VITA tax preparation services begin at STC
Cynthia Sanchez (left), associate professor with STC’s Business Administration program and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site coordinator at the college’s Mid-Valley campus assists volunteers recently at a training. STC will be hosting the VITA program as they prepare to help taxpayers process their returns ahead of the filing deadline on April 15.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program returns to South Texas College to help taxpayers process their returns ahead of the filing deadline on April 15.
VITA offices at STC will open Jan. 29 at the college’s Pecan and Mid-Valley campuses and will service the community for a six-week period until March 6 at Mid-Valley and March 7 at Pecan.
The Mid-Valley campus office will be open on Mondays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. The Pecan campus office will be open from Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
STC faculty with the college’s Business Administration program have been holding training sessions for volunteers, which include students, since December in anticipation of the start of VITA services.
“This is so important. Not only are the students showing that they want to help the community and volunteer, but together with STC, they are helping those individuals who often cannot afford to pay, save money.” said Anay De Leon, accounting instructor at STC and VITA site coordinator at Pecan campus. “The fact that young adults want to be involved in this and help their communities speaks volumes about their character and their need to make a difference. Not only does it feel good to help, but whatever assistance they provide is multiplied through the families they assist.”
This is so important. Not only are the students showing that they want to help the community and volunteer, but together with STC, they are helping those individuals who often cannot afford to pay, save money.
Cynthia Sanchez, associate professor with STC’s Business Administration program and VITA site coordinator at the college’s Mid-Valley campus says the experience is invaluable for students who are looking for work experience.
“I have spoken to a lot of students, whether they are first-generation students or returning to the classroom, and they all agree they need experience. This is where this opportunity to assist through VITA comes in,” Sanchez said. “I have had students looking to get their foot in the door, so to speak, and build their confidence. This is so valuable for students because they are not working alone, and they have someone teaching them and overseeing their work.”
The VITA program has assisted the Rio Grande Valley community for over 30 years and has partnered with STC through the United Way for more than 13 years.
The program offers free tax preparation services for those who make $60,000 or less, people with disabilities or limited English-speaking taxpayers.
The IRS manages all VITA programs, including the one at STC with the help of the United Way. The sites are also staffed with IRS-certified volunteers who have completed training and can provide tax counseling.
On average, STC’s VITA site processes hundreds of tax returns. In 2023, volunteers helped file 263 tax returns for residents and collectively volunteered more than 560 hours in the process.
“Many factors are considered when selecting community partners and sites such as Wi-Fi access, parking (and) available lab space,” said Janet Terrazas, vice president and resource development director with the United Way. “It takes collaboration to make VITA a success. Partnerships help us share resources, services and skills to help meet community needs.”
This year’s VITA effort includes members of the AmeriCorps, American National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) program, which has been deployed to assist with the program for the first time. The AmeriCorps is a federal agency that engages 1,200 young adults from ages 18-26 nationally through community service.
Leslie Ibanez, an STC graduate who completed her associate degree in Business Administration in 2022 and then her associate degree in Accounting in 2023, says she is looking for additional experience to help her in her job search and opted to provide her skills assisting with VITA.
“I want to help others have a better accounting experience, so I jumped at the chance to begin helping those in the community complete their income tax returns. As a graduate from STC and now in my experience entering the workforce, I think it’s important that all students take the time to learn and create their own pathway to success. This is just a steppingstone to get there.”
Appointment for the VITA service is handled through the United Way. Those interested in scheduling an appointment can visit https://www.southtexascollege.edu/vita/ .