STEPS TO BECOME A TAX VOLUNTEER
Anyone who is interested in…
- A career in tax accounting or related financial service,
- Knowing how to file a tax return, OR
… will find our tax volunteer program richly rewarding. Volunteers will gain practical knowledge and make a measurable economic impact on our local community.
No prior tax experience necessary! Training is provided.
NEW VOLUNTEER TIMELINE
This volunteer opportunity is a 4 to 5 month commitment. Training is held in the Winter (December through January) followed by volunteering in Spring (late January through April). To volunteer in the spring, participants must first pass the IRS’ Tax Volunteer Certification Exam. This is released in mid-November and available throughout the training season.
TIME COMMITMENT: If you’re a new volunteer with no tax experience at all, here is what you can expect:
BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
- Commitment is only 4-5 months out of the year and ends in time for summer break!
- Being part of a unique team of incredibly passionate and supportive volunteers
- Gaining knowledge about basic tax law
- Earning actual IRS VITA certification in order to serve as a tax volunteer
- Engaging in meaningful volunteer work and really making a difference
- Assisting people who need help – people who are truly grateful for your assistance
- Returning volunteers have opportunities for leadership roles or specialty certification training.
- Volunteers who are also “Enrolled Agents” (EAs) can get CE credits
Click here to learn about what we do and why this work is important.
Here’s what our current volunteers have to say about the program:
New volunteers typically help out with any number of the following roles:
- Welcome tax filers to the tax site during the tax season, and may also inform taxpayers about other available community resources.
- Provide taxpayers with intake forms and answers non-tax questions
- Ensure the taxpayer has brought all required documents to verify taxpayer identity and complete tax return
- Determine if the return is within the scope of returns we are allowed to do and determine which certified volunteer can prepare the return
- Manage waiting and entry areas to maintain the flow of taxpayers according to site operational procedures
- Refer taxpayers to Tax Preparers or Site Coordinators for tax questions
Interpreter / Translator:
- Aid taxpayers by working alongside the tax clients and tax preparers
- Bilingual volunteers are always needed, especially those who can speak Spanish
- Interviews taxpayers using the IRS Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet
- Prepare only returns that are within their certification level(s) and within the scope of the program.
- Provide high-quality tax return preparation to taxpayers who qualify for VITA assistance.
- Enter tax information into the TaxSlayer software
- Obtain signatures for E-File authorization
- Answer questions and/or use available resources to assist taxpayers
- Adhere to Quality Site Requirements and Volunteers Standards of Conduct at all times
- Maintain taxpayer privacy and confidentially standards
Other positions at the site are usually filled by experienced volunteers. However, sometimes new volunteers graduate into these roles during the middle of tax season:
- Conduct quality review process on tax returns (i.e. double check return for errors and ensure that tax law was applied correctly for the return)
- Must be certified at the Advanced Level through the IRS Link & Learn website
- Verify and retain signed and dated Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement for all volunteers at the tax site
- Ensure that the tax site is open as scheduled and adequately staffed
- Supervise volunteers working at the site
- Complete the Quality Review process for returns completed at the VITA location
- Submit tax return E-files to the IRS in a timely fashion
- Ensure rejected returns are either corrected or the affected taxpayer contacted
- Answer taxpayer questions regarding tax or the client’s tax return
One of the common questions from prospective volunteers is “Do I need tax experience to be a volunteer tax preparer?” The answer is no, you do NOT need tax experience to become a tax volunteer. A liking for numbers and analysis does help though! In the Bay Area, many of our volunteers are engineers, nurses, lawyers, accountants, students, retired, or tax professionals. However, the majority of our volunteers are not tax professionals. Each training season, we have excellent instructors in our training classes who teach new volunteers how to help clients file their basic tax returns.
These are the general requirements for becoming a tax volunteer:
- All of our volunteers need to be comfortable working with a computer and the internet.
- Be comfortable working with people.
- Complete your IRS Volunteer Certification. Passing the IRS volunteer certification exam is required, since all volunteers must be IRS-certified. Training class schedules vary by county and begin in December and/or January. On average, three to four days of classroom instruction is offered. Online training and certification is also available.
- Serve as a regular volunteer. This means you commit to volunteer one shift per week at the same VITA site for 8-12 weeks during the tax season (late January through mid-April). Site operation hours vary by site, but a typical volunteer shift is 3-4 hours. Every VITA site operates using volunteer power, so we need to have reliable volunteer staff in order to run. You will be expected to attend your assigned volunteer shifts on time so that site operation is not short-staffed or negatively impacted. Be sure to notify your Site Coordinator of any absences in advance, so that there is less of a negative impact on site operation.
WHERE TO GO WITH ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS
View our frequently asked questions first.
If you still have questions, feel free to say hello and email us!
I’M READY TO COMMIT! CHOOSE YOUR COUNTY
Every site runs on volunteers. Please don’t take up a volunteer spot if you’re not sure you can commit to training, certifying, and volunteering regularly during tax season.
If you can make the commitment, go ahead and choose the county where you would like to volunteer:
- Alameda County
- Contra Costa County
- Marin County
- Napa County
- San Francisco County
- San Mateo County
- Santa Clara County
- Solano County