Volunteer FAQ

Below you will find answers to many of our volunteers’ Frequently Asked Questions.

Logistics

Skills and Qualifications

Training and Certification


Additional Questions

Please contact the Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@communitytaxaiddc.org or 202-547-7773 if you have any more questions.

FAQ & Answers

How much time will I have to commit?

    New Tax Preparer volunteers must commit to one 3-4 hour shift per week during the 11-week tax season (January 28 through April 15).  Client Coordinators are also encouraged to commit to one shift per week.  Most shifts are on weekday evenings and during the day on Saturday and Sunday.
    New Tax Preparer volunteers are also required to attend two 4-hour training sessions in January and take the IRS Certification test.  Client Coordinators should attend one 3-hour class in January, and are encouraged to take the new volunteer tax law class.

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Where will I be volunteering?

    Tax sites are located throughout the DC metropolitan area (including a few sites in Maryland and Northern Virginia).  You can select your preferred volunteer shift after completing your volunteer registration, pending availability.
    We will do our best to ensure that everyone who registers for a site is able to volunteer at their selected tax site.  However, if, close to the start of tax season, our sites are not evenly staffed, we may ask some volunteers to switch to another sites.

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Is transportation provided?

    Transportation is available from the nearest Metro station to our United Planning Organization and Southeast Community Credit Center tax sites, which are further from downtown DC.  At the Arlington site, transportation is available to the nearest Metro station at the end of the volunteer shift.  All the other DC sites are easily accessible by Metro.  Transportation is not provided to the other tax sites.

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Some of the sites are located in neighborhoods that I am not familiar with. How do I learn more about these neighborhoods and tax sites?

    Volunteering in a neighborhood that you have never visited is a great way to get to know a new community and a new part of the city.  
    Most of the tax sites will hold orientation sessions before the official start of the tax season to help volunteers familiarize themselves with the site, partner organization, and neighborhood.  

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What do I need to do before tax season?

    See our Volunteer Training page for specific instructions, including training requirements, based on volunteer position and years of experience.

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What if I can’t make it to the site at the time my shift begins?

    For Client Coordinators, getting to sites on time is very important as the first job at the site is to intake the clients.  If you aren’t able to be there at the beginning of the shift, you are still welcome to volunteer.   Please let your Site Coordinator know what time to expect you.
    For Tax Preparers, the more time you can spend at the site, the more returns you can prepare. You are encouraged to get to the site as close to the beginning of the shift as possible. If work or other obligations force you to arrive later, you are still welcome to volunteer. Please let your Site Coordinator know what time to expect you.

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What if I need an accommodation for my disability?

    Please contact the  Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@communitytaxaiddc.org or call 202-547-7773 at your earliest convenience. We will work with our hosts, partners and volunteers to try and meet your needs.

Skills and Qualifications

What kinds of skills do I need to be a tax volunteer? Do I need a financial background?

    Anyone can volunteer if they are willing to commit to learning, filling a necessary role at a tax site and meeting IRS established Volunteer Standards of Conduct. If you have prepared your own tax return, prepared returns for others, or have worked extensively with numbers, you should be able to qualify as a tax preparer.  We use a computer based software program to complete the tax returns, so you need to be familiar with using a PC. We will provide training on the TaxWise software package.
    All preparers will be trained by Community Tax Aid and certified by the IRS. Knowledge of languages in addition to English, including American Sign Language, are skills as valued as accountancy, if you speak or sign a second language please volunteer and be sure to make note of it when you sign up.

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What if I'm not interested in preparing taxes, is there another way I can volunteer at tax time?

    Absolutely! We need people to fill other positions as well, including:
    • Greeters Greeters are the first volunteers to interact with the clients. The greeter greets the clients as they arrive, manages appointments and waiting lists so that clients are served in order, and assists with the smooth operation of the tax site.
    • Client Coordinators: Client Coordinators help clients complete the intake documents and ensure that they qualify for our services and have all the necessary paperwork. After the returns are prepared, Client Coordinators review the outcomes with the taxpayer and ensure that they have copies of all returns before they leave the site.
    • Interpreters: In addition to tax preparers, we need people proficient in Spanish, Amharic, Mandarin, American Sign Language, Cantonese, and Fukien to provide interpretation. You need to be fluent one of these languages, but do not need a special knowledge of financial terms. 

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    Training and Certification

    Are there requirements to become a volunteer tax preparer?

      All new volunteer preparers must attend 3 4-hour training sessions in January.  All tax preparers must pass the IRS certification test.
      Returning volunteer preparers who did not certify at Advanced in the past, should attend the Returning Preparer training classes. Returning preparers who previously certified at Advanced have the option of following the "self-study" training path.

