What is the VITA program?
The VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) offers free tax help to low- to middle-income individuals and families. IRS- certified volunteers work in partnership with community organizations. These volunteers receive training to help prepare basic tax returns in communities across the country. Our partnership joins student and alumni volunteers with non-profit institutions to provide the free tax service in the West Michigan area.
Our tax season starts January 23 and ends April 17, 2017. VITA training will be ongoing through the early part of January. We not only train for preparing federal returns but also provide eight hours of state and local tax training. We welcome students, staff, alumni and friends to apply.
Step 1 - In Seat Training: The VITA program provides classroom and self-study training options using IRS prepared training material. The training and material are free. New tax preparers are strongly urged to take basic classroom training in-seat if they have not taken a federal taxation course. Basic training takes approximately 16 hours and will begin the week of December 5, 2016. If you are a returning volunteer or have taken a college Federal Taxation for Individual course, go to the online training modules on the irs.gov website. Enter Link and Learn in the search bar and follow the prompts.
You will need the following training materials available electronically:
- Publication 4491 – VITA/TCE Training Guide Use this student guide to follow along with the online training on Link & Learn.
- Publication 4012 – Volunteer Resource Guide This guide offers tax preparation aids and directions on how to navigate our online TaxWise software.
- Publication 4491-W: VITA/TCE Problems & Exercises and 4491-X. These booklets provide practice exercises using the TaxWise software. You can access the Practice Lab here. Ask your local VITA faculty sponsor or VITA Program Manager for the password.
- Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training. VSOC Training is available in Link & Learn and the test is online or in Form 6744 – VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest. Volunteers who will be greeters and not certifying in tax law may refer to Publication 4961, Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training for this training.
Step 2 - Certification Process: Volunteers must complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSOC) Training available online before they can take the BASIC or ADVANCE Test. Volunteers must pass the certification test (Basic or Advanced) with a score of 80% or higher. Upon completion of certification tests, sign, date and submit Form 13615 to your local faculty instructor and the VITA program manager. Pdfs are acceptable.
- Form 6744 – VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest Take the test to certify as a volunteer preparer on Link & Learn, but the actual test questions are a combination of these Test/Retest questions. We recommend you use this form to work out the test questions ahead of time before certifying online. The actual certification exam is open book. Pay close attention when taking the online test as the test questions come from the test OR the retest in the booklet– so be sure you’ve answered the correct question!