The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, a free and professional service to file tax returns for residents of Hidalgo and Starr counties conducted by South Texas College Business Administration students, paid dividends this past tax season by obtaining over $330,000 in tax refunds for community members.

The STC Business Administration students that participated in the VITA Program consulted over 300 taxpayers and assisted in the preparation of more than 250 tax returns this past season. The program was available from Feb. 2 to March 10 at the STC Technology Campus as a free service to the community.

“We did twice as many returns as we did last season,” said John Wilson, STC accounting instructor, CPA and coordinator of STC’s Vita Program. “I have been doing VITA for the last five years and have found it to be a very positive experience, both for the students and taxpayers we serve.”

While the VITA Program offered the community a free service, STC Business Administration students had the opportunity to gain some hands-on experience in the preparation of individual tax returns in a real life work environment. The students were supervised by faculty coordinators, who are Certified Public Accountants with accounting and tax preparation experience. Each tax return was reviewed for accuracy by a faculty coordinator prior to filing.

“The students gained hands-on work experience, as well as the opportunity to learn taxes and deal with the public. Many students also used the experience in VITA as part of their capstone course for their degree requirement,” Wilson concluded. “I think the students that have participated in the effort over the years have enjoyed it immensely, and have learned a lot about federal income taxes and working with clients and real live tax situations.”