Frequently Asked Questions: Volunteering with VITA
Frequently Asked Questions: Volunteering with VITA
What is the time commitment for volunteering?
We ask that you commit a minimum of 8 hours per week. With over 20 locations in Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan, you can volunteer where it is most convenient for you. Most VITA sites operate for only three or four hours on scheduled days, so many volunteers commit one or two days a week. Please refer to the list of Urban Upbound VITA locations and hours.
Am I liable for the tax returns I prepare?
The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 protects volunteers from liability for negligent acts they perform within the scope of their responsibilities in the organization for which they volunteer. The Act excludes conduct that is willful or criminal, grossly negligent, or reckless, or that constitutes a conscious, vagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual potentially harmed by the volunteer. Basically, if volunteers are performing their responsibilities under the Volunteer Standards of Conduct, they are protected.
What do I do when arriving at the site?
All volunteers are asked to arrive at the VITA location 10-15 minutes before their scheduled volunteer time. When arriving, please be sure to sign in with your Site Coordinator. If volunteering at a VITA site for the first time, please remember to bring your signed Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSoC) Agreement and a photo ID to verify your identity. Each site you volunteer at (if more than one) will need to have a copy of your signed VSoC Agreement.
When taxpayers arrive, a Greeter will distribute the Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet and ensure that taxpayers have the required documentation needed to complete the return. Once the taxpayer has been screened by the Greeter, you will go over the Intake/Interview & Quality Review form with the taxpayer then enter the information into the software. When completing the return, your Site Coordinator or a volunteer certified at the appropriate level will conduct a Quality Review of the return. Once the return is completed, the tax return will get printed, reviewed and signed by the taxpayer and will be informed of their responsibility for the information on the return.
Do we file federal and state tax returns?
Yes, the VITA program files both federal and state tax returns. Using the provided information, the TaxSlayer software automatically completes the state return.
How complicated is the average return?
The average return you will prepare will be relatively simple. The VITA program has limitations on what volunteers can and cannot prepare. These “out-of-scope” returns are considered to be too complicated and will be referred to a professional tax preparer.
How much time does it take to prepare a tax return?
Taxpayer appointments will be scheduled at 1/2 hour intervals. Although it probably will not take you an hour to complete a return, this ensures that you have enough time for each return and are not rushed.
What if I have a problem with a return?
Volunteers will only prepare returns that are within the scope of their training. Your Site Coordinator will be certified at the Advanced Level and is able to provide assistance if needed. Please keep in mind that the Volunteer Resource Guide (Publication 4012) and Publication 17 can be used as reference materials. Please do not hesitate to ask your Site Coordinator if you are unsure about the complexity of a tax return or if something seems unusual or questionable regarding the tax return.
Although I have completed the required training, I am nervous about making a mistake. What ensures that I prepare each return correctly?
The VITA program has several ways of ensuring that each return is prepared correctly. Taxpayers will initially be screened by Intake Specialists (or “Greeters”) when entering the location. The Intake/Interview & Quality Review process ensures that the information is entered into the TaxSlayer software is correct. The return will then undergo the Quality Review process by your Site Coordinator or a volunteer certified at the appropriate level. Before any return is submitted, it is printed and reviewed with the taxpayer. Basically, three sets of eyes review the return before it is submitted. Also, the TaxSlayer software will not allow any tax return to be submitted if the information provided is incomplete or inconsistent.
How do I schedule my volunteer hours?
After you submit your Volunteer Registration Form, you will be contacted to confirm contact information, availability, training dates, and site preference(s) by VITA Program staff and/or your Site Coordinator.
Please remember that all volunteers must complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct regardless of their role in the VITA Program. If you are volunteering as a tax preparer, you must complete your certification prior to volunteering at a VITA site.
What if I cannot make it to my scheduled volunteer time?
Please contact your Site Coordinator or VITA Program staff and notify them of your absence as soon as possible so that other arrangements can be made.
What do I do in the event of inclement weather?
Generally, VITA sites will follow the County School District if closed due to inclement weather. However, certain VITA sites may open as scheduled if volunteers and Site Coordinators feel they are able to safely arrive to the VITA Site. All closings and openings are ultimately at the discretion of the VITA Program Coordinator. You will receive an email or phone notification by your Site Coordinator and/or VITA Program staff in the event of inclement weather.
Can I have my tax return prepared at a VITA site?
Absolutely! Generally, anyone earning under $54,000 is eligible for the VITA service!