22.30.1  Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (Cont. 1) 
Volunteer Return Preparation Overview  (09-11-2015)
Volunteer Programs - Headquarters Responsibilities

  1. Strategy and Program Management (SPM) is responsible for managing SPEC’s budget (human and capital) to ensure successful delivery of SPEC’s programs. This includes serving as the liaison between SPEC and various oversight agencies, such as Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and Government Accountability Office (GAO).

  2. Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ) is responsible for issuing volunteer program policies and procedures, monitoring adherence to the volunteer program policies and procedures, and ensuring employees are equipped with pertinent information for successful delivery of the filing season.

    1. Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) is responsible for developing the training materials and products used by the volunteer programs to train and certify volunteers for return preparation. They define the "scope" of tax law topics applicable for preparation by the volunteers supporting the volunteer programs. PSA also develops and creates products for tax education and outreach. PSA is responsible for issuing the program plan used to define measures of success for all SPEC programs and monitoring status. SPECTRM, SPEC’s Management Information System is managed by PSA.

    2. The Quality Program Office (QPO) oversees the Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) reviews used to determine VITA and TCE accuracy rates.

  3. Grant Program Office (GPO) is responsible for managing the VITA and TCE Grant programs. This includes awarding the grants and ensuring compliance to OMB Grant Requirements.

  4. National Partnerships (NP) is responsible for securing and maintaining national partners with organizations that share common values with IRS for educating and preparing free tax returns for SPEC’s targeted audience. Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are required for all national partners. Local affiliates of these national partners are critical to delivery of the VITA and TCE programs.  (10-01-2011)
How to Request Legal Opinions from the Office of Chief Counsel

  1. To request an opinion, send an email to the assigned OPQ analyst (see HQ Program Assignments for latest assignments). The email should contain all of the following:

    • Subject

    • Detailed background information on the issue

    • Reason for the request

  2. The analyst will forward the request to a Special Counsel to the Division Counsel (Wage and Investment). Once the opinion is returned by Counsel, OPQ will send an email to the initial requester, with copies to appropriate parties.

  3. Counsel will provide an opinion within 90 days.


    If an opinion is needed sooner than 90 days, please specify when it is needed in your email (e.g., within 10 days, 30 days, etc.).  (10-01-2014)
Partner Endorsements

  1. Never use your Government position, title, or authority to endorse products or organizations. When a partner asks for a quote from the IRS to be used publicly to support the partner’s services, contact Chief, Oversight, Products and Quality to obtain Chief Counsel approval.

  2. Counsel has approved general statements of fact such as “ABC Partner has assisted families with free return preparation since 1995.” Counsel has also approved statements focused on all our partners or all of a class of partners such as “We at the Internal Revenue Service are very appreciative of how financial institutions have embraced supporting the VITA program.” .  (10-01-2011)
Volunteer Programs - Area Office Responsibilities

  1. The area office provides overall program directions to territory offices based on policy and guidance received from SPEC Headquarters, assesses the territory office accomplishments and allocates resources to accomplish program objectives.  (10-01-2010)
Volunteer Programs - Territory Office Responsibilities

  1. The territory office has the overall responsibility for management of the volunteer programs at the local level. The territory office and its employees receive direction from the area office. Territory offices and its employees concerns and suggestions are required to be filtered through the area office. The territory office is responsible for direct communication to SPEC local partners and volunteers.  (10-01-2011)
Volunteer Protection Act of 1997

  1. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 is not owned or written exclusively for the IRS. This is a Public Law and relates to businesses that use volunteers to provide services.

  2. Section 6(6) of this Act (42 USC 14505(6)) defines a volunteer as an individual performing services for a nonprofit organization or a governmental entity (including as a director, officer, trustee, or direct service volunteer) who does not receive for those services more than $500 total in a year from the organization or entity as:

    1. Compensation (other than reasonable reimbursement or allowance for expenses actually incurred).

    2. Any other thing of value in lieu of compensation.

  3. 42 USC 14503 (a) states that generally no volunteer of a nonprofit organization or governmental entity shall be liable for harm caused by an act or omission of the volunteer on behalf of the organization if all of the following apply:

    1. Volunteer was acting within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities in the nonprofit organization or governmental entity at the time of the act or omission.

    2. If appropriate or required, the volunteer was properly licensed, certified, or authorized by the appropriate authorities for the activities or practice in the State in which the harm occurred, where the activities were or practice was undertaken within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities in the nonprofit organization or governmental entity.

    3. The harm was not caused by willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, reckless misconduct, or a conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual harmed by the volunteer.

  4. A volunteer, whether a coordinator, sponsor employee, or student, who receives more than $500 per year as compensation for work on the volunteer program would not be protected from liability under the Act. Characterizing the payment as a stipend does not change the effect of the payment on the volunteer’s status under the Act. A partner, whether grant recipient or not, who intends to pay their volunteers in excess of the amount stated above, should seek legal advice from their attorney regarding potential liability for their organization and their volunteers.

  5. A request to change statutory language of the Volunteer Protection Act is not being pursued by the IRS.

  6. SPEC employees shall avoid giving written advice on the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. If a partner has questions regarding the Volunteer Protection Act, then SPEC employees can provide the partner with a copy of the Volunteer Protection Act, which is located on “The Point”. For more information, refer to Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights.  (10-01-2011)

  1. IRS allows partners to utilize Federal Grant funds to provide stipends to volunteers within the volunteer return preparation program. Stipends are a fixed amount of money paid at regular intervals as a salary or to cover living expenses. Under the VITA and TCE Grant Programs, stipends are an allowable expenditure and are specifically addressed within both grant application booklets.

