Who knew Utahns could participate in a lottery?
Under a program called SaveYourRefund, those filing their taxes can enter the free lottery by using Internal Revenue Service Form 8888 to put at least $50 of their tax refund directly into an IRA, bond or personal savings account. They can enter to win at http://www.saveyourrefund.com.
The grand prize is $25,000, but that drawing won't happen until April. Three Utah residents have already won weekly drawings for smaller prizes after getting their taxes done at Salt Lake County's Redwood Recreation Center.
The program is promoted by the Doorway to Dreams Fund, which created SaveYourRefund. This is a nonprofit financial innovation lab founded by former Harvard Business School professor Peter Tufano to develop and test new strategies to help consumers save. For information, log on to http://www.d2fund.org.
In Utah, the group is working with UtahTaxHelp.org, a coalition of statewide partners from the public, private and nonprofit sectors that provides 100 percent free tax help. UtahTaxHelp.org has been helping low-income working families with personal finances since 2006 and has already helped prepare more than 10,000 returns.
"Being able to incentivize savings has really driven people to utilize Form 8888," said Blake Perez, financial integration coordinator for the Community Action Partnership of Utah. "More of our clients are opening up savings accounts and investing in U.S. Savings Bonds. Most of our clients were unaware of the opportunity to split their refund into a savings product and Form 8888 makes it easier for clients to save."
IRS Form 888 allows tax fliers to split their refunds so they can allocate of their portion of their refund to a savings product. Beginning in 2010, refund recipients could request that a part of their refund be issued in savings bonds purchased either for themselves or for others, including children.