Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Partner Responsibilities
The Volunteer Program helps lower income, elderly, non-English speaking and disabled individuals in the preparation of state and federal income tax returns. Volunteers that successfully complete a Franchise Tax Board (FTB) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) training program provide FREE assistance from February to April.
You provide a valuable service by sponsoring a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site, and coordinating the program at the local level. As a partner your responsibilities include:
Normally, you will select volunteer coordinators from your staff or membership to manage these duties.
The following information is beneficial in fulfilling the responsibilities:
Generally, recruit volunteers from your own organization. Volunteers may also include members of existing retirement, religious, military or civic groups, social action organizations, and employees of social service agencies. College students enrolled in accounting and business administration programs, law students and members of professional business organizations volunteer as well. Use available recruitment posters to list contact information and individual inquiries will be forwarded to you.
The program is publicized on a statewide basis with news releases, Internet, radio and television public service announcements through FTB and the IRS. However, the best-organized volunteer program won't get off the ground without good local publicity. Posters can be ordered via FTB Form 2333V-CA. Contact your local FTB or IRS coordinator for more information.
Scheduling Training and Providing a Training Site
Volunteer training varies depending upon the clientele to be and upon the experience level of the volunteers. The training contains line-by-line instructions for the preparation of simple state and federal income tax returns, volunteer forms, and volunteer procedures. A typical class takes 40 hours. Internet training and self-study options require attendance at one eight hour classroom session to complete. Work with the local coordinator to select dates and times for volunteer training. Make arrangements to provide the training room or facility. Find FTB and IRS coordinator names, along with telephone number and address information, included in the VITA brochure distributed to sites by the IRS.
Choose locations where assistance will be available close to the VITA/TCE target groups - elderly, low income, disabled and non-English speaking. Attempt to choose a site with adequate parking and/or accessible by public transportation and provides disabled access. Good choices for volunteer income tax assistance sites include:
- Community centers
- Social action agencies
- Church halls
- Culture centers
- Nutrition sites
- Recreation centers
Try to secure a room with some degree of privacy for clients while their returns are prepared.
If possible, select locations where a telephone is available so the volunteers can call the IRS and FTB "Volunteer Hotline" for technical assistance as needed.
Determine assistance dates and times and maintain a set schedule. Decide in advance when you want to offer assistance, for example, every Monday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A specific schedule makes your publicity much easier. In addition, if the volunteers are at the site on a scheduled basis, people who are assisted early in the program can tell others about your site. When the schedule is finalized, complete the Site Information form (FTB 4595PIT). Complete one for each site and return it as soon as possible to FTB and IRS.
Determine volunteer availability. Attempt to schedule an experienced volunteer with less experienced volunteers whenever possible. A one volunteer site is not desirable, if you find it necessary contact your district coordinator or IRS or FTB coordinator for assistance.
Do not hesitate to change the number of volunteers at a site if the "traffic flow" warrants. It will take time to build up a clientele. Most people prefer to go to the same location time after time and they generally prefer the same person to assist them if possible. Advise the FTB Coordinator immediately of any change in hours or location. Correct any publicity to reflect the changes. If a site moves, leave the new address at the old location. The FTB webpage has hyperlinks to sites for the IRS and AARP. Find a current site list on the Internet at ftb.ca.gov. For this reason, timely updates are a necessity.
If the volunteer site is located where someone is available to take phone calls and make appointments, or where a sign-up sheet can be posted between assistance times, try the "appointment" method of assistance. Allow adequate time for each client.
FTB and IRS Coordinators instruct volunteers that taxpayer information is confidential. Volunteers should not, under any circumstances, discuss taxpayer information with anyone other than their site coordinator, FTB or IRS coordinator when necessary to prepare an accurate return. To enhance the privacy of taxpayers/clients, arrange the assistance area so that others cannot see or overhear the information shared with the volunteer.
Site coordinators request volunteers keep statistics and the statistics are forwarded as designated by IRS, AARP, or FTB.
Managing a Volunteer Site
Maintain a list of all volunteers scheduled at each site. Require volunteers to inform the site coordinator when they are unable to work a scheduled date and time. Ask them to locate a substitute. It is critical for you to adequately staff the sites and provide operating hours as scheduled.
Check with your FTB or IRS Coordinator for the current tax form ordering procedure. Before the sites open, ascertain that the site has sufficient forms and materials. Once the sites are open, encourage the volunteers to use the toll-free IRS or FTB Hotline for technical assistance. Report all problems to the IRS or FTB Volunteer Coordinator.
FTB and IRS recognize the volunteers through joint certificates of appreciation, either mailed directly to the volunteer or presented to the volunteers in a recognition ceremony. The site coordinator oftentimes receives blank certificates to complete and disburse to the volunteers. If you plan a recognition ceremony, invite the local FTB and IRS volunteer program coordinators. The ceremony can be as formal or informal, as you like. Many partners organize an end of the season potluck. You may want to combine your recognition event with an evaluation meeting.
Many of the volunteers have valuable experience in the program. They are devoted workers interested in tax preparation. Most returning volunteers use an established site location and maintain a loyal client following. As a partner, remember when you meet with your volunteers, don’t hesitate to try and recruit one or more of them to assist you in the partner duties, thus making it easier on yourself and your agency.
Example Calendar of Activities
Remember, the earlier you begin planning, the better your program will be
- Contact experienced volunteers and recruit new volunteers for the Volunteer Income Tax Program.
- Complete the required forms available on the FTB website and email or fax to the volunteer coordinator.
- Begin and confirm selection of service sites.
- Order training materials
- Site Coordinator and software training with IRS. Some areas begin volunteer training.
- Begin planning publicity for filing season
- Complete late orders for materials and confirm receipt of needed tax materials.
- Some training classes begin
- VITA/TCE training classes begin.
- Determine dates and times of service sites.
- Publish site locations in mass media.
- Draft other items of publicity.
- Collect statistics from your volunteers. The Volunteer Information Sheets for all certified volunteers should be sent to FTB. The AARP statistical database should be updated by your AARP Local Coordinator.
- Check FTB and IRS website for correct site information. Make necessary corrections.
- Review site activity.
- Enhance publicity campaign.
- Collect statistics from your volunteers. Run TaxWise reports. Adjust schedules accordingly.
- Inform FTB and IRS of site scheduling changes.
- Review site activity.
- More publicity, final filing date coming up.
- Run TaxWise reports.
- Prepare end-of-season evaluation meeting. Invite FTB and IRS.
- Plan volunteer appreciation event. Certificates available from FTB and IRS.
- Close up site Secure commitment for next year’s operation.