Tax season is nothing new to Ashley Morales, a junior public relations major from Longview, Texas. She’s been filing her own taxes for the past three years.
“Most of my friends, who are students, file with their parents, because they’re the ones who pay for their stuff,” Morales said, “But I’m an independent, so there is no other way for me to do it.”
Morales said she’s gone many different routes each time she’s filed her taxes; Some good, and some not so good.
“The first time I went to someone my friend recommended that does taxes for people,” Morales said. “It wasn’t really a business . . . and last year I went to H&R Block and I’ll probably go back this year. It’s just easier having someone else do it.”
Angela Mazzolini said even though there are no resources on campus for students to file their taxes, there is still a way students can file their taxes in a cost-efficient manner. Mazzolini is the assistant director and program director for Red to Black, an organization at Texas Tech University dedicated to teaching students about responsible financial planning
“We send most students to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance,” Mazzolini said. “Our peer financial coaches work with VITA, and students can go there to have their taxes filed for free.”
Mazzolini said most students who are filing on their own fall under VITA’s maximum annual income in order to qualify for free tax assistance, which is just over $29,000. The annual income rises as family size increases, so students who also have dependents may also qualify for VITA.
According to the VITA website, the service relies on volunteer tax preparers who are background checked and trained to prepare basic income tax returns.
Many of these volunteers are students at Tech. Senior personal and financial planning major, Patrick Hawkins, volunteered last spring with his Professional Development class and said there are a few perks to students filing separate from their parents.
“If [students] claim themselves, they get the education credit versus their parents,” Hawkins said. “So their refund would be greater, but they would need to be supporting themselves. I believe the test is if they provide 50 percent or more of financial support for themselves, they can receive the credit.”
According to VITA, students who want to file their taxes on their own should come prepared with their Social Security card, a government-issued photo ID, W-2 forms from every place of employment in the previous year, their 1098-T form if they would like to claim their education credit, and a voided check for a checking account if they would like to receive their refund through direct deposit.
The Coalition of Community Assistance Volunteers, Inc. VITA site is located at 5601 Avenue Q — in front of Copper Caboose — and will have extended hours on Tax Day, April 15. If you are looking to skip the lines, March is the least busy month of the season, according to VITA, but Hawkins had some additional advice on getting through the process as quickly as possible.
“It gets packed during tax season,” Hawkins said,” but if people come early on the weekends, they usually get in and out in about an hour and half.”