It’s That Time of Year Again! Tax Time!

nicholinaby Nicholina Womack
Volunteer Center Coordinator

According to Benjamin Franklin, nothing is certain but “death and taxes.”  And while this may be true, those of us at United Way of Salt Lake will not take it lying down!  We are determined to make tax season a little less troubling and a little more enjoyable for all. Among the amazing programs offered by United Way of Salt Lake and its partners is VITA, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.  VITA is a program that helps middle and low-income families file their taxes for FREE, and there are VITA sites across Salt Lake County and the state!  According to the IRS:

The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations.

It is important to understand that what makes VITA so widespread and comprehensive in its delivery is that it is staffed with an army of volunteers At United Way of Salt Lake, we are trying to do our part in building this army, and we need your help.  While United Way does not direct the VITA program–our 2-1-1 information and referral staff schedule all the appointments, and we need help!

If you are interested in volunteering with United Way of Salt Lake to ensure more families can access VITA sites to have their taxes done, please contact us by dialing 2-1-1. 

Earn it Keep it Save it

Tuesday Tip

TIP: Take advantage of free tax preparation!

This tip is too good to hold on to any longer! The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to qualifying taxpayers. VITA volunteers are trained to prepare your taxes and most importantly help you take advantage of special tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits mentioned in last weeks tip!

Is there a VITA tax preparation site near you? Do you qualify for the VITA program? Check out www.utahtaxhelp.org today to find out!

Tuesday Tip- Got Kids?

TIP:  Got kids? Don’t miss out on tax credits for households with children!

Child Tax Credit
With the Child Tax Credit, you can save up to $1,000 for each child in your family under 17. This is a refundable credit and will be paid to you even if you don’t owe any taxes. There are certain restrictions to qualify for this credit, but don’t overlook it! Get the facts here.

Child and Dependent Care Credit
If you paid someone to care for a child, spouse, or dependent last year, you may be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit on your federal income tax return.  There’s a lot to know about the Child and Dependent Care Credit! Get the details here.

Don’t forget to visit the taxes section of the Believe in Your Future website for some trusted tax resources provided by organizations right here in Utah!

Tuesday Finance Tip


TIP:  It’s tax time! Don’t let taxes overwhelm you. Hop on to the IRS’s website and browse the wealth of information available to help you better understand your taxes.

Chances are, you’re not a tax expert. But you don’t have to be an expert to know taxes! The IRS makes it easy for you to find the information you need! Their website is full of tax information whether you’re a parent, waitress, business owner, college student, and much more!

Check out these tax tips for 2011.  There’s bound to be some information you need!

Here are 10 reasons why YOU should visit the IRS website:

1.    Tax information at your fingertips any time of day!
2.    Use it to FREE file
3.    Try IRS e-file
4.    Check the status of your refund
5.    Make payments electronically
6.    Find out if you qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit
7.    Get printable tax forms and publications
8.    Calculate the correct withholding amount for your W-4
9.    Request a payment agreement
10.    Get information about the latest tax law changes

Happy tax season!

Policy Matters: Week Two Update

Today marks the second week of the 2011 Legislative Session and some of the top conversations will continue to be about the budget. All Appropriation Committees will be making final recommendations on the base budget, and law makers are calling for 7-10% cuts to all departments. According to Utah Law a base budget must be passed or defeated by February 2 at noon. The base budget is just the beginning of what may prove to be a difficult process to ensure that the programs United Way of Salt Lake and our partner organizations care about receive necessary funding.

After final decisions are made regarding the base budget UWSL will call on you to help advocate for programs such as optional extended day kindergarten, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Medicaid and CHIP, and other basic needs programs. There are many revenue options that legislators have to fill in cuts that have been made in the base budget. UWSL will be taking positions on these revenue options and various cuts.

In the meantime, check out our comprehensive bill list that provides information on the bills UWSL is currently following, a summary of the bill, its status, fiscal note, and UWSL’s position.

Resolution To Create “Utah Saves Week

One of United Way of Salt Lake’s (UWSL) top priorities in acheiving financial stability is our collaborative initiative with Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education. Senator Jones is sponsoring SCR2, Financial Responsibility Concurrent Resolution, which designates February 22-28, 2011 as “Utah Saves Week”, and recommends that all Utahns participate in activities and programs to increase their financial knowledge.

The resolution recognizes the unique public/private partnership of the Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education, and the establishment of a new campaign and online portal to help Utahns access financial information, Belive in Your Future. Identifying the various difficult financial problems individuals and families face, the resolution provides Utahns with information and resources on how to make sound financial decisions. Profiled in the resolution are:

  • Imagine a Happier You, created by Deseret Management Corporation, which features useful financial information for women.
  • Finance in the Classroom, created by the Utah State Office of Education, which is loaded with high-quality materials for parents and teachers to use in educating children about money matters.
  • Utah Saves, a helpful resource for realizing savings goals.
  • Believe in Your Future, a new website created by United Way of Salt Lake and the collaborative efforts of the Utah Council on Financial and Economic Education. Through this trusted portal people can access financial materials on a wide variety of topics, and information from local businesses and nonprofits organizations.

SCR2 passed out of Committee today and will now be heard on the floor of the Senate. Call your Senator and ask them to vote Yes on SCR2, Financial Responsibility Resolution.

Also, plan to take part in the activities and programs that are planned during Utah Saves Week and join us on February 28 for the official kick-off for the Believe in Your Future website.

VITA

By: Lynn Rilling
Income Director

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.