The VITA Program was created by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 1969. In 2005 about 100,000 volunteers prepared about 1.8 million tax returns in nearly 14,000 sites nationwide.
Baruch VITA was established in the early 1990's. Attracting 150-300 participants every year, it is the largest volunteer opportunity available to Baruch students. New York City has many VITA programs sponsored by many different organizations; Baruch’s program is unique for it is the only university-based program that operates external sites in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, alongside our on-campus site at Baruch College. Our on-campus location serves taxpayers from the neighborhood, Baruch students, faculty and staff (including a large body of international students who are subject to special tax treatment). Baruch, ranked as the most diverse college in the U.S., has an advantage in serving immigrants who have little or no understanding of the English language.
Baruch runs one of the largest VITA programs in the nation. According to the 2004 IRS Annual Report, the breakdown of site sizes is as follows:
While the national average is about 7 volunteers per site, Baruch VITA has surpassed this average by at least 20 times every year since 1998.
The 2009 tax season was one of the best years for VITA in terms of client service and volunteer recognition. In total, volunteers helped over 6,600 clients and helped claim over $6.3 million in refunds, both new highs for the Baruch VITA program. Error rates were few with rates ranging from 2.5% to 3%. Finally, our recognition in the press included CBS News, NY1 News, Korea Times, Epoch Times, World Journal, and Sinovision.
The most exciting project taken on this last tax season was the implementation of e-file (electronic filing) at our Hamilton Fish Library location. We processed over 1,000 State and Federal returns there. It is safe to say the pilot was successful enough for our organization to expand e-file to other external locations.
To make the memorable VITA volunteer experience even more "memorable," one of our initiatives this year is to become more of a club through creation and co-sponsorship of more events for the benefit of our volunteers.
Preparations for the 2010 tax season are already underway and, with eagerness, we hope to make the next year one of the most successful yet.
2007 was yet another great year for VITA. The number of returns we prepared at our four sites surpassed 3,000 for the first time, a growth rate of over 85% compared to 2006. At VITA, we consistently strive not only to increase the quantity, but more importantly, the quality of the returns we prepare. We were able to maintain our error margin below 3 percent while our client based grew exponentially.
2008 was not any different. We continued to increase our standards of providing free reliable tax preparation services to low and mid-income taxpayers and give paid preparers run for their money. We will also stepped up our efforts to make the volunteering experience unforgettable for our volunteers. To these ends, we have implemented the changes described below to ensure a year of success:
2006 was a great year for VITA. We grew both in quality and quantity. The program underwent major restructuring and innovations. However, we did not stop there, and we took VITA even further. Some of the highlights include:
For the 2006 tax season, Baruch VITA underwent a major restructuring and, in return, experienced a drastic increase in both quantity and quality. The number of volunteers grew from about 170 in 2005 to more than 250 a just a year. In 2005, a total of about 700 tax returns were prepared. This year, the Baruch site alone prepared more than 750 returns. Our second largest site in Chinatown matched Baruch; another 100 returns were prepared in both the Kingsbay and Hamilton Fish sites. That represents a 240 percent increase in tax returns prepared! At the same time, all returns were now required to be quality reviewed by at least one manager, which also greatly decreased the number of errors made.
The Program Coordinators, seeing plenty of space for improvement and an amazing growth potential, implemented the following changes: