Ogden, Utah, February 4, 2013
Ten Bank of Utah employees will volunteer at Cottages of Hope to prepare and electronically file tax returns for individuals and families in need in the Ogden area. Cottages of Hope, 2722 Washington Blvd., is a nonprofit agency focused on helping Ogden residents work towards achieving greater levels of financial stability. Tax services are provided in conjunction with the statewide Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program of the IRS. They are fast, free and ultimately help people avoid paying for unnecessary tax preparation services.
“In many cases, tax preparation sites take advantage of people in desperate financial situations, and charge high fees with the promise of quick refunds,” warns Cottages of Hope’s executive director, Jeremy Bothello. “We’ve had clients tell us they’ve been quoted $300 or more for tax preparation services that would only take us 15 minutes to complete. Our patrons are very grateful to find they can get their returns quickly without paying anything.”
Seven to 10 certified tax preparers are available at Cottages of Hope to help during allocated service hours. Volunteer greeters and screeners welcome clients, make sure they have all the necessary documents and get them filling out the required paperwork. Then volunteer tax experts prepare the returns and file them electronically. The whole process takes only 30 to 60 minutes depending on the complexity of the return.
“Many of our volunteers have been helping out at Cottages of Hope for a number of years so they’re experienced and can process patrons very quickly and efficiently,” says volunteer Craig Roper, Bank of Utah’s senior vice president and chief deposit officer. “We really enjoy providing this service to the community.”
People earning less than $51,000 per year are invited to make an appointment at Cottages of Hope on Tuesday evenings 3:30 - 8:30 p.m., Wednesday evenings 5 - 8 p.m. or Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Volunteers will prepare and electronically files taxes for free for those individuals. Another free service has been added on Friday afternoons from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., where those making $51,000 - $57,000 annually can come in and prepare their own tax returns with a certified volunteer close by to help or answer questions. Those eligible may call 2-1-1 to make an appointment.
“VITA volunteers helped well over 1,200 individuals and families with their taxes, saving clients an estimated $215,000 in tax preparation fees and bringing back more than $1.9 million in total refunds,” adds Bothello. “It’s incredible to think that the total financial impact of this service on our clients and to the community account for approximately $2,130 per volunteer hour.”
The VITA program is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) initiative that offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own taxes. Utah has implemented the VITA program across the state through the Community Action Partnership of Utah and “Earn it. Keep it. Save it. Coalition”, a statewide, public-private partnership that works to strengthen financial stability for families through increased utilization of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), and other asset formation programs. For more information, including statewide locations and how to set up tax filing appointments, dial 211 or visit VITA online at http://www.utahtaxvolunteer.org/