“I’m one of those guys,” said Colton Judd. “I just love finances, believe it or not!”

Judd remembers doing his own taxes at the precocious age of 16. Now, he oversees a program that last year helped over 450 people in Grand, Emery, Carbon, and San Juan counties file their taxes for free—and he wants you to join them this year. 

Filing taxes can be a headache, especially if can’t afford to pay for professional tax preparation services. That’s where Judd and the VITA program come in. 

VITA stands for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, and it’s a government-sponsored initiative that provides free tax preparation services to people making around $60,000, those with disabilities, the elderly, and those with limited English. Trained volunteers help you prepare and file your federal and state tax returns, catching deductions and making sure you get the tax credits you qualify for. Volunteers are IRS certified.

“There are a lot of credits that aren’t as widely known and are really beneficial to families,” said Judd. Of the 453 people that used the regional VITA service provided through the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments last year, 173 received the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“That was $313,315 in EIC money coming back to local families and the local economy,” said Judd. “All told, people who filed with us received a total combined refund of $935,135. It’s amazing!”

Professional tax preparation services can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 or more, depending on how complicated your return is. For many families, that’s just not affordable. The VITA program gives you a free alternative that can help you keep more of your own money. Even those who love numbers and doing it themselves can benefit: Judd points out that VITA works with the United Way to offer free tax filing at myfreetaxes.com. 

“These services can help people who are low-to-moderate income and can substantially help people get out of poverty,” said Judd. “I’ve seen it.”

“The other thing that we provide to people is support through the Earn It, Keep it, Save it program,” said Judd. The Earn it Keep it Save it program promotes free tax prep and other services that help families improve their financial health. 

“Our clients with children, we can set up a 529 educational savings account for their child,” said Judd. A 529 is a tax-advantaged investment account where families can save for college and pay for education expenses. The Earn it Keep it Save it program incentivizes families to use such savings accounts to build wealth.

“Just for opening the account, we’re able to put $100 in that account for future educational costs,” said Judd. “We work with families to set goals, financial and self-sufficiency goals, and if they’re able to complete those goals that account receives another $100. One of those goals is getting VITA services for taxes, too!”

“I really enjoy this part of the program,” Judd says. “It makes me remember being a young kid, telling my mom that I would do my own taxes. I love providing resources to our clients, connecting them to services. It makes a real difference.”

To file your taxes with the VITA program or learn more, call Colton Judd at 435-613-0021 or go to seualg.utah.gov/index.php/community-services/vita.