  2. For purposes of the IRS Grant Programs, a stipend can only be used to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses.  (10-01-2011)
Compensation for the (TCE) Program

  1. The TCE Program is subject to the following rules specific to compensation:

    • Participants are allowed to use grant funds to pay salaries, wages and benefits of clerical personnel only.

    • Grant funds can not be used to provide compensation in the form of salaries, wage and benefits of program sponsor executives or administrators.

    • Grant recipients are allowed to provide volunteers a stipend for travel and food.  (10-01-2011)
Compensation for the Grant Program

  1. The VITA Grant Program is also subject to rules specific to compensation. The VITA Grant funds cannot be used to provide compensation (money given in exchange for work done) for the following positions:

    • Tax Assistor/Preparer

    • Screener

    • Quality Reviewer

  2. The VITA Grant Program allows its participants to provide compensation (in the form of salaries, wages and benefits) for the following positions whose roles and responsibilities, as described in the Publication 1084, Site Coordinators Handbook, does not include the preparation of tax returns:

    • Program and/or Financial Coordinator (not included in Publication 1084)

    • Site Coordinator

    • Clerical Support

    • Tax Law Instructor

    • Clerical Support

    • Interpreter

    • Information Technology Specialist (Computer Specialist)

    • Any other position accepted by the GPO following prior approval

  3. The VITA Grant Program allows grant recipients to provide volunteers a stipend for travel expenses only.  (09-11-2015)
Volunteer Program Publicity

  1. NP and territories are responsible for monitoring partner’s publicity to ensure it does not misrepresent the VITA and TCE parameters.

  2. Partner publicity items must adhere to the following:

    • Any reference to income thresholds will adhere to the annual EITC eligibility amounts for families.

    • Does not alter the sequence of the term “IRS-Certified VITA and TCE Volunteer Preparer”

    • The use of the term "IRS-Certified" is used only as a modifier to the word volunteer, i.e., IRS-certified VITA and TCE volunteer preparer.

    • External use of existing IRS logos must be approved on a case-by-case basis. . Requests for use of the logos must follow the current process. For additional information, please refer to: Process for use of IRS Logo by SPEC Partners.  (10-01-2011)
Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  1. Title VI applies to all SPEC partner operations if the partner is involved in a federal program or activity located in the United States that has the purpose of providing benefit to others and receives federal financial assistance. Federal financial assistance is defined as grants and money, and other non-monetary forms such as the following:

    • Loans of computer equipment

    • Loan of IRS personnel

    • Direct training of VITA volunteers

    • Provision of supplies and equipment

    • Use of federal property at no cost

    • Grants of computer software

    • Waiver of fees for electronic filing of tax returns

  2. The IRS must ensure that the recipient of government financial assistance does not discriminate against potential beneficiaries of the assistance. Also, recipients must prominently display posters explaining the procedures for filing complaints.  (09-11-2015)
Civil Rights Requirements

  1. The Civil Rights Division (CRD) in collaboration with SPEC, has incorporated Civil Rights assurance language into Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights. Agreement with partners to comply with these assurances is obtained through signature on Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, prior to receipt of federal financial assistance as defined in IRM, Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.


    With the inclusion of assurance language in the Sponsor Agreement, partners are no longer required to secure Form 13324, IRS Civil Rights Assurance for Sub-Recipients under SPEC Partnership Agreements, from sub-recipients.

  2. SPEC is required to solicit Sponsor Agreements annually from partners. The agreement is valid for one year from the date of signature.

  3. The table below outlines the steps for SPEC employees to fulfill the civil rights requirement:

    Required Actions for Civil Rights Requirement
    Step Required Action
    1 Territories must review the current listing of partners to determine whether they receive federal financial assistance.


    Use SPECTRM to print a list of partners who show they signed a Sponsor Agreement by checking "yes" in the required SPECTRM fields under the partner profile.

    2 If you have any questions or problems, contact your civil rights area analyst.
    3 Order one or more of the following civil rights notification documents for each required partner:
    • Publication 4053 , Civil Rights Poster in English/Spanish - to be used by VITA

    • Publication 730 (or TCE created publication with the same civil rights notification)

    • Publication 4454 - The optional civil rights Brochure (English and Spanish) can be used if a taxpayer is turned away from a site and was not provided their civil rights (no poster was displayed or no return was prepared).

    4 Prepare the Civil Rights Partner Letter.


    SPECTRM can provide most of the basic information needed for the partner letter and electronic tools (i.e., mail merge) can be used to generate the letter).

    5 Assemble the package (i.e., Partner Letter, Civil Rights notification documents, Assurance Form 13325, etc.)
    6 Enclose a self-addressed, envelope with the business reply label properly affixed for the partner to return the signed Sponsor Agreement to the territory office by January 10. If no business reply labels are available, territories can order postage stamps by following the instructions outlined in the W&I Financial Procedures Guidebook. Refer to the Postage section. Additionally IRM 1.22.4, Postage Accountability and Reporting Requirement, provides guidance for IRS personnel responsible for purchasing and managing postage procured from the United States Postal Service.
    7 Once the partner returns the signed Sponsor Agreement, the forms are to be kept at the territory office for a minimum number of three years. (Do not send to the Civil Rights Division).
    • If a partner fails to respond by the response due date, territories should follow-up with a courtesy call.

    • if a partner refuses to sign or does not provide the signed Sponsor Agreement after a follow-up courtesy call, the territory office will have no alternative but to terminate the relationship with the partner. Federal assistance cannot be provided if the partner refuses to sign the Sponsor Agreement.

