Help families in Southwest Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeast Indiana file their taxes, claim credits, and get the refunds they’ve earned.
- All Volunteers must complete an application and pass 2 tests:
- Volunteer Standards of Conduct Test
- Intake/Interview and Quality Review.
- Tax Preparation Volunteers must also:
- learn TaxSlayer software
- pass an IRS certification test (either basic or advanced), which involves completing sample tax returns and answer questions)
- All tests are taken on the IRS LinkandLearn certification website which requires a username and password. All certifications are documented after completing tests at the link and learn testing site
- We ask volunteers to commit to a minimum of 3 volunteer shifts (12 hours)
Step 1: Sign Up to Volunteer
- Recommended: Attend an optional in person information session (starting October 2017). These sessions will cover this information in detail.
- Learn more about the volunteer tax preparer roles and responsibilities here.
- Make sure that the tax site dates and locations can fit your schedule. Most sites are Saturday mornings or weeknights. The opportunity directory of sites needing volunteers is here.
- ** Complete a United Way tax volunteer signup form
- Determine your training pathway:
- First or second year tax preparation volunteers should attend Classroom training and take the BASIC Tax Certification Test.
- Experienced tax preparation volunteers, tax professionals, CFAs and other seeking CEUs, and ambitious 2nd year preparers may take classroom training or may study online on your own, and should take the ADVANCED Test.
- Additional Specialized tax topic classes are offered for advanced preparers (see training calendar).
- Greeters should take our Volunteer Income Tax Intro (Class 1) (see online training guide)
- Interpreters, data entry assistance, tech help, appointment takers and other specialty volunteers will take the Volunteer Standards of Conduct Test ONLY (Step 2.4 below). Specialty training will be provided on an individual basis.
Step 2: Train
- Attend Classroom Training– sign up using our Volunteer Training Class Calendar. Classes are held on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Get your training and testing materials: Training materials are available in training class or can be downloaded online or picked up during business hours at the United Way, 2400 Reading Road, Cincinnati.
- Create your IRS certification test user account at “Link and Learn” under Certification Tests.
- Volunteer Standards of Conduct Test: The Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSOC) Exam is a prerequisite to all other courses. This information is mandatory for all VITA volunteers, and you may not proceed to any other exams until you pass this one. There are 10 questions. To take the VSOC Test:
– Review either our Volunteer Standards of Conduct Summary or the more indepth IRS information.
– Log in to your account at the IRS IRS’ training and certification site, called “Link and Learn”
– In the first column, under the heading “Course name,” click on the link for Volunteer Standards of Conduct – Exam. This opens a description dialog box.
– Within this window, click Launch on the upper right to start the exam and complete your Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSOC) Test.
- Intake/Interview and Quality Review Test: This test shows you understand the VITA rules and process. Technology volunteers and coaches do not need this test. Interpreters, Greeters and Tax Preparers need this test to show they understand the process for taxpayers.
– View the powerpoint slideshow for Intake Interview and Quality Review.
– At VITA/TCE Central www.linklearncertification.com log in with your username and password.
– In the left hand column, select the “Intake Interview and Quality Review”
– Launch and take the Intake and Quality Review test.
- Learn Taxslayer Software:
- Our VITA Tax Preparation Class includes an introduction to TaxSlayer. Experienced tax preparers who study tax law on their own and take a specialized Taxslayer class instead of our general tax preparation class (see training calendar).
- Use online training videos as an introduction to Taxslayer. These are 3 20-minute videos walking you through Taxslayer. Pause the videos and practice!
- Set up an account in the TaxSlayer Practice Lab. PracticeLab is a demonstration version of the software that does not file taxes with IRS.
- The Access Code to Log in is TRAINPROWEB.
- Entering the Access Code will takes you to a log in page where you SIGN IN, (if you have used taxslayer practice lab before) or CREATE ACCOUNT to set up a username and password for the practice lab.
- First time: Click on Create Account and enter your name, email address.
- The practice lab username must be different from the username you use to prepare taxes. Write down your username!! It is impossible to retrieve it.
- Your volunteer type is VITA. Skip the question about SIDN- you don’t need one. You will also need to select a security question.
- Multiple training videos are provided on the bottom of the first page.
- Use Practice Lab to practice using the software and preparing tax returns. Multiple training videos are provided on the bottom of the first page.
You’ll need enter the following information to set up your account: Group: 01 – VITA Volunteer; Do you want to take the Site Coordinator course?: No; Training Source: Link and Learn Taxes Additional help on navigating Link and Learn for study and testing is in the Getting-Started-Job-Aid
Step 3: Test and Certify
- The test is open book and is not timed. Take your time and use your reference materials. This test is not about memorization but about your ability to research and apply information.
- Each certification test requires the volunteer to complete several tax returns and answer questions based on the results.
- Use your reference materials! The IRS Pub 4012, handed out at training class, is your best resource.
