Author Topic: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer  (Read 1580 times)

GreenToTheCore

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Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« on: March 27, 2019, 01:07:03 PM »
VITA is a pretty neat program where they give you tax training and you get to help folks fill out their taxes on a TurboTax-like program. I just spent a few hours entering submissions for wards of the state (they need their refunds, too).
https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-free-tax-return-preparation-programs
https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-tax-volunteers

Background
- They train you
- You aren't liable as a tax preparer. You're there to enter the information they give you.
- You're with a group of other preparers so you have a good support system/aren't alone in trying to figure out a question

Pros
- You get to help people and, oh boy, they need your help. These are folks that can't afford to get a fine for not submitting taxes.
One lady was a recent widow, with <10k income for the year, and her house was robbed. Rough year. It was nice to help her check one thing off her to-do list.
- Great way to pay forward our math/logic skills
- You get to learn more about taxes. They aren't so intimidating once you do a couple and you learn tips/tricks along the way.

Cons
- Can't think of much...time?  A few hours a month doesn't seem like a bad trade-off to learn tips/tricks about how to do my own taxes.
- You'll realize/it'll be confirmed that most people don't understand our tax system (low or high earners). It'll take extra willpower to keep your mouth shut in general conversation.

solon

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2019, 01:38:14 PM »
Good idea! I just signed up.

DadJokes

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2019, 02:39:20 PM »
I did VITA every year while in college. Besides helping me to understand the tax code better than my tax class ever did, it provides a service to people who would otherwise be overpaying the H&R Blocks of the world money they have very little of for a pretty simple service.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #3 on: March 28, 2019, 02:41:51 PM »
I've been doing this for the current tax season. Most of the people I see are due a pretty significant (to them) refund, and it's so nice to help them get it.

mlipps

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2019, 02:47:11 PM »
6 years and counting for me. However, I accidentally turned it into a side gig a few years ago & earn $20/hour as a manager for the site. I just work one weeknight a week and Saturdays. Honestly it's a little exhausting and I usually end up using the money on a much needed vacation after tax season, but I still really love doing it.

solon

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #5 on: March 28, 2019, 03:09:49 PM »
I signed up yesterday but haven't even received an acknowledgement email yet. They must be too busy with tax season right now. I bet they'll contact me in the fall to get ready for the next tax season.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #6 on: March 28, 2019, 09:54:18 PM »
I signed up yesterday but haven't even received an acknowledgement email yet. They must be too busy with tax season right now. I bet they'll contact me in the fall to get ready for the next tax season.

Yep. They have some training sessions before the tax season gets started that you need to attend, and then you commit to the whole tax season.

GreenToTheCore

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2019, 10:55:16 PM »
Oh man, we mustachians are a pretty awesome crowd. That just made my night to hear that so many people are already into the program and or that you weren't just interested but also put in the effort to sign up.
100 karma points to everyone.

GreenToTheCore

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2019, 10:56:48 PM »
... it provides a service to people who would otherwise be overpaying the H&R Blocks of the world money they have very little of...
ain't that the truth. Makes you realize you can live on a whole lot less.

GreenToTheCore

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #9 on: March 28, 2019, 11:09:43 PM »
...a manager for the site...
Well hello there.
If you have a moment, I'd appreciate hearing how you organize your site. I volunteered at one last year that was so poorly run I almost walked out. They were making the customers stressed, yelling and talking down to them. It was awful.
Even just the basic sign-in process was poorly set up. The greeters didn't know what information to look for so when we got to the folder we didn't have enough information to finish the return and the customer had to come back the next day (or whenever they were available next). There was no explanation of what was coming next after they signed in, which caused confusion and anxiety, and if they asked about what was going to happen next they were just told to be patient and wait their turn. If they were paying customers, the business would be dead in a week. Which makes it so much worse that it's for the less fortunate, that they have to grin & bear sub par service.
It's just so frustrating when there's drama and you know it doesn't have to be that way...
We've suggested work breakdowns for the greeters, process flow posters, etc.

TLDR: Have any pointers on how you like to set up your site? How to have clear communication and expectations?


mlipps

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #10 on: March 29, 2019, 01:17:29 PM »
Wow, that's a big question @GreenToTheCore. Honestly, at my site I mostly stand on the shoulders of giants. I have the least experience of any of our managers and I've been there 6 years. Our two "lead" site managers have 30 and 20 years experience. In addition, our organizing non-profit has done a TON of work in terms of our site processes and training that makes our lives much easier.

