Business students offer free tax services

Megan Mojica
Staff Writer

The University’s College of Business and Public Management is offering a free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA, program for the community. This is a program sponsored by the IRS and staffed by business students. It is geared toward students and families with incomes lower than $75,000 within the city and surrounding areas. 

The program began 11 years ago as part of a broader University’s initiative to give back to the local community. 

Adjunct professor Maria Nieto, an IRS subject-matter expert, and former adjunct Caroline Payne started the program.

“It’s a win for the University,” Nieto said. “It’s a win for the taxpayers because they’re getting their taxes done for free, and it’s a win for the student because they learn taxes but now they get to apply it.”

Jose Valdovinos, accounting instructor, is also involved in leading the student program.

Nieto and Valdovinos said the program has persisted even through the past two years when the weathered pandemic shutdowns.

Their success, they said, has partly to do with returning clients – and volunteers. In previous years the program has helped as many as 300 students and community members during it’s in 10-week seasonal run. Samantha Ruiz, a ULV alumna, said she has been using VITA’s services for the past two years. She knows at a certain point her income will price her out of the program. But for now, she said VITA’s service is better than other pricey tax services she’s tried in the past. 

“They really allow you to put your trust in them. I’ve never had any problems and it’s really easy,” Ruiz said. 

Returning volunteer Angelbaby Diaz, who had volunteered for two years, said he returned to the program because he enjoys giving back to the community.  

“I figured I could come here and help out the community who don’t have that much, do their taxes for free and watch them walk out with a smile on their face,” Diaz said. “That means everything to me.”

This work is also good practice for the student volunteers.

“They get to actually do taxes, and it’s hard actually getting the concept,” Nieto said. “So it’s that personal relationship and they get to put it on their resume.”

“It is kind of fulfilling because you’re providing a service to the community (and) it’s good to watch the students grow,” Valdovinos added.

Valdovinos and Nieto said the connections they have built from the program and the good it is doing for the community is fulfilling for them as well. 

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program services are available every Saturday until April 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Cogley Building on the ULV campus. 

Walk-ins are accepted on a first come first serve basis but appointments can also be made by emailing vita@laverne.edu

Megan Mojica can be reached at megan.mojica@laverne.edu.

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Megan Mojica, a junior broadcast journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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