Community members receive free tax preparation at Trinidad State
Valley Campus / May 24, 2016 / Written by Margaret Sanderson
The Trinidad State Valley Campus Tax Help group managed to crank out 229 income tax returns resulting in over $430,000 in refunds during tax season. They scrambled to help as many as possible, but the need was greater than the six tax prep volunteers could manage and some folks were turned away. Lea Chavez, a Trinidad State alumnus and the Assistant Tax Site Coordinator, said, “One of the reasons I come back each year is because we have so many coming in that need help. I’m sure glad all six volunteers were so reliable because we couldn’t have done it without each one of them.”
For six years the college has provided this service to the community. This year households earning up to $53,000 were eligible. Tax Help Colorado is made possible by a partnership between Piton Foundation and more than a dozen Colorado colleges.
During the fall semester last year, the volunteers took a two-credit hour college course to learn tax laws and the software used by the IRS. Two full-time Trinidad State staff members, Juliana Chaparro (TRiO Coordinator) and Roberta Taylor-Hill (Career and Disability Coordinator) studied a portion of the class material so they could help. They checked in clients, maintained an orderly process and examined all paperwork and put it in order to streamline the process. They plan to certify next year which will enable them to assist with the tax process.
The volunteers were so busy they often didn’t have time to stop and eat the meals that Massage Therapy Director and volunteer Julie Kotalik arranged for.
Norma Chavez, Trinidad State accounting student, thought it was fun but tiring. “I’m very sociable,” she said. “I got to talk to different people and I learned a lot.”
“I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for twenty years,” said student Trinette Southway. “My baby’s graduating in two years so I decided I’d go back to school and get a paying job. I just haven’t’ decided what I want to do yet.” Southway really enjoyed the tax preparation and said it added to her skill set. “I learned something new and enjoyed meeting and helping people,” she said. Southway has studied both Business Management and Accounting.
Four of the six tax prep volunteers speak fluent Spanish which was an enormous help. Linda Borjas, a Trinidad State Business Management and Accounting major, especially enjoyed working with the Spanish speaking. “They’re friendly and easy to get along with. We laughed and joked a lot. They’re humble and gracious.” At first, she found Tax Help to be challenging because she had to look up everything and make sure she was right. She enjoyed helping so much that she plans to do it again next year.
Site coordinator and Business/Accounting Professor, Genia Rasmussen, is pleased with the results and is hoping for more volunteers to lighten the load next year.