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The more people volunteer, the happier they are.
My Volunteering Experience
I volunteered to prepare tax returns this tax season. After signing up, the first step last fall was to get trained by AARP members using an IRS certified course. The training took approximately 5 days over a 2 week period. There were about 20 people in the course. The participants were former engineers, teachers, social workers and a variety of other occupations. I am a CPA and there was one other trained accountant in the sessions. Everyone was there to learn how to prepare tax returns, and volunteer to spend approximately 1-2 days a week preparing tax returns for 10 weeks.
The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program
The AARP Foundation Tax- Aide Program has IRS-certified volunteers that offer free tax preparation help for low to moderate income taxpayers, especially if you are 50 or older. Nationwide the program was much larger than I could have imagined. There are approximately 28,000 volunteers in 5,000 locations who last year prepared 1,725,000 federal returns. The program is a significant effort by the volunteers and it makes a difference, as evidenced by the gratitude of those we serve.
Link and Learn Tax E-Learning is the delivery mechanism for the required course training. The Basic Menu and Advanced Menu provide the content for the course work. There are also optional specialty courses in Military, International, Foreign Students and Health Savings Accounts.
Once the course work is completed, you are eligible to take the various tests which are included in IRS Publication 6744 Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.
No previous knowledge of tax is required to enroll in the course work and do the testing.
I Recommend Volunteering
If you are looking for fulfillment through volunteer opportunities, or looking for ways to make a difference by giving your talents to others, you should consider becoming an AARP Foundation IRS-certified volunteer. You can begin by finding a location near you using the Tax-Aide Site Locator.
If volunteering for the Tax-Aide Program is not for you, but you still want to experience the Happiness Effect, visit the AARP Volunteer Wizard. The Wizard will ask a series of questions about how you might like to volunteer and give back in your community. It will then attempt to match your preferences with AARP volunteer opportunities.
You too could experience the Happiness Effect and see smiles of gratitude on the faces of the clients you serve! Good luck experiencing the Happiness Effect!
Update July 2018:
Here’s how to become a community tax volunteer
The IRS needs volunteers who want to help provide free tax preparation in communities across the nation during the 2019 tax season. It might seem far off, but people who want to volunteer can start taking action now.
The IRS sponsors the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs each year. Both offer free tax help across the country for people with low-to-moderate incomes, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and those who speak limited English. Last year, VITA and TCE volunteers prepared more than 3.5 million federal tax returns for qualified taxpayers at no cost. Anyone interested in volunteering can visit the sign-up page on IRS.gov.
Here are reasons people become an IRS-certified VITA or TCE tax volunteer:
- Flexible hours. Volunteers generally serve an average of three to five hours per week. The programs are usually open from mid-to-late-January through the tax filing deadline in April. Some sites are even open all year.
- VITA and TCE sites are often nearby. More than 11,000 sites were set up in neighborhoods all over the country for 2018. These free tax help sites are in places like community centers, libraries, schools and shopping malls.
- No prior experience needed. Volunteers receive specialized training and often serve in a variety of roles. VITA and TCE programs want volunteers of all backgrounds and ages, as well as individuals who are fluent in other languages.
- Free tax law training and materials. Volunteers receive training materials at no charge. The tax law training covers how to prepare basic federal tax returns electronically. The training also covers tax topics like deductions and credits.