Course Description: The Student-Run VITA Program


VITA students with client

Launched in 1992, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program continues to embody the core tenets of a Cal Poly education. The clinic is essentially a fully functioning CPA business run by students, designed to serve the community by providing free tax preparation to anyone with an income below $56,000 per year.

According to Professor Trisha Daughtrey—a certified CPA who runs the clinic as the core of her Business 416 course—VITA has processed roughly 33,000 federal and state income tax returns since it opened. In addition to running the business operations and preparing all the returns (which are then reviewed by Cal Poly faculty and local certified tax professionals), VITA students go through extensive training and are asked to pass the IRS and Franchise Tax Board volunteer exams.

“It’s a great program to prepare us for working in our profession,” says accounting concentration senior Misael Caballero. “I come from a low-income family, so I can relate to a lot of the things our clients talk about. Sometimes they’ll tell me their stories and my parents have a similar background and it almost seems like I’m helping my own family. I’ve always wanted to give back to the community. That’s one of the main reasons I came to school in the first place and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

“I’ve always wanted to give back to the community. That’s one of the main reasons I came to school in the first place and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”