The New Year is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing С time to put together all your records to file your taxes. Doing taxes can be a chore for most of us, but for VITA volunteers like Eileen Moss, it’s fun. It’s so much fun that not only does she look forward to preparing her own tax returns each year, she likes preparing tax returns for other people. For free.
VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance. Don’t let the fact that this program was created by the IRS scare you away. It is part of the Earn It. Keep It. $ave It. initiative run by Community Action Partnership of Utah and is supported by local companies such as United Way of Salt Lake City, American Express, Zions Bank, and Davis School District, among others. Free tax preparation services are provided to low- and moderate- income households with earnings of no more than $51,000 a year. But it can’t happen without volunteers.
VITA volunteers come from all backgrounds. Eileen has been volunteering for five years. She enjoys helping out people who do not feel comfortable preparing their own tax returns. As long as their information is not too complicated, people can typically complete their tax filings with a VITA volunteer in about an hour using TaxWiseЁ software, and get their return back in about two weeks.
It is a wonderful service for households that find it difficult to come up with the $50-$300 that it can cost to have their taxes prepared for them elsewhere.
Eileen says that many people who use this service are single moms, often working two or three jobs. Younger people, new to filing taxes, and retirees are also common users of this service.
The tax refunds and Earned Income Tax Credits that Eileen and other benefits that volunteers help people claim can be significant. Eileen tells of one single mom in February who had recently upgraded from living in her car to an unfinished basement and who was going to get a $3,500 tax refund. That kind of money can help someone move into a nicer housing situation.
In 2012, Earn It. Keep It. Save It. reports that 93 VITA volunteers in Davis County helped more than 1,100 Davis County households file their taxes for free with an average tax return of almost $1,500.
You don’t have to be good at math to volunteer. It just takes a few hours of training and one free night each week from late January to April to volunteer. Volunteers are needed throughout Davis County. The more people who volunteer, the more people can be helped.
Just be ready to get hugged, according to Eileen. She said she receives a lot of hugs from happy people she helps.
For more information on volunteer opportunities with VITA just dial 2-1-1, the United Way of Salt Lake’s free information line for volunteer opportunities.
To find out more information about using this program, visit utahtaxhelp.org.