Below you will find answers to many of our volunteers’ Frequently Asked Questions.
- How much time will I have to commit?
- Can a group volunteer together?
- Where will I be volunteering?
- Is transportation provided?
- Some of the sites are located in neighborhoods that I am not familiar with. How do I learn more about these neighborhoods and tax sites?
- What do I need to do before tax season?
- What if I can’t make it to the site at the time my shift begins?
- What if I need an accommodation for my disability?
Skills and Qualifications
- What kinds of skills do I need to be a tax volunteer? Do I need a financial background?
- What if I’m not interested in preparing taxes? Is there another way I can volunteer at a tax site?
Training and Certification
- Are there requirements to become a volunteer tax preparer?
- I already know how to do taxes. Do I need to attend training?
- I am a CPA. Do I need to attend all three classes for new volunteer preparers?
- How much training will I have to go through?
- How do I sign up for training and when will it take place?
- How will I get certified by the IRS?
- Can I get continuing education credits?
- How does in-person certification work?
- How does online certification work?
- What if I fail the certification test?
- What should I bring to my training classes and Proctored Certification Session?
Contact us at email@example.com or 202-547-7773 if you have additional questions.
FAQs & Answers
- We ask volunteers to commit to attending one 3-4 hour shift per week during the tax season (early February through April 18).
- Most shifts are on weekday evenings and during the day on Saturday and Sunday.
- In preparation for tax season, all volunteers take the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct training and attend a 2-4 hour orientation session at their volunteer location (tax site) the last week of January. Client Coordinators, SNAP Outreach volunteers, and Tax Preparers also must take required on-line and classroom training sessions.
- Each tax site and shift needs to have a volunteers with a variety of experience and skill levels so we generally cannot accommodate groups; however, some sites and shifts may be able to accommodate small groups. If you are interesting in volunteering as a group, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Tax sites are located throughout the DC metropolitan area. You select your location based on availability. We will do our best to ensure that everyone who registers for a site is able to volunteer at their selected tax site. However, if our sites are not evenly staffed, we may ask some volunteers to switch to another site.
- Transportation is available from the nearest Metro station to our United Planning Organization and Southeast Community Credit Center tax sites. At the Arlington site, transportation is available to the nearest Metro station at the end of the volunteer shift. Transportation is not provided to the other tax sites.
- Volunteering in a neighborhood that you have never visited is a great way to get to know a new community and a new part of the city. Most of the tax sites will hold orientation sessions before the official start of the tax season to help volunteers familiarize themselves with the site, partner organization, and neighborhood.
- help clients with intake so it is very important to arrive on time. If you aren’t able to be there at the beginning of the shift, please let your Site Coordinator know what time to expect you.
- are encouraged to get to the site as close to the beginning of the shift as possible. If work or other obligations force you to arrive later, you are still welcome to volunteer. Please let your Site Coordinator know what time to expect you.
- Please contact us at email@example.com, or 202-547-7773 at your earliest convenience. We will work with our hosts, partners and volunteers to try and meet your needs.
Skills and Qualifications
What kinds of skills do I need to be a tax volunteer? Do I need a financial background?
- Anyone can volunteer if they are willing to commit to learning, filling a necessary role at a tax site and meeting IRS established Volunteer Standards of Conduct. If you have prepared your own tax return, prepared returns for others, or have worked extensively with numbers, you should be able to qualify as a tax preparer. We use a computer based software program to complete the tax returns, so you need to be familiar with using a PC. We will provide training on the software package.
- All preparers will be trained by Community Tax Aid and certified by the IRS. Knowledge of languages in addition to English, including American Sign Language, and Spanish are skills as valued as accountancy, if you speak or sign a second language please volunteer and be sure to make note of it when you sign up.
- Absolutely! We need people to fill other positions as well, including:
- Greeters are the first volunteers to interact with the clients. The greeter greets the clients as they arrive, manages appointments and waiting lists so that clients are served in order, and assists with the smooth operation of the tax site.
- Client Coordinators help clients complete the intake documents and ensure that they qualify for our services and have all the necessary paperwork. After the returns are prepared, Client Coordinators review the outcomes with the taxpayer and ensure that they have copies of all returns before they leave the site.
- All new volunteer preparers must attend 3 4-hour training sessions in January. All tax preparers must pass the IRS certification test.
- Returning volunteer preparers who did not certify at Advanced in the past, should attend the Returning Preparer training classes. Returning preparers who previously certified at Advanced have the option of following the “self-study” training path.
- Yes. Our training focuses specifically on our clients’ needs, and will introduce you to the TaxWise software used to prepare returns as well as our tax site practices. Previous tax preparation experience is extremely helpful, but will generally not fully prepare you to volunteer at one of our sites.
- If you have extensive experience working with low-income clients, or have volunteered at another VITA program and do not want to attend first-year training, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-547-7773. We will work with you to identify an appropriate training and certification path.
- To answer this question, we will first ask you a couple of questions:
- What prior experience do you have with preparing tax returns for low-income individuals?
- How comfortable are you completing state tax returns in DC, Maryland, and Virginia?
- Have you used TaxWise software before?
- We have found in the past that some CPAs may not have dealt with many of the issues we see in low-income individual returns. We ask that all new preparer volunteers attend some in-person training in order to gain a better understanding of the tax site procedures, credits and other issues for low-income individuals, state and local tax issues, as well as training on the software package used at our sites. If you have some relevant VITA experience, please contact us at email@example.com. The returning preparer path, which will include an introduction to TaxWise and some state issues, may be an option for new volunteers with relevant experience.
- After you sign up for a volunteer location and role, you will receive an email with training registration instructions.
- All volunteers will complete the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct Exam on-line and will be given instructions for doing so. Preparers Reviewers, and Client Coordinators will also take the IRS Intake & Interview training and Exam. Additionally Preparers and Reviewers will also take the IRS tax law certification exam. The exam will be included as part of the Wrap Up Class for new volunteers. Experienced volunteers who have certified beyond basic in the past can also take the exam online at any time. All volunteers should plan to certify by January 31st, and no later than their first date of volunteering.
- The IRS offers CE credits to enrolled agents and registered return preparers who volunteer for a minimum of 10 hours as a reviewer or trainer. For CPAs, we have confirmed that Virginia will accept the IRS CE credits in theory. Review the
- for specific details.
- IMPORTANT. If you want to receive CE credit you will need to fill out the required information on your volunteer agreement and you must send email to firstname.lastname@example.org letting her know for which activities you plan to request CE credit.
- The Wrap Up class has time set aside to take the exam. A proctor will be available to answer questions and to help you navigate the software used to take the test. This process takes between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the volunteer. If you do not complete the test in class you may complete it at home or attend another class. You will need to score 80% or higher on a particular test to be certified at that level. When you pass, you will print your Volunteer Agreement with your completed certification score.
- We require first year volunteers to take the test in the IRS Certification Class. You will have two chances to pass your test, so be sure to take your time and answer questions carefully. The Certification Test takes between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the volunteer. You can take the test in one sitting, or save your answers and come back at a later time.
- You will need to score 80% or higher on a particular test to be certified at that level.
- Contact us at email@example.com for other volunteer options.
- We will provide training materials, but you should bring notepaper, and a pen or pencil.
- For all-day sessions, you will need to bring a lunch.
- For the Certification Session, you will need to bring the IRS materials you received at your training session.
- Please note that some of our training classes may take place in secure buildings with controlled access; please be sure to bring a picture ID with you so you can be admitted to the class.