We call the "greeter" process intake. There are volunteers who exclusively perform this task and outtake, which we call sorting. Those volunteers are called site assistants and get 2-3 hours of training before coming out to the site. One of our best practices is to get through all the intake before we start tax prep. On a normal weeknight it looks like this:

  • One to two staff or volunteers arrive around 4pm and set up and pass out forms to all the clients who are already waiting. They also start making photocopies of the photo id's of the taxpayers and social security cards for everyone on the return. This is an early check for the most important piece of documentation.
  • By 5pm, the majority of the staff and a couple volunteers are present and can start intake
  • Around 5:30pm, one of the 3-4 managers on duty goes to the tax prep area to serve as quality reviewer as we ramp up tax prep for the evening. Usually only 2-4 volunteers preparing this early
  • By 6pm, intake is finished or down to a small number of people. The site managers move to the tax prep area to support quality review and at least one site assistant volunteer switches to doing sorting for the first clients

It doesn't look that organized in process, and the movement of the managers happens rather organically (I never look at my watch and decide it's time to move to the tax prep area, I just notice how few clients are left at intake for example). We still have people slip through the cracks--maybe 2-4 people per night get sent home for a missing document. I'd also point out that roughly 75% of our clients and volunteers are returning from prior years, so there's a lot of institutional knowledge from everyone that makes things go smoother. We're also just very lucky to be (typically) well staffed by managers and volunteers, because we're a very busy site in a major city. Sorry to hear you had such a frustrating experience, I hope your new site is working better!

MDM

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2019, 07:37:32 PM »
There are a few similar but not identical programs that fit the thread title:
- AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
- Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
- Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

See Find Free Tax Prep Near You: From the IRS to VITA for a few more details.

Livingthedream55

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2019, 01:24:44 PM »
I've been a VITA volunteer for three seasons and really love it.

I'm kinda pissed that many, many college-aged students start as volunteer preparers and then just bail mid-season (no call, no show, no response to emails) so we have to reduce the number of returns we can do. I bet they just want to be able to put it on a resume - GRRRR!

We are supposed to start doing returns at 10 am but folks arrive at 7:30 just to get a number and we usually reach capacity by 9:45!
 
So, yes, if at all curious, sign up next year. I did all my training online so that's an option if you'd rather skip classroom training. You only need an 80% score to pass the certification test and you get two tries (and you take the test at home and you can take as much time as you like to complete it).


GreenToTheCore

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2019, 03:08:04 PM »
Thanks @mlipps it's helpful to hear that your site is doing well.

turketron

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2019, 05:28:39 PM »
I've been meaning to sign up for this for the past couple years but every year I get busy and don't get around to it. If I'm not able to fit it in with my current schedule, t's definitely something I want to do once I'm FIRE!

MarciaB

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2019, 07:30:07 PM »
I'm doing this for the first time and loving it. It's a poverty alleviation program for some folks (who might not file to get their withholding back, who get the Earned Income Credit and might not know it...etc.). After working in microenterprise for years (poor folks starting businesses) and doing economic development in the Peace Corps...this really speaks to me.

Here in Oregon the training is in December and January, and the "season" starts February 1st.

I've found the program very well constructed and run and will definitely sign up again next year. This sort of gig is right up my alley (and I suspect many Mustachians would like this; we're a math-loving and financial paperwork crowd).

phildonnia

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #16 on: April 02, 2019, 12:16:13 PM »
Trying to figure out if this would be for me.  It sounds very interesting, but I'm not retired yet, and not sure if it can be done as a side gig.

I've always done my own taxes (which have gotten pretty complex over the years) and I've enjoyed it.  I'm good at math and I generally understand taxes, but I've never, ever taken a class or a certification test or anything.  Would there be a place for me actually preparing returns (with the appropriate training)?

MDM

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2019, 12:30:10 PM »
Trying to figure out if this would be for me.  It sounds very interesting, but I'm not retired yet, and not sure if it can be done as a side gig.

I've always done my own taxes (which have gotten pretty complex over the years) and I've enjoyed it.  I'm good at math and I generally understand taxes, but I've never, ever taken a class or a certification test or anything.  Would there be a place for me actually preparing returns (with the appropriate training)?
Definitely can be done part-time.  E.g., ~one or two half days per week during tax prep season, plus a few days training (usually in January).  Depending on your work and the tax prep schedule, you might need to take some of that time off.

A couple of ways to put your name in:
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide - Volunteer Opportunities
IRS Tax Volunteers | Internal Revenue Service

MarciaB

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2019, 02:55:49 PM »
Here in Oregon (Portland area anyway) the training(s) were scheduled at various times during the week, including evenings and weekends. And many of the tax sites are open evenings/weekends, making this a perfect gig for a volunteer with a day job. Many people sign up to do only 1 evening a week (3 hours), or just Saturday afternoons, or whatever. They sign up for a "shift" at a regular time throughout the tax season (10 weeks or so) and call that good.

MarciaB

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2019, 02:57:13 PM »
Also - during the training they mentioned that the need (at least here in Oregon) is six times the available supply (meaning there are six times the needy taxpayers as there are counselors/sites to serve them).

seattlecyclone

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2019, 03:37:09 PM »
Trying to figure out if this would be for me.  It sounds very interesting, but I'm not retired yet, and not sure if it can be done as a side gig.