    8 Enter the civil rights indicator in the partner profile section in SPECTRM by January 15 for each SPEC partner. There are two fields in the partner profile/partner information section that require completion:
    • "Is Civil Rights Required? (Yes or No)"

    • "Date Civil Rights Signed?"  (10-01-2011)
Volunteer Recognition

  1. Relationship Managers should take every opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers, partners, and sites for their support of the volunteer programs. Recognition is not limited to items listed below. Be creative while adhering to IRS policies for use of federal funds.  (10-01-2011)
SPEC Partner Letters and Certificates to Recognize Volunteers

  1. Listed in the table below are certificates and letters that are available to recognize volunteers:

    Letter or Certificate of Appreciation Purpose
    Form 9234, SPEC Certificate of Appreciation Issued by territory offices to individuals and groups or organizations that assist the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer and community partnerships programs.
    Publication 3711, Volunteer Certificate Folder (Catalog 31083Z) Used to hold certificates.
    Form 13357, Community Service Leadership Certificate of Appreciation Issued by territory offices to partners or coalitions that assist the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer or outreach programs.
    Letter 3674 and Letter 3674 (SP), Volunteer Letters of Appreciation Issued to personally recognize the efforts and contributions of the volunteers who participated in the VITA /TCE programs. The SPEC director signs this letter.
    Letter 3674 A and Letter 3674 A (SP),Partner Letters of Appreciation Issued to volunteers and partners to recognize their volunteer tax preparation services and/or participation in the VITA and TCE programs. The SPEC director signs this letter.  (10-01-2013)
Volunteer Milestone Recognition

  1. SPEC honors volunteer milestones to mark partner, volunteer and site dedication. SPEC only considers those partners, volunteers or sites whose years of service are increments of 10 years for recognition, contingent on available funding. See table below for milestone recipient and type of recognition available:

    Milestones 10 Years 20 Years 30 Years 40+ Years
    Partner Certificate Plaque (Wooden) Plaque (Wooden) SPEC Director's Award
    Volunteer Lapel Pin Plaque (Acrylic) Plaque (Wooden) Plaque (Wooden)
    Site Certificate Plaque (Acrylic) Plaque (Wooden) Plaque (Wooden)  (10-01-2013)
Headquarters Roles

  1. Headquarters is responsible for the following with regard to Volunteer Milestone Recognition:

    • Ensure funding availability for the purchase of recognition items

    • Reviewing all requests sent to partner@irs.gov for recognition items

    • Working with Procurement to purchase requested items and ensuring all orders are placed timely in order to be received by the partner on or prior to the April 10 delivery deadline

    • Providing milestone due date information in the Critical Action Calendar posted on The Point

    • Confirming any spellings as appropriate once requests are received

    • Preparing and shipping pins, certificates, and plaques where appropriate in time to ensure the April 10 delivery deadline

    • Ensuring Publication 1084 and Publication 4396-A are updated with accurate recognition instructions  (10-01-2013)
Area and Territory Roles

  1. The area and territory are responsible for the following with regard to Volunteer Milestone Recognition:

    • Ensuring partners are aware of the procedures above and providing templates to facilitate the process

    • Reemphasizing the availability of recognition items and the ordering deadline

    • Confirming all spelling for requests received or submitted

    • Ensuring requests for clarification received from headquarters are responded to quickly and accurately to ensure timely fulfillment of the recognition items

    • Timely submitting partner information of those who meet milestone requirement

    • Coordinating and making travel arrangements for the SPEC director’s award presentations where budget allows

    • Participating in ceremonies where 30+ years recognitions are provided where budget allows

    • Communicating this process to the partners they support and providing them with site and volunteer templates  (10-01-2011)
Partner Roles

  1. Partners should timely complete the templates provided to them by their SPEC Relationship Manager identifying volunteers and sites milestone accomplishments. Completed templates must be submitted annually through partner@irs.gov no later than February 25. Partners must confirm all spelling. The partner will decide how they will make presentations to recipients. Partners should refer to Publication 1084, Site Coordinator’s Handbook, Publication 4395A,, Partner Resource Guide, or the Partner Corner on irs.gov for additional information on volunteer recognition.  (09-11-2015)
VITA and TCE Training

  1. Training and certification are vital components of the Service's free volunteer tax preparation programs. SPEC provides both paper and electronic products to assist volunteer tax preparers in achieving the goals of providing high quality services and preparing an accurate return each and every time. SPEC employees, volunteer preparers and instructors participating in the VITA and TCE Programs must be certified to screen, prepare returns and conduct quality reviews. Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator's Handbook, contains a complete overview of the volunteer programs and training curriculum with specific information about the scope of the each program, policies, roles and responsibilities, etc. The Product Professional contains a complete listing and description of the volunteer training products. Specific guidance and course information is also available on irs.gov ((Keyword: Partner Resource Center). The IRS.gov’s Partner and Volunteer Resource Center and Publication 1084 content is revised in the fall of each year with specific guidance for the upcoming filing season.  (10-01-2014)
Types of VITA and TCE Courses (Volunteers)

  1. VITA and TCE training is built using a tiered strategy. Each tier represents a complete course of study. There are two courses of study: Basic and Advanced. There are four optional specialty modules: Military, International, Health Savings Accounts (HSA), and Cancellation of Debt (COD). Additionally, there are courses for Puerto Rico and Foreign Students and Scholars. Each course has its own curriculum and certification. The content of each course/tier is summarized below:

    • Basic: This course includes the completion of wage-earner type returns. Social security income and penalty on early withdrawal of savings is part of the basic course. Volunteers who serve in the role of return preparers, quality reviewers, and VITA/TCE tax law instructors must certify in this course.