    See our Volunteer Training page for specific training requirements.

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    I already know how to do taxes.  Do I need to come to training?

      Yes.  Our training focuses specifically on our clients’ needs, and will introduce you to the TaxWise software used to prepare returns as well as our tax site practices.  Previous tax preparation experience is extremely helpful, but will generally not fully prepare you to volunteer at one of our sites.
      If you have extensive experience working with low-income clients, or have volunteered at another VITA program and do not want to attend first-year training, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at volunteer@communitytaxaiddc.org or call 202-547-7773. We will work with you to identify an appropriate training and certification path.

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    I am a CPA? Do I need to attend all three classes for new volunteer preparers?

      To answer this question, we will first ask you a couple of questions:
      • What prior experience do you have with preparing tax returns for low-income individuals?
      • How comfortable are you completing state tax returns in DC, Maryland, and Virginia?
      • Have you used TaxWise software before?

      We have found in the past that some CPAs may not have dealt with many of the issues we see in low-income individual returns.  We ask that all new preparer volunteers attend some in-person training in order to gain a better understanding of the tax site procedures, credits and other issues for low-income individuals, state and local tax issues, as well as training on the software package used at our sites.  If you have some relevant VITA experience, please contact our volunteer coordinator (volunteer@communitytaxaiddc.org). The returning preparer path, which will include an introduction to TaxWise and some state issues, may be an option for new volunteers with relevant experience.

    How much training will I have to go through?

      After completing the training outlined below, all tax preparation volunteers must take an IRS certification test (1-4 hours).

      New volunteer tax preparers are required to attend one 4-hour session covering Tax Law, as well as one 4-hour TaxWise computer training on the use of TaxWise software, take additional online training as directed and take the proctored exam.

      2nd year volunteers should take Returning Preparer Tax Law, Returning Preparer TaxWise and certification session.

      Volunteers with 2+ years of experience take a 4-hour Refresher Topics lecture OR the IRS online Returning Preparing Training and certify online. These experienced volunteers are encouraged to take Advanced Topics & IRS Certification And Quality Reviewer Training.

    Click Here for a full description of training requirements.

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    How do I sign up for training and when will it take place?

      Tax training registration is through Community Tax Aid’s website, and trainings will occur throughout January. Registration Instructions can be found here.

    Please see our Volunteer Training page for specific training requirements and a calendar of available trainings.

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    How will I get certified by the IRS?

      All volunteers will complete the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct Exam on-line and will be given instructions for doing so.

      Preparer and Reviewer volunteers will also take the Advanced IRS tax law certification exam. The exam will be included as part of the Wrap Up Class for new volunteers. Experienced volunteers who have certified beyond basic in the past can also take the exam online at any time.
      All volunteers should plan to certify by January 24th, and no later than their first date of volunteering.

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    Can I get continuing education credits?

      The IRS offers CE credits to enrolled agents and registered return preparers who volunteer.
      For CPAs, we have confirmed that Virginia will accept the IRS CE credits in theory and are working with DC. We will share more information when we have it. Send an email to miren@communitytaxaiddc.org if you are interested in submitting a request.

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    How does the in-class exam work?

      The Wrap Up class has time set aside to take the exam.  A proctor will be available to answer questions and to help you navigate the software used to take the test.  This process takes  between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the volunteer. If you do not complete the test in class you may complete it at home or attend another class.
      You will need to score 80% or higher on a particular test to be certified at that level.  When you pass, you will print your Volunteer Agreement with your completed certification score.
      Finally, do not forget to submit your signed Volunteer Agreement, with your score included, along with a photo ID to your Site Coordinator at your first volunteer shift.

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    How does online certification work?

      We require first year volunteers to take the test in the IRS Certification Class. Online certification is available for returning volunteers through Link & Learn.  You will have two chances to pass your test, so be sure to take your time and answer questions carefully.  The Certification Test takes between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the volunteer.  You can take the test in one sitting, or save your answers and come back at a later time.

      You will need to score 80% or higher on a particular test to be certified at that level.

      Finally, do not forget to submit your signed Volunteer Agreement, with your score included, to your site manager at your first volunteer shift.

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    What if I fail the online certification test?

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    What should I bring to my training classes?

      We will provide training materials, but you should bring notepaper, a pen or pencil, and a calculator.

      For all-day sessions, you will need to bring a lunch.  For the Certification Session, you will need to bring the IRS materials you received at your training session.

      Please note that some of our training classes may take place in secure buildings with controlled access; please be sure to bring a picture ID with you so you can be admitted to the class.

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