Your Questions Answered
Frequently Asked Questions
Find answers to all of your questions about volunteering with the Free Tax Prep Program.
1. What is VITA or free tax prep?
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), also known as Free Tax Prep, is an IRS program that trains volunteers to help prepare basic tax returns for people who qualify based on income, individuals with disabilities, and limited English speakers.
2. What experience do I need to be a volunteer?
No experience is required, but tax return preparers will need a working knowledge of computers. We provide free training to help you learn everything you need to know to prepare accurate tax returns.
3. What is the time commitment?
We offer free training to new and returning volunteers. Training is about 36 hours long and includes opportunities and guidance to prepare simulated tax returns in a learning environment. While training is not required it is strongly encouraged for new volunteers as it will prepare you for the certification test that must be passed before you can prepare a client’s tax return as a volunteer. All volunteers must complete certification regardless of experience. After completing certification, you can decide how much and how often you would like to volunteer with flexible hours at several locations across the community.
4. What is the training process like?
Training is free and provided by an IRS-certified instructor. You may choose classroom, online learning, self-study or a combination of these options that will educate and prepare you for the tax season. All of our volunteer tests are open-book. All the reference and resource materials we provide may be used to complete the test. Certification is achieved after tests are successfully passed.
5. How many hours do I need to volunteer?
You may volunteer as much as you’d like. Generally, we ask that you volunteer a minimum of one shift per week. Shifts at sites vary from two to six hours.
6. Can preparers be held legally liable for errors on tax returns??
Our program is certified by the Internal Revenue Service and we follow policies and procedures to make sure every tax return prepared meets our high standards of quality and accuracy. However, if a mistake occurs, under the Volunteer Protection Act, as long as a volunteer prepares a return within the scope of his/her/their training, a volunteer cannot be held legally liable for errors, omissions, or any unintentional mistakes on a tax return.
7. What are the benefits of being a volunteer?
Serving as a VITA volunteer is a great way to gain job experience, build your community service hours for school, or help members of our community. In addition to learning valuable tax preparation skills, you can put this experience on your resume. It will help you to gain confidence and experience in the workplace and contribute to any community service hours you may need for school. You’ll also be able to prepare your own tax return with the knowledge you gain from volunteering.
8. What are the differences between volunteering virtually and in person?
Regardless of whether you volunteer with our virtual program or our in-person program, you must complete the same certification process. The same training is available to all volunteers with additional software training for virtual volunteers who will use an additional online system for managing client interactions. Volunteers in the virtual space tend to experience a slower pace, more flexible schedules, the flexibility of location, work more independently and are comfortable with digital documents. Volunteers working at in-person sites tend to work with around 3 clients per 4-hour shift, keep a more routine schedule, travel to their volunteer location, work in a team environment, and work with physical documents. Volunteers are not limited to choosing one option and may choose to volunteer at an in-person location as well as with our virtual model.