The Virtual VITA Program Changing Lives
“The VCN and the VITA program made my life easier. I am very grateful for the time and experience.”
Four years ago a friend passed a flyer to Juan Licona detailing the Virtual VITA services done in partnership with the VCN. In addition to his friend’s sturdy recommendation, two elements led Juan to bring his taxes to the VCN Vista Library kiosk. First, the program was completely free to low-income families. Drawing confidence from his friend’s stamp of approval, he remained confident that free actually meant free. Secondly, the services were offered in Spanish.
To you and I, this final item may not be a unique selling point. Obviously we speak English as this post is written in, you nailed it, English. But for Juan, a native Spanish speaker, navigating something as complex as self-employment tax returns in a different language was out of the question. The language barrier opened up a larger margin of error, as well as leaving individuals prey to some of the scammers looking to take advantage of hardworking individuals.
Helping put individuals like Juan at ease, as well as to serve them better, is why the VCN provided Spanish-speaking counselors, free of charge.
When Juan had called four years ago to inquire more, the VCN intake specialist explained the process to him, highlighting how time-efficient the process was. Where other programs include hours of sitting around waiting, the VITA program streamlined the whole process. Juan went in for his appointment to drop off the paperwork. He finished his first meeting in 15-20 minutes. Then he came back in a few days to review the final documents for accuracy. Juan pointed out, “It’s very convenient.”
What makes the Virtual VITA program different from the traditional VITA program is the “virtual” aspect. Clients in Southern California could go to the VCN location most convenient to them. They then connect virtually to the volunteer tax preparer through the VCN kiosk.
Not everyone was eager to embrace new technology. Some even found the idea of a webcam intimidating. When asked about the ease of using the technology (even if you weren’t tech savvy), Juan commented, “You will be surprised! I was not sure on what to do at first but the staff helped me. My tax preparer was using the computer on the other side and I was seeing her screen. We met through a webcam, but it felt like she was actually present in the room with me.”
The technology was also made better by the friendliness of the staff. Juan described his experience, “Everyone here is friendly. As soon as we walked in they smiled at us, made us feel like we were friends and we were in a secure environment. Plus, they explained everything.”
After partnering with the Virtual VITA program, Juan had an entirely new outlook on, what is for the most, a hard process, “It will sound strange for some people, but now I really enjoy doing my taxes. Somehow with VCN, it is a fun thing to do, and I look forward to doing it the next year.”
Juan appreciated the services so much, not only has he come back for several years, he has been encouraging friends and family to take advantage of the free services. It’s been receiving rave reviews from everyone he has referred.
Juan gave a small taste of what he tells his friends and family about using the VCN, “You shouldn’t be afraid of doing your taxes because now with technology it can be a fun, fast, and efficient way to do it, even if you have to pay back you will be happy because everything is really fast and you might learn new things.”
Because Juan is self-employed, he fit into one of the rare cases of needing to pay taxes after filing. Most of the clients going through the VITA program saw tax refunds. In fact, one of our clients received a large refund after filing for the first time in four years! You can check that story out here.
Trying Out the Virtual Vita Program
We can’t guarantee that you will get a refund, or even speak to if you will have to pay taxes. What we can guarantee is that our friendly and professional staff will work with you to accurately file your tax return. To everyone who qualifies for the VITA program, rest assured that free actually means free, even if you need a Spanish-speaking counselor.
At the VCN, we are here to help you through all of life’s transitions. If you are currently facing a job loss, housing transition, looking to purchase a home, or need professional advice on challenges in your life, call us today. The call is always free, and you can be confident that we only connect you to high-caliber professionals in the top of their industry.