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IRS seeks VITA and TCE volunteers for 2024 tax season

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Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

In these hectic times, you might think you don't have any more minutes to offer, especially in an unpaid capacity.

But volunteering can pay off in unexpected ways.

You can meet new people, and make new friends, who share your passion.

Many times, you learn new skills, some of which could help advance your paying career.

The satisfaction of helping others also just might make you happier. That's something that all of us could use.

And if your inclination to assist involves taxes, then you are exactly who the Internal Revenue Service is seeking. The IRS wants you to fill up your free time early next year by helping people prepare and file their tax returns.

Free help for certain filers: The IRS and its community partners are looking for people to join their Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs during the coming 2024 tax season.

Over the years, VITA and TCE volunteers, in conjunction with national, state, and local groups, have helped millions of low-to-moderate income and older taxpayers meet their annual tax return filing obligations at no cost.

VITA volunteers have been offering free tax assistance for more than 50 years. Eligible taxpayers are those making less than a certain income level. The latest earnings cut-off was $60,000.

Persons with disabilities, as well as those whose native language is not English, also are welcome to get help at VITA sites.

The TCE program also offers free tax help to those who are age 60 and older. TCE volunteers specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

VITA and TCE sites can be found nationwide. And they are operated by volunteers who want to help their neighbors comply with the often scary and frustrating annual tax return filing process.

Volunteer, but trained: Some VITA and TCE assistors come from the tax community. They are former tax professionals or tax law educators who want to keep sharing their knowledge, this time on their own dime.

But you don't have to have a tax background to staff a VITA or TCE site. The IRS will train you.

In fact, the IRS requires all VITA and TCE volunteers who prepare returns to take and pass tax law instruction that meets or exceeds IRS standards. This training includes maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information.

In addition to ensuring that VITA and TCE volunteers are knowledgeable about tax laws, the IRS requires a quality review check for every return prepared at a VITA or TCE site before it is electronically filed.

Real life and virtual volunteer tax help: In most cases, VITA and TCE sites offer face-to-face tax preparation under the auspices of community groups that work with the IRS.

The tax help sites usually are in libraries, community centers, schools, senior citizen meeting halls, religious facilities, or other public locations.

But it is the 21st century. Plus, we all became more comfortable with electronic interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

And the IRS took those remote access lessons to heart. Some VITA and TCE assistance now is virtual, including volunteering options.

With the virtual VITA/TCE option, you can help your neighbors and community from the comfort of your home if that's what you prefer.

Volunteer opportunities: Helping VITA and TCE clients fill out and file their taxes is, of course, a key available volunteer position for the upcoming 2024 tax filing season.

As a volunteer tax preparer, you'll complete and be successfully certified in tax law training, including the use of electronic filing software, so you can provide free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers.

But there are other needs at the volunteer tax help sites. They include —

  • Interpreter — You provide free language interpreter services to customers who are not fluent in English. Basic tax knowledge is helpful, but it is not required for this position.
  • Greeter/Screener — You greet everyone visiting the site to create a pleasant atmosphere. You screen taxpayers to determine the type of assistance they need and confirm they have the necessary documents to complete their tax returns. Tax law certification is not required for this position.
  • Quality Reviewer — You review tax returns completed by volunteer tax preparers, ensuring that every taxpayer receives top quality service and that the tax returns are error-free. You must be tax law certified at least at the Intermediate level.
  • Marketing Specialist — If marketing is your métier, then VITA and TCE can use your skills. Many site partners would love to use your expertise to get the word about their tax-preparation locations to the community.
  • Instructor — Once you complete online certification in tax law at the advanced level or higher and familiarize yourself with any software updates, you can train other volunteers. The classes you'll lead will be in a classroom setting or online.
  • Computer Specialist — You have a working knowledge of personal computers, software, and communications systems. Tax law certification is not required for this position. Although you may have less taxpayer interaction than most VITA and TCE volunteers, you must be patient with those individuals who may not be as computer literate.

VITA and TCE sites usually are open from late January through the tax filing deadline in April.

In many cases, volunteer hours are flexible, to not only make things easier for making time to help, but also for the taxpayers who need the filing assistance. Many VITA and TCE sites are open at night and on weekends.

Sign up now: If you want more information before deciding to volunteer, visit IRS.gov's IRS Tax Volunteers website. There's also a visual preview. The IRS YouTube video below also offers a preview.

When you're ready to volunteer, you can sign up online at the VITA/TCE Volunteer and Partner Sign Up page. There you'll find a list of available local VITA/TCE sites and be invited to a virtual orientation.

The IRS also stresses that it's looking for volunteers from all backgrounds and of all ages, as well as individuals who are fluent in other languages.

But mainly, the tax agency and the community groups that host VITA and TCE sites are looking for folks who want to help others.

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