Tax Assistance Program Helping Thousands Across Utah
Do you qualify for free, professional tax preparation assistance?
It is estimated that between $51 and $70 million of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) goes unclaimed in Utah each year. As the tax season begins, volunteers are prepared and ready to assist families across who may qualify Utah with free, professional tax assistance.
Several Zions Bank employees are among others volunteering to support the Internal Revenue Service’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA) during tax season. The program is open to those who may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit who make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English speaking taxpayers.
“One thing to note about our volunteers is their quality,” says David Higginson, a VITA volunteer who manages Zions Bank’s financial center in Roosevelt. “In fact, all VITA volunteers must complete eight to 12 hours of training and course work prior to helping others with their taxes,” he says.
To some, Higginson is considered a veteran volunteer. He has donated his time to support VITA for more than a decade and he has been instrumental in the successful expansion of the VITA program throughout the state of Utah.
Lauren Schwanz with the Uintah Basin Association of Governments has volunteered with VITA for three years now, helping Higginson with extensive coordination and outreach. She has enjoyed seeing the positive impact and service it provides to others living in eastern Utah. She says that last year 17 volunteers helped prepare and file nearly 300 tax returns in the region, and she has seen close to 1,000 people receive help over a three-year period.
“In the beginning, it was pretty much just Dave and about three volunteers, using a Virtual Method to help others prepare their taxes here in the Uintah Basin,” says Schwanz. “Now, we have sites across the state where more face-to-face meetings can take place,” she says.
Oftentimes, the whole experience can be highly positive and beneficial for both the VITA volunteer and the client. According to Rachel Gregson, the state director of Community Action Partnership of Utah, the volunteers learn marketable job skills such as project management and the clients receive free tax assistance and possible referrals to additional resources like debt management and credit counseling.
To learn more about the VITA program or to find a VITA location, both potential volunteers and those seeking tax assistance can go to utahtaxhelp.org or irs.gov. If using a phone is preferred, simply dial 2-1-1.