While filing taxes may sound like the last thing college students would be found doing in their free time, for Lina Pan CM ’16, Jill Rosok CM ’16, and almost 30 other Claremont McKenna College students, it is a way to use their economics knowledge to give back to the surrounding community. After months of planning, Pan and Rosok have launched a CMC chapter of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA), a volunteer
organization focused on helping low-income individuals file their taxes.
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) accredits VITA programs across the country that are aimed at helping individuals and families making less than $52,000 per year to file their taxes and learn about potential tax credits, according to the IRS website. The CMC group, which targets low-income residential areas around Claremont, has 28 student volunteers from
CMC, along with 15 students from Cal Poly Pomona, which has its own VITA program.
“I think it’s really important to connect with the community because we are a part of it,” Rosok said.
She and Pan decided to create the volunteer opportunity in part to reverse negative opinions of students at the Claremont Colleges.
a perception that we’re these rich kids that party all the time,” Rosok said.
They also hope that the VITA program will improve the image of the Robert Day School (RDS), CMC’s economics school.
Pan spoke of a “perception of RDS in general that we’re kind of like these soul-sucking Wall Street hatchlings.” However, she said, “I know a lot of econ-accounting students would be willing to help out, and I wanted to help create that opportunity.”
Volunteers for the VITA program typically spend about an hour filing each return, Pan said. By the time this issue went to press, nine
returns had been filed in the first two Saturdays of the program’s operation. While the group is not able to publish the exact amount it is saving its clients on taxes, Pan said that many of its clients are saving close to the national average, which is $5,000.
“People get really excited when they see the results of their work,” Pan said.
The students from Cal Poly Pomona receive credit for their volunteering hours, and Pan said that the CMC group hopes in the long run to secure one half-credit for their work.
Pan and Rosok have focused their advertising efforts mainly by
placing posters in and around Claremont.
“That’s our goal: to reach as many people as possible,” Rosok said.
Pan, an economics and accounting dual major, thinks that her classroom skills have been useful in running the
“There’s another side of using your econ-accounting knowledge and skills—not just to
get a job at an investment bank or an accounting firm, but also to help people,” she said.
The VITA office is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon until April 5, except on March 15.