As the community prepares to go into tax season, the United Way of Junction City/Geary County is in need of volunteers to help with its VITA program.
The VITA program, which the local United Way offers annually to qualifying local households, helps senior citizens, people with disabilities, people with limited English proficiency and those from low to moderate income households prepare their taxes for free.
Through the program, trained VITA volunteers will prepare basic income tax returns. The IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free basic tax return preparation to qualified individuals.
While the IRS manages the VITA program, the VITA sites are managed by IRS partners and staffed by their volunteers who want to make a difference in their communities. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.
VITA services are not only free, they are also a reliable and trusted source for preparing tax returns. All VITA volunteers who prepare returns must take and pass tax law training that meets or exceeds IRS standards. This training includes maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information.
People who wish to volunteer can learn to prepare taxes and make a difference in the community at the same time by helping to prepare taxes free of charge with the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs.
Volunteers will be trained to provide free tax help for low-to-moderate income families who need assistance preparing their tax returns.
Tax volunteers will be assigned to work with a sponsoring organization — such as the local United Way — first for training and then to begin volunteering at a location in the community. Volunteers can receive training both online and through in-person classrooms.
The hours are flexible, with sites often being open nights and weekends.
Most of these tax help sites, including the one at the local United Way, offer one-on-one help to taxpayers from IRS-certified volunteers who prepare their taxes for them, so volunteers are needed locally during tax season.
Even those who do not know much about taxes yet are welcome to volunteer, because they will receive free, specialized IRS training. Volunteers are also needed for roles that won’t require a certification in tax law.
Possible volunteer roles include:
Greeter/Screener: These people greet everyone visiting the site in the hopes of creating a pleasant atmosphere. They will screen taxpayers to determine the type of assistance they need and confirm they have the necessary documents to complete their tax returns. Tax law certification is not required for this position.
Interpreter: These volunteers provide free language interpreter services to customers who are not fluent in English. Basic tax knowledge is helpful, but it is not required for this position.
Tax Preparer: These volunteers complete and successfully certify in tax law training, including the use of electronic filing software, to provide free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers.
Quality Reviewer: These volunteers review tax returns completed by volunteer tax preparers, ensuring that every taxpayer receives top quality service and that the tax returns are error-free. People must be tax law certified at least at the Intermediate level to volunteer on this level.