VITA program offers free tax preparation for many
by Steve Kadel
staff writer
Feb 21, 2013 | 1847 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Utah residents with household incomes of $51,000 or less may qualify for free tax preparation.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Utah State University in Moab did 85 tax returns last year and is taking appointments for clients wanting help with this year’s returns, said Mike Johnson, Grand County director for the USU Extension office.

He and two volunteers staff Grand County’s VITA office. Appointments will be taken until the last week of March or first week of April, Johnson said.

The process requires two sessions. In the first appointment, clients meet with Johnson and give him all of their tax documents for 2012. There also is a series of questions to answer to determine eligibility.

A week later, clients meet with Johnson again to review the results and make sure data such as name, address and Social Security number are accurate.

The VITA office can file Utah and federal tax returns electronically.

Besides meeting the income ceiling, potential clients must have a Social Security card, a Social Security benefits statement, an ITIN card or military identification. Proof of identification also is needed.

Johnson emphasized that people should be sure to bring all their relevant tax documents to the first meeting.

“That makes it easier for us,” he said. “We’re trying to help people get their credits, like earned income credits. We want to make sure people get the money that’s coming to them.”

Those wishing to get help from the Moab site don’t have to be Grand County residents. San Juan County residents are welcome, too, because that county doesn’t have a VITA office, Johnson said.

“It’s for anybody who walks through the door,” Johnson said.

Dean Miner, the Virtual VITA coordinator in Provo, said the VITA program used to be available only along the Wasatch Front, but has been expanded to rural areas since 2008.

“The IRS requires that, as part of the VITA program, taxpayers have direct contact with a tax preparer,” he said. “Historically they have been hard to come by in rural areas.

“Mike has really done a lot down there in that community. You can look at it as a community development program because the money stays in the community. People who couldn’t afford someone else [to prepare their taxes] are able to get their refund.”

To make an appointment in Moab or ask questions about eligibility, contact Johnson at 435-259-7558.

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