It’s not often that the word “taxes” leads to a discussion about volunteer opportunities. But there actually is a chance for you to turn tax season into a time for giving back to your community.
There are a lot of people out there—the elderly, the disabled, folks who don’t speak English as their first language—who need help filing their taxes. If they can’t afford to pay someone to do it for them, what are they to do?
That’s where you come in. The Internal Revenue Service has two volunteer programs—Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)—designed to provide free tax help to those people who qualify for the program. You could find yourself doing a range of things, from greeting people to becoming a certified tax preparer.
If you are interested in lending a hand, check with your local senior centers or other service organizations to find out where tax help will be available in the Upper Valley this year. And don’t be put off by the fact that you’re not a financial whiz. There are numerous ways that you can help, and training is available if you want to become a volunteer tax preparer.
- You don’t have to be a CPA to greet people as they walk through the door and ask them some preliminary questions. Your job is to create a welcoming environment, determine the type of assistance that is needed, and make sure clients have the necessary documents to complete their tax returns.
- If you speak a second language, your services as an interpreter would be greatly appreciated. It would be fantastic if you also had some basic tax knowledge, but just being able to communicate with clients in their own language is a huge help in and of itself.
- Site Coordinator. Every volunteer organization needs someone with good organizational skills. If you can make up the volunteer schedules, keep supplies in stock, look after the equipment, and generally be of use whenever an issue arises, you’ll be a godsend. Tax law certification is sometimes—but not always—required for this position.
- Tax Preparer. You can’t prepare people’s taxes until you complete certified tax law training and have learned how to use electronic filing software. But the IRS can teach you everything you need to know through online courses, training kits, and printed materials. Get started by visiting the IRS website, under volunteer training resources.
- Quality Reviewer. In order to do this job, you have to be tax law certified at least at the intermediate level. You will double check tax returns that were prepared by volunteers, and make sure that the returns are error free.
- Computer Guru. If the computers aren’t working, nothing is working. And you don’t have to know anything about tax law in order to help the other VITA and TCE volunteers do their job when the darned machines start acting up. Bringing your tech savvy—and your patience—to the organization can truly make a difference.