The Western New Mexico University Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program ensured $702,633 were refunded back to the community in spring 2022 as a result of student volunteers providing provide free income tax preparation assistance to low-income, elderly, disabled, and limited English-speaking taxpayers at no cost to the community and surrounding areas.
The program, commonly known as VITA, has been facilitated by WNMU for 40 years. This season, it was operated as a drop-off/pick-up service and ran from January 31, 2022, through April 18, 2022.
Nine WNMU School of Business students prepared and filed tax returns including state, federal, and paper returns and were overseen by the student manager. There was a total of 413 federal returns and 412 state returns electronically submitted. The state returns were from various states including New Mexico, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah.
Federal refunds totaling $575,589 were refunded back to the community. State refunds totaling $127,044 were refunded. Included in the total of $702,633 were Earned Income Tax Credits of $133,162, and Education Credits of $16,836.
Taxpayers with an income of $57,000 or less were eligible for this outstanding service for the 2021 tax season.
All the students that were involved in the VITA program were required to become certified through the IRS certification exam and dedicated knowledge of tax laws for 2021. After completing their training and examinations, the student-volunteers contributed a total of 639 hours of work within the span of 11 weeks.
Local tax preparation services cost an average of $175 to file a simple return. It is estimated that the value of the preparation services provided by student volunteers equates to an estimated preparation savings of nearly $144,375.
“The VITA program provides a generous service to the community, as well as being a great learning experience for its student-volunteers,” said Paige Pinto, the MBA student who managed the program.
This assistance to the public was provided by the WNMU School of Business in coordination with Tax Help New Mexico. WNMU Professor of Accounting Dr. Laurie Barfitt oversaw the program this year. WNMU Professor Emeritus Linda McGee initiated this program at WNMU in 1982.