- The test scenarios are designed to test your ability to apply tax law; they are often more challenging than returns you’ll see a tax site.
- The questions, scenarios and details will be the ones in your test booklet, but the answers may not be in the same order as in the test booklet.
- Additional information about moving through the test screens online is available at: Certification tutorial (pdf).
3.2 Practice tax preparation by completing the Certification test in the test booklet IRS Pub 6744 to prepare sample returns.
- When you find tax law areas that are difficult for you:
- study those topics in more depth using IRS’ Link and Learn training site for individual interactive lessons on tax topics. (You do not need a password for these lessons.) The lessons will refer frequently to a written curriculum, Publication 4491, which is available in pdf form online; in each lesson there will be a link on the right of the screen which links to the appropriate pages in Publication 4491.
- Attend in person tax practice sessions (see calendar)
- Alternately, see the online training guide for additional training resources such as videos.
- Contact United Way if you need help with specific tax questions or if you’d like us to set you up with a training buddy to work through deeper problems.
- Complete the alternate Tax Certification Test in the test booklet (6744). Once you have completed both tests, you are ready to take the certification tests.
3.3 Take the certification test online:
- Sign on to the test at the Link and Learn Testing site. See step 2 above for information on logons to this site.
- You will only be able to launch the tests after you complete the prerequisite tests (See step 2 above). Without these, the “Launch” option will be greyed out.
- Select the appropriate exam in the first column of the screen; a new box will open up. Then click Launch.
- Use your test booklet and the sample tax returns you prepared in step 4 above.
- Enter the answers to the test questions using the tax returns you have completed. Be sure to read the test on the screen- sometimes question and answer order can differ from the information in the test booklet.
- After clicking Submit, the Certification Test Results screen will be displayed. On this screen, you can view:
- Your total score for the exam (at the bottom of the screen). The passing score is 80%.
- Feedback for incorrect questions, along with links to the Link & Learn Taxes lesson with the information needed to answer the test question. This is your personalized review lesson; use these links to study specific content as needed.
- Each test can be taken up to two times. If you fail the test the first time, look over the test summary, which will tell you the areas you answered incorrectly. You can study these in Link and Learn before taking the test again. If you fail a second time, switch from the advanced to the basic test or from basic to advanced.
- If your test won’t launch: several volunteers have experienced an error where their advanced or basic test lacks a “launch” button. If this is the case:
- After logging into the linklearn test platform, go to “my account” (blue navigation bar above the test box.);
- In my account details, second or third question is “do you want to take site coordinator test?” Answer NO;
- Click SAVE at bottom right;
- Return to basic tab, test should now launch normally.
3.4. Print your volunteer agreement (Form 13615). After each test, your certification will be stored in VITA/TCE Central. After you complete your tests, your certification screen will update to show that you are certified as a tax preparer. To document this, you must digitally sign and print Form 13615, Volunteer Agreement. You must bring this form with you each time you volunteer.
- To find the agreement, look on the left side of the certification page.
- Digitally sign by clicking the check-box next to the statement, “You may sign your Volunteer Agreement electronically by checking this box.”
- Open and print the volunteer agreement form.
- You can click also Print Certificate in the Pass/Fail column to print a certificate of completion for your files if you choose. However, this certificate is not used at the tax site.
Step 4: Schedule
- Tax Volunteer Center allows you to schedule yourself for training and shows your current schedule.
- We will periodically email you the locations needing volunteers.
- On tax day: Please arrive 20 minutes prior to the start of the tax session. Bring
- Photo ID,
- Your workbooks, and handouts and reference materials
- Form 13615 (volunteer agreement) See step 4 number 4 above for instructions.
- Bad weather: If heavy snowstorms are expected, dial 2-1-1 to find out if your tax site will be open. Sites close in Level 2 and 3 emergencies.
- If you are scheduled and must cancel, please contact the site coordinator.
Advanced Resources and Links
- IRS Site Coordinator Corner
- Info for Cincinnati Area Site Coordinators
- Pub 4961 Volunteer Standards of Conduct– Ethics Training; training materials and test. Summary.
- Publication 4491: Student Training Guide: This is the print version of the Link & Learn courses for basic and advanced tax law training.
- Publication 4491-W: Comprehensive Problems and Exercises Workbook: Provides tax return scenarios for volunteers to complete using TaxWise online training (for training purposes only). Pub 4491w answers for 2016
- Publication 4012: Volunteer Resource Guide Provides a quick and easy way to find answers to common questions such as: “What is the correct filing status?” “Who qualifies as a dependent?” “What income is considered taxable?”
- Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Return: An extension of Pub. 4012, Pub. 17 provides the most comprehensive information regarding any tax question.
- Online training (IRS Link and Learn)Online videos from Refund Ohio
- State tax training
- Intake and quality review training: (slideshow from IRS)
- PracticeLab for TaxSlayerSoftware: Use TrainProWeb to access the practice Lab
Download the print version of the volunteer-training-guide here.
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