Tim Murphy, CPA and DVC accounting faculty since 1997, is working to help people in the East Bay keep more of their hard-earned money.
For the past ten years, Murphy has been training volunteers to pass the IRS certification test, which allows them to volunteer to prepare taxes for the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! program (EKS).
Murphy earned his B.B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, his M.B.A. from the University of Southern California, and his J.D. from Golden Gate University. At DVC he teaches financial accounting, managerial accounting, federal income tax-individuals, business law, personal money management, and principles of real estate.
EKS is a coalition of Bay Area organizations that provides free tax preparation to households earning less than $51,000 a year. It is part of the IRS VITA program, which is administered by United Way of the Bay Area.
The local program enlists volunteers to prepare tax returns for low- and middle-income taxpayers throughout Contra Costa County free of charge in order to help them meet their filing obligations and to obtain refunds which might otherwise be lost. Those volunteers, Murphy said, “are trained by volunteer trainers (such as himself) who are persons knowledgeable in the tax law. Some are Enrolled Agents, some work for the Internal Revenue Service, some are CPAs, and some just have years of experience in tax preparation.”
Murphy has been co-teaching the tax preparation course for the past ten years. In the past, training was done at DVC. Currently, it’s done at East Bay Works, located on Port Chicago Highway in Concord. “East Bay Works,” Murphy explained, “is a one-stop career center which is a joint venture of public entities, nonprofit agencies, and private organizations in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties helping businesses and job seekers meet their employment needs. United Way arranges to use the facility (classroom and computer lab) for the EKS training program.
“I co-teach the course with another trainer,” Murphy said, “and we have probably trained more than 400 volunteers –about 60 per year when we taught the course at DVC, and now we teach only about 30 in a class based on the size of the facility at East Bay Works. The classroom and computer tax software training is held for three consecutive Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for each trainee,” he continued. “The goal is for them to pass an IRS certification test. Trainees can also substitute the classroom training with an IRS online program. The key is that all tax preparers must obtain IRS ‘certification’ before being authorized to prepare returns at an EKS site.”
Last year, he said, the EKS program prepared more than 64,000 returns in the seven counties in which it operates (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Solano counties). There are more than 215 free tax preparation sites.
EKS provides low- to moderate-income households with free, quality tax return preparation, and in many cases, access to asset building or income support resources such as public benefits, low or no-cost bank accounts or financial education. It also ensures eligible taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which can amount to as much as $5,891 per family, and which many taxpayers do not know about.
EKS estimates that between 20% and 25% of EITC eligible tax filers are not receiving this credit, which can be the first step in helping families meet their everyday needs, as well as save toward goals such as higher education, retirement, a first home or a new business. It also helps with refunds. When residents get an “instant refund” from a commercial preparer, they are taking out a loan on their own money, usually paying 300% interest. With direct deposit an EKS preparer can e-file a tax return and have the tax refund deposited into a person’s bank account in 7 to 10 days for free.
During the 2012 tax season, EKS returned more than $68 million in tax refunds to 64,632 local hardworking families and to the local economy. Over the last nine years, the program turned a $1.5 million investment from the United Way’s Bay Area Community Fund into a $273 million return for local families, seniors, individuals and the community. EKS supports the United Way’s goal of helping low-income families become financially stable.