Free tax preparation offered again at Trinidad State College

ALAMOSA — Trinidad State will again offer free tax preparation on the Valley Campus this tax season. 

Last year 11 Trinidad State volunteers on the Alamosa campus assisted 167 San Luis Valley residents, generating $316,433 in returns. This year, with 15 volunteers, their goal is to help 175 residents. This is the eighth year Trinidad State has partnered with the Piton Foundation to provide this service to the community. Business/Accounting Professor Genia Rasmussen is the site coordinator.

For seven years Lea Chavez, a Trinidad State alumnus and the assistant tax site coordinator, has returned to help. “It’s a service for the elderly and low income and I like to encourage students who are doing the tax work,” said Chavez.

For the third consecutive year the Abraham Martinez family returned to the Trinidad State tax site. Their son, Abraham Martinez, a former Trinidad State student, is now seeking help with taxes as well. Martinez said, “We feel very comfortable and confident coming in here to get our taxes done and would recommend this to anyone.” 

Trinidad State volunteer students will once again prepare tax returns for free for those families earning about $54,000 or less. Although all who help prepare the taxes receive no compensation, those students who take the tax preparation course earn two credit hours when they complete their certifications. 

Four years ago, Trinette Southway, a stay-at-home mom for 20 years, decided it was time to go back to school. Taking classes at her own pace while raising a family, she has earned certificates in business management and accounting and will finish her Associate of General Studies in May. She continues to help with taxes. “Genia’s the reason I’m still here,” she said. “She’s a positive energy and she makes everything “Zumba” fun! The teachers here are easy to get along with and work with us to help us succeed.”

JoAnne Manzanares, who is helping for the second year, said, “I wanted to learn how to do my own taxes and I like helping.” Each year the volunteers must be recertified to make sure they are aware of any tax changes they need to know. Felicia Gomez, a work study in the business office who is also assisting, said, “She’s (Rasmussen) amazing. We love her. She was like an angel that came into my life. She goes out of her way to help us succeed.”

Jessica Suazo, the first science major to help with taxes at Trinidad State (most students who help are business or accounting majors), saw it as an opportunity to not only complete the credits she needed for her scholarship, but to serve the community. 

The Tax Help Colorado process at Trinidad State is threefold: Screening to assure clients have all needed information -- Tax Preparation where the figuring is done and -- Quality Review after which the client signs the necessary forms. Only then will the process be complete.

In addition to Rasmussen and Chavez, assisting this year are Trinidad State employees: Evert Brown, Juliana Chaparro, Roberta Taylor-Hill, Yvette Lujan, Carol Ritchie and Jack Wiley.  Student volunteers include Angela Bernal, Felicia Gomez, Dottie Kilpatrick, JoAnne Manzanares, Trinette Southway, Jessica Suazo and Barbara Villagomez.

Each Thursday, Trinidad State will be open for Tax Help Colorado from 4-8 p.m. through March 15 in the Learning Center, Room 202.   

For additional information, place a free call to 211. A recording will say “Pikes Peak United Way” and callers can be referred to several services including Tax Help Colorado. Callers can choose English or Spanish. Some of the volunteers at Trinidad State for Tax Help Colorado speak Spanish.

Captions: Jack Wiley, Dottie Kilpatrick, Genia Rasmussen, Jessica Suazo, Angela Bernal, Barbara Villagomez, Trinette Southway, and Felicia Gomez are practicing a “dry” run as Rasmussen gives instruction./Courtesy photos by Margaret Sanderson

Jessica and Martinez family

Jessica Suazo talks with the Martinez family who has come to the tax site three consecutive years.

tax crew on stairs with last years check

Trinidad State tax site volunteers pose with a document indicating the impressive returns received by Valley residents last year, $316, 433. Front row are: Genia Rasmussen, Dottie Kilpatrick, Felicia Gomez, and Trinette Southway

Back row are: Lea Chavez, Jack Wiley, Jessica Suazo, Angela Bernal, and Barbara Villagomez.