With only a few weeks left in the 2021 tax season, the Connect to Collect program through the University of Utah aims to connect Utah families with free tax preparation assistance so they can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit and/or Child Tax Credit, worth an average of $3,500 and $2,800, respectively, for families with children.
The Earned Income Tax Credit, enacted in 1975, is “a ladder to climb out of poverty and into the middle class” for working families. But some estimate that around 20% of eligible families do not claim the credit. In Utah, the percentage may be as high as 25%, meaning that Utah families may be leaving around $66.4 million in tax credits on the table every year.
To help eligible families participate in the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Connect to Collect program, co-directed by University of Utah professors Lori Kowaleski-Jones and Norman Waitzman, connects families to free tax filing services, such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Connect to Collect began in 2020.
For convenience, Connect to Collect volunteers meet with families in trusted settings, such as health care clinics and neighborhood schools. After assessing eligibility, the volunteers then connect the families to a nearby VITA tax preparer who can assist them with preparing and filing their tax returns at no cost, saving an average of $400 in tax preparation costs.
VITA volunteers provide free tax preparation service to low-income and elderly taxpayers. Some VITA sites can file electronically. Call 2-1-1 or 1-800-906-9887 to find the closest VITA site.