    • Advanced: This course includes the completion of the full scope of returns prepared by the volunteer tax return preparation programs. It includes capital gains and losses and more complex pension issues. It is a standalone course and requires no prerequisites.

    • Military: This course covers domestic military topics. It requires certification in Advanced as a prerequisite.


      Important Note: Since this course only covers domestic military topics, military representatives or instructors going overseas to provide assistance or teach must be certified in both Military and International courses.

    • International: This course covers the completion of returns for taxpayers, both military and non-military, living outside the United States. This course includes topics of foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit. It requires certification in Advanced as a prerequisite.

    • Health Savings Account Online Module: An additional optional specialty course and certification test on the topic of health savings accounts is available on LLT for volunteers with Basic certification. Volunteers should check with their Site Coordinator to determine whether or not they should be certified in this topic.

    • Cancellation of Debt (COD) Online Module: An additional optional specialty course and certification test for Cancellation of Debt is available on LLT for volunteers with Advanced Certification. Volunteers should check with their Site Coordinator to determine whether or not they should be certified in this topic.

    • Puerto Rico: This course covers topics for U.S. citizens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico who must file a U.S. federal income tax return. It requires certification in Basic as a prerequisite.

    • Foreign Student and Scholars: This course is used as a training tool for volunteer tax return preparers who assist foreign/international students and scholars in preparing their returns. It covers determination of residency status and application of treaty benefits in addition to other federal tax issues commonly faced by foreign nationals. There is no prerequisite for this course.  (10-01-2013)
Syllabus and Curriculum

  1. SPEC strives for consistency in the training that is presented to all volunteers. Instructional guidance is conveyed in the web-based Publication 4555-E,Process Based Training Instructor Guide. The publication contains suggested course syllabuses and presentation times for classroom instructions. Link and Learn Taxes (LLT) training and the printed training materials are designed for instructor led-classroom training as well as self study. All products use process based training, a performance based curriculum that supports SPEC's volunteer return preparation quality goals and incorporates the following four steps:

    1. Screening and interviewing the taxpayer

    2. Using key resource materials

    3. Understanding and apply tax law

    4. Conducting quality reviews

  2. Training should be tailored to meet the needs of the taxpayers the volunteers will serve. Each instructor has the flexibility to design their course for new or returning volunteers, a combination of both, or as refresher training for the most experienced volunteer.  (10-01-2013)
Training Delivery Methods

  1. SPEC e-learning application is the preferred method of training and certification for employees and volunteers. Instructors are encouraged to devote at least two hours of preparation time for every hour of instruction. The amount of time for each lesson/course depends on the competencies of the student and/or instructor. This information can be found in Publication 4555-E,VITA and TCE E-instructor Guide which includes lesson presentation times, checklist for teaching each lesson, effective techniques, etc. This publication also provides a list of additional training options that can be used to teach this training. The use of these methods should be determined based on the needs of the partners. The training products are designed for process based training and can be taught using the following delivery methods.

    1. Classroom instruction combining lecture, role-playing and general discussions with completing problems and exercises using tax preparation software using Publication 4491, VITA and TCE Training Guide

    2. On-Line classroom instruction using LLT include lecture and discussion in combination with the applicable course content and the Electronic Tax Software Practice Lab on the LLT application

    3. Self-Study instructions allow students (using the Publication 4491, and/or Link and Learn Taxes) to independently complete their course with ad hoc face-to-face or electronic guidance from the instructor.  (10-01-2011)
Training for Hearing and Visually Impaired Volunteers

  1. Under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504, the requirement to make "reasonable accommodation" for employees (volunteers) with disabilities also includes visually impaired employees (volunteers).

  2. Provisions must be made to accommodate hearing/visually-impaired volunteers.

  3. If an IRS volunteer training class includes hearing-impaired volunteers, every effort should be made to provide an interpreter. Territories may contact associations for the hearing impaired in the community for a volunteer interpreter.

  4. If efforts to secure an interpreter are unsuccessful, explain to the potential volunteer that the VITA and TCE training may be taken as a self-instructional course. Territories may also provide a written transcript of the training session.

  5. Refer to IRM, Reasonable Accommodation for VITA and TCE Sites , for more detailed information on accommodating employees (volunteers) with disabilities.  (10-01-2014)
Printed Training Products

  1. SPEC's training products are designed to guide volunteers through the information and skills they need to prepare accurate returns. The printed training products are available electronically via irs.gov by October 1. Partners and employees will receive printed copies of the training materials in late November. The test and retest answers Publication 4189, VITA/TCE Volunteer Test/Retest Answers) are not published. Answers are given to the territory managers to share with employees and partners. See IRM, Certification Requirements and Testing for Volunteer Training for additional information.

