As the pandemic rages on safety and social distancing, along with virtual options, will be the emphasis now and for the upcoming tax season as the Internal Revenue Service seeks volunteers to provide free tax return preparation through its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the IRS is rolling out new ways to make volunteering easier and safer, according to an IRS news release.
More Help for New Volunteers
In preparation for the upcoming tax filing season, to keep everyone safe, 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 in place 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 returns to the IRS.
While virtual volunteering will be 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 program and tax preparation.
Join a Well-established Program
For over 50 years, volunteers have prepared tax returns in communities across the country. Each year, thousands of volunteers prepare millions of tax returns through the VITA and TCE programs, according to the news release.
The VITA program offers free tax help to people who make $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, and limited English-speaking taxpayers.
The TCE program offers free tax help to those who are 60 years of age and older. TCE volunteers specialize in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.
There are many available volunteer roles:
- 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 help volunteers learn the skills they need. Some roles require tax law training and certification, but other roles do not. There is a spot for everyone who wants to help, the IRS news release said.
Another recent addition to the VITA/TCE program gives 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 help taxpayers.
To learn more about volunteering and to sign up, go to IRS.gov/volunteers. Shortly after signing up, interested participants will receive an invite to attend a virtual orientation.