Free tax assistance available in multiple Southern Utah locations

Southern Utah University School of Business students offer free tax assistance as part of the VITA program | Photo courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News

ST GEORGE — With just a little over two months until 2015 individual tax returns are due, now is the time to start thinking about filing. Many organizations in Utah are offering free assistance to taxpayers in the low-to-moderate income bracket (typically under $54,000), the elderly, the disabled, and those with limited English-speaking abilities, including the AARP Tax-Aide program, the IRS’ Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, and the “Earn It, Keep It, Save It” coalition.

While some of these programs are also offering assistance with other financial matters such as retirement questions or financial planning, all of them are offering basic tax preparation services, including insuring compliance with tax-related provisions created under the Affordable Care Act, checking for eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit — or EITC — for Utahns who work but don’t make over a certain amount, and providing information on credits, deductions and allowable expenses.

This year’s tax filing deadline is April 18. If taxpayers are filing jointly, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms. Regardless of the service chosen for free tax filing assistance, taxpayers are advised to bring the following information:

  • Photo ID and Social Security numbers or Individual Tax Identification numbers for each individual appearing on tax returns
  • Wage and earning statements (Form W-2) from all employers
  • Interest, dividend or miscellaneous income and/or mortgage interest paid statements (Forms 1099 or 1098)
  • Affordable Care Act documents, if applicable (Form 1095)
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Amounts paid for day care, if applicable, and day care provider’s identifying number (SSN or EIN)
  • A copy of last year’s tax return (not required for some filings)
  • Bank account and bank routing numbers for automatic deposit of federal and state tax refunds (not required for all free tax assistance programs)

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program

The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program has already started offering assistance with tax filing. Last year Tax-Aide in Utah helped over 7,300 taxpayers collect refunds that averaged $750 per person. Since the volunteer-based program began in 1968, nearly 50 million low-to-moderate income taxpayers have benefited from this service nationwide. Though Tax-Aide focuses their efforts on the 60-plus population, they help people of any age, and taxpayers don’t have to be an AARP member to receive assistance.  All returns are prepared and e-filed at no cost.

“We have 125 IRS-certified volunteer tax preparers with an average of seven years of experience in 36 sites around the state,” said John Bianucci, the Tax-Aide Utah state coordinator John Bianucci.

Tax-Aide offers basic tax preparation services; however, they are also trained to address retirement and life changes in addition to tax-related provisions created under the Affordable Care Act.

Anyone seeking help can visit the AARP Tax-Aide website to find a Tax-Aide location, review a list of documents to bring to the site, read frequently asked questions about federal tax returns, and discover volunteer opportunities.  The site also includes information about how to avoid identity theft and provides tax tips for caregivers.

Tax-Aide locations will be open to help taxpayers until April 15.

Tax-Aide has five locations in Washington County and Mesquite at the following addresses:

  • St. George Senior Center, 245 N. 200 West, St. George
  • Washington Branch Library, 220 N. 300 East, Washington City
  • Hurricane Senior Center, 95 N. 300 West, Hurricane
  • Southern Utah Rover, 1490 Royal Vista Lane, Mesquite
  • Mesquite Senior Center, 102 E. Old Mill Road, Mesquite

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at Dixie State University, Southern Utah University

Both Dixie State University and Southern Utah University are once again offering free assistance with income tax preparation. As part of the VITA program, students are certified through the IRS and are supervised by members of the accounting faculty. Both programs are designed to offer assistance to taxpayers in the low-to-moderate income bracket, the elderly, the disabled, and those with limited English-speaking abilities.

During the 2015 VITA tax season (filing 2014 tax returns), Dixie State University accounting students volunteered 4,389 hours of community service, helping clients file 1,932 federal and 1,930 state returns, thus facilitating the return of $3,798,059 in tax-related funds back into the Southern Utah community.  Dixie State University’s VITA program also has the distinction of completing the 2015 tax season as the top return-processing site in the state of Utah.

The first five weeks of the ten-week 2016 VITA tax-preparation season (filing 2015 tax returns) will run until March 3. Preparation services will be offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7 p.m. No tax return services will be offered during the week of spring break, March 7-11.  During the last five weeks of the 2016 VITA season, March 15 through April 12, tax-preparation services will only be offered on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.  All tax-preparation services will take place in the Ernö and Etel Udvar-Hazy School of Business on the Dixie State University campus, located at 300 South on 1000 East. Clients are asked to come early in the tax-preparation season so their tax return filing needs can be accommodated.

Southern Utah University is also already underway with their VITA program for the Cedar City community. The program gives more than a million dollars back to the community each year, and along with benefiting the community, VITA tax returns are solely prepared by university students, giving them an exceptional opportunity to gain experience through the process.

Mitch Lamoreaux, this year’s VITA student manager, said, “Every year, we serve hundreds of locals and refund a very ample amount of money back into the community. VITA isn’t only a great service for the community, but also provides terrific hands-on experiences for accounting students at SUU.”

VITA is a first come first served basis. An IRS-certified preparer will prepare returns, and then returns are reviewed by an IRS-certified quality reviewer and an IRS-certified coordinator before they are electronically submitted to the IRS. Free tax assistance is being offered at Southern Utah University Monday through Thursday from 5:30 to 8 p.m., but they will be closed during the university’s spring break, March 7-11.

For more information on either of these services, go to the Dixie State University Accounting Department website or the Southern Utah University School of Business website.

The Earn It, Keep It, Save It coalition

The Earn It, Keep It, Save It coalition, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and the IRS are offering free tax preparation to Utah residents for both federal and Utah State Tax Commission returns to be electronically filed.

Free tax help is available for those who have low-to-moderate income ($54,000 or less), seniors, the disabled or those who speak English as a second language. Local volunteers have been certified through the IRS VITA program to prepare basic tax returns; provide information on credits, deductions and allowable expenses for which taxpayers may be eligible; and electronically file both federal and state tax returns at no charge. These sites are not able to provide help with business tax returns or complex individual income tax returns. Free tax help sites are conveniently located in community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other locations.

To find the nearest free tax help site or receive additional information, please visit the Utah Tax Help website. Taxpayers can also receive additional information or schedule an appointment by calling 2-1-1.

Resources

  •  AARP Tax-Aide website
  • Dixie State University Accounting Department website
  • Southern Utah University School of Business website
  • Utah Tax Help website

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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