  2. The Order Entry and Delivery Schedule for the printed materials are posted to The Point. The Point contains a complete listing and description of the printed volunteer training products including links to SPEC's e-learning applications: Link and Learn Taxes and Understanding Taxes.  (10-01-2009)
E-learning Products

  1. SPEC supports two e-learning applications. LLT and Understanding Taxes are launched in the fall of each year with information for the upcoming filing season. As explained below the sites serve two different purposes.  (09-11-2015)
Link and Learn Taxes (LLT)

  1. SPEC's e-learning application, Link and Learn Taxes (LLT), is the preferred method of training for employees and volunteers. L&LT is also available in English and Spanish. The site contains the nine VITA and TCE courses (Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSOC), Basic, Advanced, Military, International, Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Foreign Students, and Puerto Rico) and links to the necessary testing and certification tools. Cancellation of Debt (COD) is incorporated into the Advanced course for tax year 2015. Volunteers using L&LT for training and certification gain insight into the types of tax situations they will encounter at the site as well as experience using the return preparation software available to them from the IRS. L&LT also links volunteers to the tax software’s Practice Lab for VITA/TCE. The Practice Lab contains programming and tax law for the upcoming filing season and is available for training and certification before the full software is released.  (10-01-2013)
Understanding Taxes (UT) Program Overview

  1. The Understanding Taxes (UT) program is an introductory tax education course, that began in 1954 as a local project in the District of Columbia. UT introduces students to tax terminology, tax history, politics, and the economics of taxation as well as presenting several taxpayer simulations for an interactive experience with return preparation.

  2. UT has migrated from a print product with annual updates to a web-based application. The web-site contains complete lesson plans ready to be taught in the classroom. Every lesson provides a link listing the applicable national and state standards, making it simple to integrate into existing classroom curricula.

  3. The UT application is well suited for use with a variety of levels of education and training and would be an effective addition to the curriculum in a number of courses including: History, Math, Economics, Vocational Education, Government, Civics and Business.

  4. The website for Understanding Taxes is http://apps.irs.gov/app/understandingTaxes/index.jsp. For additional information on the Understanding Taxes Program refer to IRM,Understanding Taxes (UT) Program  (10-01-2011)
Specialty Training Products/Programs

  1. SPEC provides tax preparation and outreach support to all taxpayer groups. In most cases, the basic through advanced courses meet the needs of most taxpayers. Supplement or special training products and programs are designed to assist the following taxpayer groups.  (04-10-2014)
Foreign Students and Scholar Program Training

  1. SPEC's role in the foreign student/scholar program is to encourage colleges and universities to establish self-sufficient VITA sites specializing in the preparation of Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return;Form 1040NR-EZ, Income Tax Return for Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents;Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition.

  2. The Foreign Student and Scholar module of LLT was designed as an income tax law course for volunteers who will be working at VITA/TCE sites that assist international students and scholars with tax return preparation. This course is available in e-learning format on Link and Learn Taxes. The Foreign Student LLT module can be used as a stand alone training tool. The training can be used for self study or in a traditional classroom setting. Volunteers are instructed to complete the training paths in the course and successfully complete the test to obtain volunteer certification.

  3. Volunteers assisting foreign students/scholars are prohibited from using the "VITA Hotline" to get answers to questions about international issues.

  4. Volunteers with international questions can visit, Foreign Students and Scholars or send an email by visiting http://www.irs.gov/uac/Help-With-Tax-Questions-2 and selecting the category for alien issues. In addition, there is an IRS number available, 267–941–1000, that specializes in international tax issues. Please note this is not a toll-free phone line.  (10-01-2012)
Puerto Rico Course

  1. The Puerto Rico Course is available to train volunteers on requirements for Puerto Rico residents who must file a U.S. income tax return.

  2. The SPEC offices in Puerto Rico assist in coordinating the training for this course.

  3. This course is updated annually and is available in e-learning format on LLT in English and Spanish.  (09-11-2015)

  1. NP coordinates Military VITA training and site management. The IRS and military partner to coordinate effective training, support, and operation of the Armed Forces’ global tax assistance efforts. NP negotiates locations for military VITA training with the military.

  2. Military National Relationship Manager role is listed below; however, not limited to:

    • Serve as liaison between military and SPEC

    • Communicate with AFTC members as needed

    • Coordinates the Overseas VITA training

    • Ensure that TaxWise software and training products are ordered for overseas military VITA sites

    • Provide guidance to the military as it relates to VITA Programs (Traditional,FSA and Virtual)

    • Provide return preparation and VITA training reports to the military

    • Resolve technical tax law issues

    • Provide military with updates of returns prepared via TaxWise, FSA and ELF Reports bi-weekly (or as requested) starting in February

    • Orders VITA training and site material for overseas VITA sites by October 1

    • Order software as soon as it becomes available for overseas VITA sites

    • Prepare volunteer recognition certificates for overseas Military VITA volunteers by March 15

    • Input the total number of military volunteers into SPECTRUM by May 1

  3. Military VITA area analysts roles include, but not limited to; :

    1. Serve as a liaison between SPEC headquarters and territories

    2. Communicate policy, changes, updates, etc., to the territories

    3. Participate on conference call coordinated by SPEC and the military

    4. Ensure that data call requests are completed timely and submitted to national relationship manager

  4. Annual Post Filing Season:

    • SPEC and military host annual post-filing meeting generally in May

    • Meeting is usually attended by SPEC headquarters and military

    • Meeting agenda jointly developed by SPEC and the military

  5. Communication between SPEC and Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC):

    • All communications to the AFTC representatives from area and territories must flow through military national relationship manager, due to sensitive nature of this partnership.

    • Directives, instructions, and procedures that will be shared with AFTC will also be channeled through areas analysts for distribution to territories.

    • Only the Military National Relationship Manager will contact AFTC representatives directly.

  6. Military Page On IRS.gov

    • Information added to irs.gov relating to Military VITA must be vetted and approved by Military Relationship Manager.

