VITA Center volunteers may serve as tax preparers, greeters, screeners, schedulers, assistants and perform other work as determined by the VITA Center’s specific needs.
Only Certified VITA Tax Preparer volunteers may assist taxpayers with preparing and e-filing their taxes.
Becoming certified as Vita Tax Preparer requires satisfactory completion of an open-book test each year. Annual certification is required even if you are a tax professional. Certification and training to prepare taxes for the VITA program are different from certification and training to prepare taxes for pay. Experienced paid tax preparers may not need the training, but still need to become VITA-certified by taking a multiple choice open-book test. The purpose of the open-book test is to make sure you are familiar with filling out tax forms and can follow instructions.
Free Tax Preparation Training for the VITA program is given by the IRS as well as our partner organizations. The minimum requirement for a volunteer tax preparer in VITA is satisfactory completion of an open-book test related to tax law. Free tax preparation training is offered to help pass this exam.
All new tax preparers are urged to take the TaxWise software training if they have not already done so, since that is the tax software provided and supported by VITA to the different sites. Please click here http://indyscampaign.org/wp/?page_id=125
First-time preparers are strongly urged to attend classroom training to learn the details of tax law. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Returning preparers who may find it more convenient to do self-study or online study should click here http://indyscampaign.org/wp/?page_id=125. They may complete a “What’s New This Year” lesson and then certify at the level appropriate to their training and experience.
Recruitment and Training
Volunteers are an essential part of the VITA initiative. The number of trained and dedicated volunteers directly affects the number of residents who can be served by the VITA Center.
Certification Levels for Volunteer Tax Preparers are Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Military, International, Puerto Rico and Foreign Student.
Depending on the level of certification, volunteers are taught to correctly identify filing status and to prepare returns with wages, tips, interest, dividends, unearned income, Social Security, retirement income and self-employed income for Schedule C-EZ. Filling in Schedules C, D, and E are not part of the training or requirement for VITA volunteers.
All volunteers must complete the Basic course. Volunteers who are certified in Basic can prepare returns within the scope of the Basic course. Volunteers can stop with Basic or proceed with other courses. Volunteers can only prepare returns for the level at which they have been certified. Quality reviewers and Instructors must be certified at the Intermediate level or higher. (Note: The Foreign Student course does not require Basic certification.)
- Basic Course will certify the completion of wage-earner returns such as Forms 1040-EZ, 1040-A and simple Forms 1040.
- Intermediate Course will certify completion of wage and pension-earner returns and more complex Forms 1040.
- Advanced Course will certify the completion of the full scope of returns prepared by the volunteer tax return preparation programs.
- Military Course will certify the completion of the full scope of returns presented by members of the Armed Forces, Reserve and National Guard.
- International will certify the completion of returns for taxpayers, both military and non-military taxpayers, living outside the United States and assisted by volunteers working at U.S. Embassies and Consulates or military installations. This course includes Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Tax Credit.
- Puerto Rico will cover topics for U.S. citizens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico who must file a U.S. federal income tax return.
- Foreign Student is used as a training tool for volunteer tax return preparers who assist foreign students and scholars in preparing their returns. It covers determination of residency status and application of treaty benefits in addition to other federal tax issues commonly faced by foreign nationals. There is no prerequisite for this course.
The Tax Law Training teaches the basic concepts of income tax law and is sufficient for preparing tax returns on paper. Additional training is required to prepare taxes electronically. The IRS training for VITA volunteers does not qualify a volunteer to give tax advice or complete tax returns for pay; the different requirements apply for preparing tax returns for pay. In addition, VITA volunteers prepare simple returns.
There are multiple opportunities for your group to receive the necessary training and certification support, including:
- Online Training – You can do this in the privacy of your own home, at your own pace, and each time you successfully complete a module, you can print out a certificate here: http://indyscampaign.org/wp/?page_id=125.
- Webinars – Facilitated Discussion Groups
- Self- study
- Face-to-Face Group Training
- Onsite Sessions – only available for participating partners recruiting more than 15 tax preparers
- Community-Based Sessions