Can you imagine having your taxes done for free and receiving money from the federal government that you can use any way you choose? How about paying off that car loan, making a down payment on a house, or taking classes so you can apply for a higher paying job? The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (or VITA) program makes all this possible!
If your household income is less than $40,000 a year, you might qualify for as much as $4,700 in tax credits. A federal program, called Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), makes this kind of financial “rebate” from the federal government possible. However, getting the word out about this tax credit (and others) takes work. And filing individual income taxes takes work.
To accomplish this, at United Way of Salt Lake, we promote and implement the VITA program through our statewide initiative called “Earn It. Keep It. Save It.” IRS trained volunteers provide free tax preparation services to low- to moderate-income people and ensure that each tax filer receives all tax the credits to which they are entitled, including the EITC. Last year alone, $22.6 million dollars came into the state’s economy because of VITA.
This all sounds amazing, right?! Maybe too good to be true?? Okay, so here is the sobering part that might make this program to good to be true – and that is that Governor Herbert is recommending cutting the state funding from $100,000 to $42,600. “BUT WAIT!”(You might be thinking.) “The state has only been spending $100,000 anually for a program that brings in millions of dollars a year?!!” Yup, that’s right! The state spends $100,000; and UWSL raises and spends $200,000 for the statewide VITA sites. Additionally (and equally important), many private businesses donate their time, services and office space to make the VITA program possible. The amazing Community Action Partners of Utah also plays a pivotal role.
The state allocation of $100,000 (sounds like such a small amount, doesn’t it? especially when most state programs are talked about in terms of millions of dollars?!) has allowed for the hiring of statewide VITA Regional Coordinators. The Regional Coordinators are essential to the success of the VITA program in rural and urban areas throughout the state. They are single-handedly responsible for the following:
• Volunteer recruitment and training (last year, over 600 volunteers and 22,000 hours)
• VITA site creation
• Financial assistance and education to people who are interested.
VITA may very well be one of the most successful programs in the state. For Governor Herbert and the State Legislature to not continue to fund at the $100,000 level, would be to deprive our state’s residents of potentially millions of dollars of federal tax credits.
Please call Governor Herbert and your state representatives and let them know how important this program is for all Utahns.