VITA @ Milpitas Public Library

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Friends of Bolivia Inc
City & State:
San Jose, 
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

To provide ongoing help to charitable institutions in response to human services and needs to create a better world by a) providing ongoing financial support to identified groups and causes b) sharing resources and support networks with other organizations c) giving encouragement and support, and d) serving as a source of information for those who would like to learn about and be informed about Bolivia.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

As a conscientious non-profit community organization, Friends of Bolivia, Inc fulfills its civic citizenship responsibilities to the local community and the world we live in by supporting organizations and projects that serve low-income people and those needing help.


In the San Jose, California area, Friends of Bolivia, Inc supports VITA @ Milpitas Public Library. VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) is a program of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). VITA and the state taxing authority, in this case the FTB (California State Franchise Tax Board), work with community organizations to set up sites where volunteers prepare and file income tax returns. IRS and FTB trained and certified volunteers assist low-income, elderly, limited English Speaking and disabled taxpayers prepare and electronically file their Federal and State Income Tax returns at no charge to ensure that taxpayers receive all entitled deductions and credits. VITA @ Milpitas Public Library is one of several thousand sites around the country providing this service.


The IRS provides laptops and copies of the tax preparation software TaxWise for use at the site. Two versions of TaxWise are available: one is TaxWise Desktop that runs as a desktop, laptop or notebook PC application, and the other is TaxWise Online that runs within a web browser and requires high-speed internet connection. The site conditions made it necessary to use the TaxWise Desktop without a permanent computer network.


Friends of Bolivia, Inc, through an HP Technology for Community grant, provided additional laptops and software to improve site operations beyond basic capabilities. The software included Microsoft technologies. In addition to the Microsoft Windows XP Professional which came with most laptops, the additional technologies used included Windows Batch Files, Windows Server 2003 (WS2003), Windows SharePoint Services 2.0 (WSS), Microsoft Office 2007, and Microsoft FrontPage 2003.


During the recently ended 2008 Tax Season, volunteers at the VITA @ Milpitas Public Library site helped prepare and electronically file in excess of 250 Federal and 250 State Income tax returns, and returned to the community $274k in tax refunds, including $80k of Earned Income Tax Credit. Additional details are available on This was the highest annual production in the history of the site, and the use of Microsoft technologies helped to keep the operations running smoothly by creating a more efficient workflow by supporting the infrastructure within which the site could deliver its services to increasing numbers of taxpayers helped, returns filed, and volunteers recruited over the years.


A PowerPoint 2007 slideshow ran endlessly on a projector during each tax preparation session. The slideshow showed tax cartoons and details on VITA services, site policies and procedures, and information on personal finance while they waited for service. This combination of entertainment and education gave a sense of satisfaction to taxpayers, raised the awareness of tax deductions and credits that affected them, services they could expect, and made the waiting time a little less tedious.


The site server was a laptop upgraded to WS2003 at the center of the temporary wireless LAN that was assembled and taken apart each week. A WSS website provided a collaborative environment for volunteer tax preparers to access reference information and documents rapidly, and provided additional document resources beyond those provided by TaxWise.


There are two recommended configurations for running TaxWise Desktop. One is to install the full product on each workstation, and then transfer returns to the transmitting workstation (the single workstation used for transmitting returns electronically to the Electronic Filing Center due to licensing requirements) using a flash drive or a network connection. The other is to set up a server (usually the transmitting workstation) and install the user interface on each workstation, communicating with the server through a shared disk volume on the server. The second configuration had the advantage of more convenient installation, but the system suffered reliability issues when returns were lost due to temporary network interruptions under high load conditions.


We copied the contents of the TaxWise CD onto the WS2003 server Distributed File System (DFS) from which we installed the software and configuration files on each workstation individually over the network. During the tax season, we used Windows Batch (.bat) files to selectively copy specific directories and files to update the workstations. This provided fast installation and smooth update capabilities with the advantage of the speed of standalone configurations without the reliability issues that we faced with the recommended network installation.


Typically, printers are shared at most sites by switching the printer cable physically or using a switch among the various workstations as needed, or the return is transferred to a special printing workstation over the network or by a flash drive. We set up print servers of pooled printers on the WS2003 server that automatically sent jobs to backup network printers if the main network printer was busy or down. The printer drivers on the WS2003 server could be installed on workstations as needed, so that individual workstations could send print jobs to the network printer of choice even when the WS2003 server was offline. This allowed individual workstations to work independently of the server, create e-files and print out returns even when the server was down, since the router DHCP server managed the dynamic IP addresses.


The WSS Shared Document library held commonly used and referenced documents, stored copies of individual volunteer certifications, and made available electronic copies of all documents necessary on the desktop to maintain compliance with the requirements of running a site. The central document resource included copies of the IRS TAX Products DVD which not only reduced the number of paper forms to be carried, but also permitted forms to be kept to be printed out upon request.


FrontPage 2003 was used to develop a website on which interested volunteers could sign up for the VITA program, and in particular individual sites in Santa Clara County. The website received queries from interested volunteers from all over the U.S., and in part helped to obtain larger numbers of dedicated volunteers for the site, and thereby increased the capacity of the site. An additional service provided was to publish the status of acceptance/rejection of Federal and State income tax return so that taxpayers could determine on the internet within three days if their returns had been accepted.


This combination of WS2003/WSS technology with the Microsoft Office Suite 2007 helped in the growth of the site by managing the processes and thereby the number of taxpayers served.

Submission Category
Stable and Secure Technology