IRS Asks Volunteer Tax Preparers to Step Forward

The IRS is asking for volunteers to help out low-income taxpayers and the elderly. To facilitate two ongoing programs, it is rolling out new ways to make volunteering easier and safer during the pandemic (IR-2020-276, 12/11/20).

Dec 22nd 2020
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The IRS in a new YouTube video, emphasizes safety and social distancing— along with virtual options— while encouraging volunteers to provide free tax return preparation through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. For over a half-century, thousands of volunteers have prepared millions of returns each year in communities around the country.

The VITA program offers free tax assistance to people who make $57,000 or less, people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers. The TCE program offers free tax help to individuals age 60 or older. TCE volunteers specialize in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

There are many available volunteer roles, including the following:

  • Greeters to help screen taxpayers to determine the type of assistance they need
  • Interpreters to provide language services
  • Tax preparers to use electronic filing software to complete tax returns
  • Tax coaches, at some sites, to encourage taxpayers to prepare their own tax returns and help them through the process

The programs offer free training to teach volunteers the skills they need. Some roles require tax law training and certification, but others do not.

For safety in preparation for the upcoming tax-filing season, potential volunteers can tune in virtually to learn more about the programs, ask questions and find out which volunteer role is right for them.

Also, some volunteer sites will offer virtual help to taxpayers instead of face-to-face assistance. This allows volunteers to help taxpayers over the phone or online to complete their returns. Other volunteers will conduct a virtual quality review with the taxpayer before e-filing their tax return to the IRS.

While virtual volunteering remains an option this tax season, some VITA/TCE sites will still offer in-person free tax help. However, safety and social distancing will be emphasized. Support for new volunteers is always available through more experienced volunteers familiar with the programs and tax preparation.

Another recent addition to the VITA and TCE programs provides credit for experience. A new Qualified Experienced Volunteer test is shorter than the traditional test, allowing returning VITA and TCE volunteers to devote more of their time to helping taxpayers.

To learn more about volunteering and to sign up, go to IRS.gov/volunteers. Shortly after a sign-up, interested participants will receive an invite to attend a virtual orientation.

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