities for those with the means to hide assets while continuing to hold down and alienate those who can’t afford to pay someone to help. Our social systems are so complicated it’s impossible not to feel dehumanized and shamed trying to navigate the giant matrix our country’s leadership created. VITA is working to level the playing field.  

Audrey Simmon

Dworak-Peck School of Social Work

Class of 2025

© University of Southern California/Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.