Students offer tax prep for free

SAN BENITO — It’s tax season and the high school students of San Benito are here to help.

Juniors and seniors earned their IRS certification through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program.

Last year the After School Program contacted United Way to host the certification program for interested students.

According to family engagement specialist Sandra Leal, the San Benito After School Program is the only after school program in the state of Texas to offer the VITA program.

The VITA Tax program trains and certifies residents to provide tax assistance to low and middle income workers.

With the program students will be able to provide assistance in electronically filing income tax returns.

VITA trains and certifies students through the IRS.

The certification is only good for a year and students wanting to continue must take the certification training annually.

Leal said the training gives students the opportunity to look into different career paths while benefiting the community.

Last year students helped file 62 tax returns.

The program is voluntary and teaches students about finances.

“They love it,” Leal said.

Leal said a former student was inspired by the program to look into income tax law after graduation.

Tax preparation is done by appointment only.

Students prepare basic tax filings before it goes through a quality review by certified supervisors.

Leal said there is no penalty to the tax payer if a mistake is made since students were certified through the IRS.

But mistakes are rare.

Tax returns are checked about three times before finally being filed online.

Students will begin offering tax preparation starting Monday by appointment only.

Who is eligible for free tax preparation?

• San Benito residents

• Annual earned income under $54,000

• Filing a basic tax return

Tax preparation will be every Monday and Wednesday at San Benito High School starting Jan. 29 through March 27 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. To make an appointment call 956-361-6450.