I've always done my own taxes (which have gotten pretty complex over the years) and I've enjoyed it.  I'm good at math and I generally understand taxes, but I've never, ever taken a class or a certification test or anything.  Would there be a place for me actually preparing returns (with the appropriate training)?

The VITA program is administered by local nonprofits so details seem to vary from place to place, but the common threads are that volunteers do some training, pass a test, and then spend time preparing returns for low-income people. There would be a place for you. Whether it fits in your schedule depends on when the local nonprofit in your area decides to schedule things. At my site I volunteer Saturday afternoons. That's kind of a drag sometimes if social events are conflicting, but it's definitely doable if you aren't FIREd yet.

Tabitha

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #21 on: April 06, 2019, 07:54:15 PM »
Any Canadian readers of this thread may be interested in the CITVP (Income tax volunteer program) run by CRA. 
You apply through CRA pre-tax season. Once youíve passed the background check (vulnerable sector screening) youíll be issued a tax-preparer ID (as a volunteer you must use a separate ID from your commercial ID if you have one) and given contact info for local non-profits hosting clinics. Training is available from CRA online.
 Many CPAs volunteer our time to oversee the tax clinics snd act as a double-check fir non-cpa volunteers.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #22 on: April 07, 2019, 01:29:11 PM »
IMO It would not set you up to do this as a side gig. Unless you meant volunteering for 0 pay as a side gig. It doesn't set up for high paid tax return preparation knowledge

Depends what you're looking for in a side gig. The site manager role is a part-time, seasonal job helping low-income folks and getting paid a decent hourly wage. Could be perfect for someone already in FIRE who wants to earn a few bucks while doing good.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #23 on: April 07, 2019, 03:01:09 PM »
IMO It would not set you up to do this as a side gig. Unless you meant volunteering for 0 pay as a side gig. It doesn't set up for high paid tax return preparation knowledge

Depends what you're looking for in a side gig. The site manager role is a part-time, seasonal job helping low-income folks and getting paid a decent hourly wage. Could be perfect for someone already in FIRE who wants to earn a few bucks while doing good.
The people who are site managers are usually former IRS employees or many years experience in the tax field. Not someone who did VITA for a few years.

I'd guess this varies a lot by area. I don't think the manager at my site is any of those things, and frankly I don't think the job pays well enough for someone with those qualifications to take it unless they're retired.

phildonnia

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2019, 10:49:39 AM »
IMO It would not set you up to do this as a side gig. Unless you meant volunteering for 0 pay as a side gig. It doesn't set up for high paid tax return preparation knowledge

Depends what you're looking for in a side gig. The site manager role is a part-time, seasonal job helping low-income folks and getting paid a decent hourly wage. Could be perfect for someone already in FIRE who wants to earn a few bucks while doing good.

Yes, that's what I meant.  I'm not looking for a tax preparation career, and I already have enough money.  I just thought it would be a good experience.

DadJokes

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #25 on: April 14, 2019, 03:09:30 PM »
IMO It would not set you up to do this as a side gig. Unless you meant volunteering for 0 pay as a side gig. It doesn't set up for high paid tax return preparation knowledge

Depends what you're looking for in a side gig. The site manager role is a part-time, seasonal job helping low-income folks and getting paid a decent hourly wage. Could be perfect for someone already in FIRE who wants to earn a few bucks while doing good.
The people who are site managers are usually former IRS employees or many years experience in the tax field. Not someone who did VITA for a few years.

Thatís not remotely true. Iíve never had a site manager who used to work for the IRS or even had as much tax knowledge as me. Where I volunteered, they were United Way employees. Where I live now, the site coordinator is just a church secretary.

mlipps

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Re: Great Opportunity - Tax Volunteer
« Reply #26 on: April 14, 2019, 06:28:23 PM »
IMO It would not set you up to do this as a side gig. Unless you meant volunteering for 0 pay as a side gig. It doesn't set up for high paid tax return preparation knowledge

Depends what you're looking for in a side gig. The site manager role is a part-time, seasonal job helping low-income folks and getting paid a decent hourly wage. Could be perfect for someone already in FIRE who wants to earn a few bucks while doing good.
The people who are site managers are usually former IRS employees or many years experience in the tax field. Not someone who did VITA for a few years.

Thatís not remotely true. Iíve never had a site manager who used to work for the IRS or even had as much tax knowledge as me. Where I volunteered, they were United Way employees. Where I live now, the site coordinator is just a church secretary.

Definitely varies. Most of my fellow managers are not tax professionals but have so many years experience with VITA that they know all the relevant rules deeply. We have one enrolled agent who is a manager and a lot of CPA's who volunteer with us. We also used to have an IRS employee who volunteered for us but he wasn't allowed to be on payroll because it was a conflict of interest.