  7. Domestic Military VITA

    • Domestic Military is coordinated at the area level subject to local procedures unless agreed upon by area, SPEC headquarters, and AFTC. All domestic TaxWise orders must be coordinated through the area offices.

  8. Overseas Military VITA Training

    • The military along with SPEC collaborates to decide which overseas installations will receive face-to-face VITA training.

    • Overseas VITA Instructors Solicitation request is sent during September from SPEC HQ to Areas for distribution to Territory.

    • Selections are made no later than October 1.

    • Trainer- the-Trainer class is held either the first or second week in December.

  9. Minimum Qualifications to Instruct Overseas:

    • Must have been lead instructor for domestic Military VITA classes

    • Must complete Basic, Advanced, Military and International modules in Link and Learn prior to Trainer the Trainer Overseas VITA Instructor Class

    • Must be physically able to walk long distance, carry luggage, and able to climb stairs

    • Must be BIT/ITC/CITC certified

  10. Selected Overseas Military VITA Instructor should do the following

    • Consult with SPEC Overseas VITA Training Coordinator for detailed instructions as soon as possible.

    • Contact overseas military point of contact

    • Arrange travel to overseas base

    • Confirm lodging at overseas locations

    • Apply for Official Passport (different from personal passport)

    • Complete necessary documents required to enter a foreign country. The process can take up to six weeks. The Overseas VITA Training Coordinator will provide instructions which documents are necessary (based on foreign country).

  11. Overseas Travel Period

    • Overseas military trainer classes are held in foreign countries during the second and third week of January.

    • Instructors going to Asian countries leave U.S. on Wednesday prior to teaching assignment.

    • Instructors going to Europe countries leave U.S. on Thursday prior to teaching assignment.

    • When returning to U.S. instructors are NOT required to travel on Saturday.

  12. Overseas Military VITA Timeline

    Month Action
    May Headquarter meets with military to select overseas VITA locations that will receive face-to-face training
    August Confirm overseas military sites which will receive face-to-face VITA training
    September •Solicit overseas VITA instructors throughout SPEC
    •Select overseas instructors
    October •Conduct conference call with selected instructors, Territory Managers, Area Analysts to discuss overseas travel requirements, responsibilities, and deadlines
    •Assign overseas instructors to their respective tour
    •Provide instructor with respective military point of contact information
    • Form 1321, Authorization for Official Travel should be completed in accordance with instructions in GovTrip for overseas assignment
    November •Instructors must certify on Link and Learn through International module before Train-the-Trainer class in December
    •Train-the-Trainer instructors prep for class that will be held in December
    •Issue Report Instructions for Train-the-Trainer class
    •All necessary documents to exit U.S. must be completed by November 30
    December •Conduct Overseas Instructors Train-the-Trainer class
    •Instructors receive all official documents (Passport, E-Country Clearance, and Visa)
    January •Travel to respective base
    •Return to U.S., Monday after last class ends
    •Complete travel voucher in accordance with travel guidelines
    •Return Official Passport to IRS Travel Office with 5 days of return to U.S.
    February •Provide Trip Report to SPEC Overseas Military VITA Training Coordinator within 5 days of instructor’s return
    •SPEC Overseas Military VITA Coordinator complies travel cost for program (U.S. Trainer –the-Trainer class and Overseas)  (09-11-2015)
Certification Requirements and Testing for Volunteer Training

  1. Certification of volunteers verifies that all volunteers and participants meet basic competency requirements. Establishing standardized tests and certification processes increases the quality of the returns prepared and the level of customer service delivered. Volunteers should certify via paper or LLT as indicated in the table below:

    Volunteer Type Requirement
    Students All volunteer tax preparers and quality reviewers must annually take and pass an IRS test to be certified. Volunteers may certify at either the Basic or Advanced levels based on their training, experience, and specific site needs.


    Volunteers must successfully pass Advanced as a prerequisite to taking the Military or International exams.

    Students who are certified at the Basic level or higher can complete the HSA certification. Students who have earned certification in Advanced may complete the COD certification.
    Instructors All instructors must annually take and pass the test for all curriculums they teach. Instructors must certify at the Advanced level or higher. The instructor’s certification level must be equivalent or higher than the level they are instructing. Quality reviewers must be certified at the Advanced level or higher depending on the level of returns being reviewed.
    Other Volunteers Volunteers, whose activity will be restricted to reception, clerical, or any other non-preparer or non-quality reviewer roles are not required to take the test.
  2. Volunteers should be encouraged to certify online wherever possible. For classroom training, the IRS test can be administered in a classroom setting. If that is not an option, the instructor can allow students to take the test at home. Volunteers can access VITA/TCE training and the test for certification at LLT through: http://www.irs.gov/app/vita/index.jsp. LLT will automatically score the test and volunteers may print or email the passing test results as their certification document to their site coordinator or designee. The certification document should be delivered to the volunteer’s training coordinator, instructor, or other person as designated by the partner.

  3. The Practice Lab is practice tax preparation software included in LLT to provide assistance in the certification process. It was developed specifically for VITA and TCE volunteers and is restricted to authorized IRS licensees by requiring a password. SPEC Relationship Managers provide the universal password to partners prior to training.

  4. Whenever possible, non-IRS instructors, such as college professors, enrolled agents and accountants, should be asked to administer tests. If paper tests are used, instructors should correct the test or retest, mark correct answers and include explanatory remarks.

  5. Volunteers should keep the test document and only return the Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, and the test answer sheet, if applicable, to their training coordinator, site coordinator or designee.

  6. A passing score (80 percent or higher) is required for certification as a VITA/TCE preparer or quality review volunteer. Test and certification instructions are included on Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.

