VITA helps students prepare taxes

By Jamil Oakford/managing editor

Tax season is approaching, and TCC has a way to help students tackle preparing their income tax returns through a tried and tested program.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is available through the college’s partnership with United Way and the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington. Through this program, students can receive help from IRS-certified preparers filling out a variety of income tax forms.

For the college, this program has a long history with the community, one of trust and loyalty, said Nicole Minor, South’s college access community outreach director.

Anna Terrell, an annual VITA user and community member, said she has returned to South Campus’ site for a few years now to get tax help.

“I use it for many reasons,” she said. “Obviously, because it’s free. It’s also convenient, I mean, it’s just down the street from where I live.”

The free aspect is a major benefit, especially when weighing options for seeking help preparing tax returns, SE accounting associate professor Kristen Haun said.

For students, faculty, staff or surrounding community members earning up to $58,000* a year, VITA is a free service and will help individuals avoid paying tax advisers, Minor said.

“We know that because of the service area that South Campus serves, families are preyed upon by predatory lenders by — I’m almost reluctant to say it, but it’s true — for-profit tax preparers who charge upward of $300 or more to file taxes,” she said.

With the VITA program, families, students and others who use the service will know with certainty they won’t be charged for the help provided, Minor said.

At SE and South, which both serve as VITA sites, volunteers can process various types of income tax forms with varying degrees of difficulty, Haun said.

“We can do a 1040 EZ, a 1040, a 1040A, so obviously taxpayers can itemize,” she said.

Haun, who trains students to help prepare tax returns, said while most TCC students volunteering stop with the basics test and certification, some have gone through advanced training and are certified to do more advance tax preparations.

For South, it’s been a struggle getting student volunteers for their program, Minor said.

“We are always at the mercy of volunteers,” she said. “Any given day that we offer the free prep services, if we don’t have enough volunteers here, we’re not able to provide that service.”

Minor said United Way has been understanding and has helped establish more incentives for students to get involved.

“I will always give the carrot to folks to say, ‘It looks amazing on your resume to say that you are an IRS-certified tax preparer, especially for students who are in the disciplines like accounting and business,” she said. “You still have to have some other carrot.”

This year, United Way has offered a raffle for a $250 gift card. Students who volunteer at least 50 hours on any given VITA site are eligible.

While students might be wary of preparing someone’s tax returns, Haun said by the time students receive their training, they are more than qualified and capable.

“The most rewarding part is taking people that are scared of — everyone’s scared of preparing tax returns — and actually taking them through the tax return,” she said.

South’s site has consistently facilitated $600,000 in tax returns during the tax season while SE, during its highest period in 2016, helped facilitate $950,000 in tax returns, according to numbers kept by both campus VITA sites.

Where and when to get tax help
Students can get free tax help through the VITA program

SE Campus: EMBC 1107
Tuesday, Thursday noon-8 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

South Campus: SFOF 1734A
Tuesday, Thursday 2-7 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.



*[This story has been corrected with accurate information Feb. 27.]