Tax Help on the Island: Future Finance Professionals Hone Skills Volunteering with VITA

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As the new semester gains momentum, the looming deadline for federal income tax returns draws nearer. For many, navigating tax forms can be daunting, yet understanding how to maximize your return is crucial amid rising living costs. Fortunately, a team of student volunteers at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi stands ready to demystify tax filing complexities and help individuals optimize their returns — all at no cost.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, a branch of which is hosted by TAMU-CC, is a valuable resource available to lower-income individuals and families who earn less than $64,000, as well as TAMU-CC students, faculty, and staff, along with former and active-duty military, to process income tax applications for free.

Coordinated by Ginger DeLatte, Professional Assistant Professor of Accounting, and served by a dedicated team of financially-minded students, the TAMU-CC VITA program aims to provide peace of mind to Islanders and the local community during what can be an overwhelming time.

While the benefits to those getting free tax prep are obvious, there are also numerous benefits to volunteering, according to DeLatte.

“It is a great reward to serve members of the local community and see their gratitude for our assistance, and it is a great comfort to them to know their return is complete,” DeLatte said. “But our student volunteers also get a great deal out of the experience. Students gain valuable practice in data entry, review and analysis, problem solving, customer service, and professionalism. There is also the opportunity for exposure to several nonprofit organizations in the area, as well as local employers. It’s also a resume booster.”

For Melody Valerio ’24, a seasoned volunteer and Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting major, what began as an avenue for extra credit has flourished into a genuine passion for community service.

“Some guests come to us feeling a bit lost as to what services they need, or what documents they should provide,” Valerio said. “We provide an informative, welcoming, free service to the community to save them money and, in many cases, get them more money back on their return. I’ve found it to be a hugely memorable experience, that I believe will help me in my future career in restaurant management.”

As an accredited IRS program, VITA provides all volunteers with comprehensive training while ensuring all documentation is peer reviewed for the utmost accuracy.

“I consider it a free tutoring session,” Valerio said. “Everyone involved provides a professional perspective for a variety of scenarios.”

First-time volunteer, William Hammond ’24, credits his time with VITA with informing his studies as an accounting major.

“As I aspire to a career as a Certified Public Accountant following graduation, I think this experience will be valuable to me,” Hammond said. “I also hope to bring my skills in interpersonal communication and customer service to the VITA program, and I think I will gain a lot of satisfaction from helping others in a friendly and effective manner.”

VITA sessions are held on Fridays from 2-6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. in the university’s O’Conner Building from now through April 14. The program will be closed from March 15-17 for Spring Break and on March 31 for Easter. Those utilizing the program can park for free in the Angel Fish Parking Lot, located near the O’Connor Building.

VITA is a collaborative partnership of United Way of Coastal Bend, TAMU-CC, Del Mar College, Goodwill Industries of South Texas, and the IRS.