  7. TM, designated headquarters and area analysts can obtain certification reports on LLT. Partner specific listings taken from the certification reports can be provided to sites for validation. Since this data is Personally Identifiable Information (PII), IRS employees must use secure messaging when e-mailing within the IRS. To share with partners, use phone, fax or postal mail. See IRM, Facsimile Transmission of Tax Information. TM who need access to the certification reports must first register on the LLT test login page then contact the area training analyst for access to the reports.

  8. Instructors and partners will validate certifications when using other training delivery methods. Copies provided by the instructor, test monitor, volunteer, or territory will be kept at the site or partner level.  (10-01-2014)
VITA Retest-All Volunteer Training

  1. Volunteers should be encouraged to certify online wherever possible. Volunteers can access the online test at http://www.linklearncertification.com/. The online test questions are randomized from a pool of test and retest questions. Test takers have a different test for the test and retest attempts.

  2. Volunteers who do not pass the paper test (Form 6744, Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest) may take the retest that is included in the paper test booklet. The format of the retest is similar to the test and graded in the same manner. The retest should only be offered to volunteers one time.

  3. Instructors and partners should consider additional training for volunteers who do not pass the test on the first attempt.

  4. The partner may provide instructors with a letter for volunteers who do not pass the test. The letter should invite the volunteer to receive additional training and take the retest, or to participate in another aspect of the VITA and TCE activity such as: publicity, scheduling volunteers, clerical duties, receptionist, etc.  (10-01-2014)
Course and Instructor Evaluations

  1. Volunteers are encouraged to submit course evaluations. Online surveys are available at https://www.linklearncertifiation.com. Volunteers should take the Level 1 Survey after completing training with the VITA/TCE program. They should take the Level 3 Survey after completing their volunteer duties with the VITA/TCE program.  (10-01-2008)
State and Local Tax Training - All Volunteer Training

  1. Territories should encourage partners or site managers to contact state and local tax officials to conduct training on the preparation of state or local tax returns. This training may be conducted after or in conjunction with the federal tax training.  (09-11-2015)
Continuing Education (CE) Credit for Volunteers of the VITA/TCE Program

  1. SPEC is an approved provider during Filing Season 2015 for Continuing Education (CE) Credits for Enrolled Agents (EA) and non-credentialed tax return preparers participating in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program. Attorneys, CPAs or Certified Financial Planners can also qualify, depending on the policies of their state or national licensing board. CE Credits can be earned after taking the appropriate coursework and volunteering as a Quality Reviewer and/or Tax law Instructor at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site. New for 2015, Tax Return Preparers who meet the requirements can also receive CE Credits.

  2. The Return Preparer Office (RPO) oversees IRS approved continuing education providers and the Annual Filing Season Program for tax return preparers. This program allows non-credentialed tax return preparers to obtain an AFSP Record of Completion for participation in an annual continuing education program. See link for more information about the program: www.irs.gov/Tax-professionals/Annual-Filing-Season-Program.

  3. Offering CE credits to tax professionals is a way to encourage them to participate in SPEC programs and provide more professional tax related services. CE credits can be earned after taking the appropriate coursework and volunteering as a Quality Reviewer and/or Tax Law Instructor at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site. New for 2015, Tax Return Preparers who meet the requirements can also receive CE credits.

  4. VITA volunteers can receive up to 14 hours of IRS CE credits for certifying in tax law at the advanced level and volunteering as quality reviewers or tax return preparers, and up to 8 hours for certifying at the advanced level and serving as tax law instructors. A volunteer, who completes the requirements of a quality reviewer and instructor, can receive up to a maximum of 18 hours of credits.  (09-11-2015)
Connecting Volunteers to Partners

  1. IRS.gov provides instructions for the volunteer to complete Form 14310,VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up, if they are not already affiliated with one of our partnering organizations. Form 14310, VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up instructs the volunteer to email the form to taxvolunteer@irs.gov. The Form 14310,VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up is then reviewed by a SPEC Headquarters analyst who compiles a list of interested volunteers listed by territory office.

  2. As with any other volunteer registering through IRS.gov, the headquarters analyst will send the request to the territory office point of contact for response. Territory offices should work closely with local partners to connect the volunteers for completion of their continuing education credits.  (09-11-2015)
Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities

  1. Except for CPAs, in order to receive IRS CE credits, VITA volunteers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The PTIN must be used when registering in Link and Learn Taxes. It is the responsibility of the CPA to submit their CE certificates to their local governing board/societies for CE credit approval.

  2. The volunteer is required to register within Link & Learn Taxes (L&LT) as a quality reviewer, an instructor, or tax return preparer, depending on the service they wish to provide at the VITA/TCE sites to earn their CE Credits. The volunteer must also:

    • Complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) training and pass the VSC test with a score of 80% or higher.

    • Complete the “Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training” within Link & Learn Taxes. A test is not required for this course.

    • Certify at the Advanced level, using Link & Learn Taxes before beginning his/her volunteer service. They must pass the tax law certification test with a score of 80% or higher.

    • Provide a copy of the PTIN card to the VITA or TCE partner for validation of PTIN number and name indicated on the card.

  3. The volunteer must provide the partner or site coordinator with their Link and Learn printed Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, along with the certificates associated with each completed tax law certification module.

  4. If the volunteer performed both instructor and quality reviewer roles, two Forms should be completed unless the partner issuing the hours is the same person.

