Last Friday, United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Financial Empowerment Partnership gathered 23 high school students from Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara High School and Santa Ynez High School to kick off the 2013 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) training at the Santa Barbara County Education Office.
The morning included career and education presentations from Paul Didier, president and CEO of UWSBC, Sara Templeton of UWSBC and David Duarte, CPA from MacFarlane, Faletti & Co. In addition, community volunteer Bob Correa and Chris Doyle of the IRS’ Stakeholder Partnerships, Education, & Communication (SPEC) department taught an enriching and fun instructional tax preparation training to the group of high school students.
Last tax season, 101 volunteers prepared more than 2,300 tax returns at VITA sites, and 56 percent of those volunteers were high school and college students. VITA is a free tax preparation service for low-income families who earn less than $50,000 a year. The Regional Occupational Programs at Dos Pueblos High School, Santa Barbara High School and Santa Ynez High School are collaborating with UWSBC to give students an opportunity to gain real-life experience, career ready skills in tax preparation while giving back to those who need this service most in Santa Barbara county.
Students participating in the program are administered a test to become certified by the IRS to prepare taxes at the end of January. Only 62 high schools across the country offer this program, three of which are now in Santa Barbara County. This year, VITA sites will open on Feb. 1 and run through April 15.
United Way of Santa Barbara County’s Financial Empowerment Partnership does not stop at VITA. Low-income families who receive this free tax preparation also have the opportunity to participate in financial literacy education workshops and savings programs. The overall community goal is to help families achieve financial stability and independence.
Click here to learn more about UWSBC’s FEP program and for dates and times of 2013 VITA sites.
— Kerstin Padilla is an assistant for United Way of Santa Barbara County.