Texas Border Affairs
BROWNVILLE, TX – For Sophia Lopez, a typical Saturday for the past few weeks has included preparing and filing tax returns for members of the community as an accounting technology student at Texas Southmost College and a volunteer for the Home Help Program. volunteer income tax (VITA).
The 24-year-old, along with other members of her class, have all taken a federal income tax course as part of their curriculum and earned certification from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for the preparation of voluntary declarations with the VITA program.
As for Lopez, she also prepares taxes and offers accounting, payroll and translation services as an intern with The Business Group in Brownsville and is in the process of receiving a second certification from the IRS for Advanced Tax Preparation. .
“It’s all been a great learning experience for all of us,” the Rancho Viejo transplant said. “From a girl who didn’t know English coming from Mexico to helping our community with tax filings, this has been a big step for me. This experience is more than I could have expected.
The VITA program, which is located at the ITEC Center, has been in operation for more than two decades, providing members of our community with an annual household income of $57,000 or less, free tax preparation services.
The TSC VITA site, in conjunction with United Way of Southern Cameron County, is the site with the highest number of returns, resulting in reimbursements of $4-5 million per year.
People from all over the Rio Grande Valley use this free tax service.
TSC’s Accounting Technology Program Coordinator, Maggie Solis, said that over the past 20 years she has seen the VITA program grow and the inclusion of her students has been a valuable experience for all people. involved.
“This site is run entirely by volunteers, including our students, most of whom are preparing to graduate,” Solis said. “So to see our services grow, increase the number of people we serve, and see our students gain real-world experience while improving their skills, has been a great honor.”
Solis added that the partnership with United Way of Southern Cameron County has been rewarding and has helped take this site to a new level.
“Since our partnership with United Way 15 years ago, our VITA site has become the tax preparation site for residents of the Rio Grande Valley,” she said. “We are open six days a week, throughout tax season, which allows us to be available for anyone who needs us.”
Mayela Moreno, VITA program coordinator with United Way of Southern Cameron County agrees the partnership has been a benefit to many.
“TSC’s accounting course has been a vital part of our program, and the partnership we’ve created with TSC is of the utmost value to us and our community,” said Moreno. “Our goal is to provide people in our community with the help they need with their federal income tax and to inform and educate them about the tax credits they may be entitled to. Through this partnership and the many we hold in Cameron County, we are able to achieve this.
This tax season, following COVID precautions, the VITA site is preparing taxes virtually. Clients can file their documents and expect a call from tax preparers once tax preparation is reviewed and completed.
The TSC ITEC Center VITA site is located in room F6 and is open Monday through Saturday until April 18, the income tax deadline.
For VITA site hours of operation or more information, call 956-295-3761.