While tax season may be a time that many college students dread, the Center for Financial Capability (CFC) at the University of New Mexico has a variety of services to help students navigate the filing process.
Jacob Silva, the director for the CFC, said the center is a resource devoted to helping students become financially successful and graduate with the least amount of debt possible.
Lotty Del Barga, a senior at UNM, was awarded a scholarship that refunds roughly $10,000 a year, but she didn’t realize she had to file that refund as income on her taxes. After Del Barga found out about the free tax services at the CFC, Silva helped her successfully navigate the process of filing an amended tax return.
The CFC has been providing tax assistance to students for over three years and is facilitated by three tax preparers; the director, assistant director and the assistant dean of students.
“I think students are really scared of taxes because they think they are super complicated and really intense and if you don’t do them right you’re going to jail, and that's not really the case,” Silva said. “For college students (with low income), it’s relatively simple and I think having a resource like the CFC will help people realise that taxes aren’t as scary as they thought them to be.”
Prior to the pandemic, the CFC would schedule in-person meetings and complete students' taxes for them. Now that in-person meetings are no longer possible, they walk students through the process over a Zoom call.
“I think that their tax help program is still useful despite being virtual,” Del Barga said. “It's nice to have someone walk you through the tax software program step by step, ensuring you don't forget anything. I would definitely encourage any student to access their services if their tax filing is basic.”
Paul Douglas Irwin, a senior at UNM, said he’s been using the CFC tax service for the past three years. Before he knew about the CFC he was going to CNM for help with his taxes.
Irwin said with all the help he has received from the CFC, he could probably do his taxes on his own, but he felt that having someone walk you through the process saves a lot of time and also helps avoid any possible mistakes.
“Knowing that this service is available to me alleviates that stress and pressure of having to deal with tax time during an already stressful time of the academic school year,” Irwin said. “I feel that after doing them a few times now, I could do them myself. But it’s better to be safe than sorry when it concerns the IRS.”
The CFC’s tax service is available to any UNM student that meets the basic requirements that assistants are trained to help with. The service is limited to students with a household income lower than $55,000 a year and it has to be a New Mexico state return.
Some students might have difficulty filing through Taxslayer if they’ve filed through a different tax program like TurboTax or H&R Block in the previous year. The CFC will still help students as much as they can, but they’re only trained and certified to help with basic taxes through Taxslayer.
Each tax assistant has three 50 minute slots available for students to book on Tuesdays or Thursdays for a total of 18 available sessions each week. Their services are available until May 13, the Thursday before taxes are due.
According to the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the deadline to file for the 2020 tax year has been extended from April 15 to May 17 in order to help people still struggling with complications related to the pandemic. Despite the extension, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig still urged people to file as soon as possible.
Daniel Ward is a senior reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at News@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @wordsofward34