  5. The volunteer must complete the required volunteer service hours for the position served:

    1. Quality Reviewer - must review returns for a minimum of 10 hours

    2. Tax Return Preparer - must prepare tax returns for a minimum of 10 hours

    3. Instructor - must instruct for a minimum of 4 hours.  (09-11-2015)
VITA or TCE Partner Role

  1. Partners play a critical role in protecting the integrity of this program. SPEC partners must take the following actions to ensure proper credit is provided:

    1. Validate the volunteer's identity

    2. Validate the volunteer's PTIN and name on PTIN card by reviewing PTIN card

    3. Document the number of hours the volunteer spends teaching speciality certifications courses, preparing tax returns, and/or quality reviewing tax returns

    4. Validate the volunteer certified using Link and Learn Taxes

    5. Secure Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, from the volunteer (printed from Link and Learn Taxes and signed by the volunteer)

    6. Review Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, to ensure the volunteer certified (P) in VSC, Advanced, and at least one specialty module if volunteer is an instructor

    7. Complete the following in the Continuing Education Credits ONLY section of Form 13615: input name as listed on the PTIN card, verify PTIN number, add the site or training address, identify volunteer status (EA, CPA, or other), volunteer position, tax law courses taught and total hours of service for each position that applies.

    8. Validate the Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, CE credit information after all CE credit qualifications are met by signing (electronic or original signature) in the appropriate place(s). This may possibly include signing in two sections.

    9. Provide a completed Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs - VITA/TCE programs, to their SPEC relationship manager when the volunteer meets all program requirements for qualifying for continuing education credits.


      All forms for AARP Tax-Aide volunteers should be sent to AARP National Office in accordance with program directives. And all forms for Overseas Military Volunteers should be sent directly to the SPEC HQ RM.

    10. Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs must be provided to SPEC not later than April 30 for sites closing by April 15. For year - round sites, it must be provided monthly after April 30 once the CE requirements are met.  (09-11-2015)
Territory Office Role

  1. SPEC headquarters created a SharePoint site to monitor completion of CE requirements. Certification through Link and Learn Taxes must be done prior to working at a volunteer site or serving as an instructor. All relationship managers will be given access to the SharePoint site. Once Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs is received from the partner or site coordinator confirming a volunteer has completed their CE requirements, the relationship manager will review the Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs to:

    1. Ensure all required sections of Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs are completed accurately and signed.

    2. Confirm all CE requirements have been met, such as passing all required certifications, meeting volunteer hour requirements for quality reviewer and tax return preparer, and taught specialty course(s) if volunteering as an instructor.

    3. Add the allowable CE hours. If all qualifications have been met, the number of hours should be one of the following: Quality Reviewer - 14 credits; Tax Return Preparer - 14 credits; Instructor - 8 credits; Quality Reviewer and Instructor - 18 hours.

    4. Input the required information from the Form 13615 into the CE SharePoint site. An input form should be completed for each Form 13615 received. It is referred to as the 2015 Continuing Education Credit Input Form. All forms are required to be input by May 15, 2015.


      AARP Volunteer and Overseas Military Volunteer Form 13615 are input to the SharePoint Site by HQ analyst ONLY.

    5. Save all Form 13615 as pdf files using the same naming convention. (e.g. First Name, Last Name) If the volunteer is a CPA then include this at the end of the file name. Make sure all forms are complete. The Form 13615 should be sent to the Area analyst via email.

    6. Input a master list of all Form 13615 to the Share Point Site and send to the Area analyst designated for the RM’s territory.

    7. Confirm with site coordinators during Field Site Visits they are familiar with the CE credit procedures and explain, if they are not. If applicable, review Form 13615, Form Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs at the site and provide assistance if necessary.

    8. Explain CE credit requirements during partner discussions.  (09-11-2015)
Area Office Role

  1. Serve as Liaison between territory office and headquarters.

  2. Verify entries in the Share Point Site against the master list received from the RM by May 31 to ensure all forms were input. Resolve any inconsistencies with the responsible territory.

  3. Coordinate with territories on discrepancies with data provided to headquarters impacting the ability to provide CE credits to volunteer quality reviewers, tax return preparers, and instructors. Headquarters will provide the area office with discrepancies requiring follow-up and reconciliation.

  4. During territory Operational Reviews, the area offices should review the certification reports in Link and Learn Taxes against Form 13615 and compare them to the entries on the SharePoint for accuracy. If there any discrepancies, the area office must notify headquarters immediately.

  5. Prepare and mail all CE certificates for CPAs requesting CE credits.

  6. Add Form 13615 to the CE credit shared drive in the appropriate folder upon receipt form the RM.


    All area analysts will be given access to the CE Credit Shared Drive by SPEC HQ.

  7. Provide a master list of all Form 13615 added to the shared drive and a list of all CPA certificates issued provided to SPEC HQ analyst by June 15.  (09-11-2015)
AARP HQ National RM Office Role

  1. The headquarters National RM for AARP is responsible for ensuring the receipt of all Form 13615 for AARP volunteers. All volunteer's completed Form 13615 (original or scanned) will be sent by the local AARP organizations to their HQ Office, per directions issued by AARP HQ.

  2. AARP HQ office will scan the Form 13615, and send to SPEC HQ National Relationship Manager via email along with a master list of all volunteers requesting CE credits. All Form 13615 must be saved as pdf files using the volunteers first name, last name. For example: John Doe. If the volunteer is a CPA, then add "CPA" to the end of the file name. Once the forms are received the RM must:

    1. Verify all required sections of the Form 13615 are completed accurately signed and dated.

    2. Confirm all CE requirements have been met, such as passing all required certifications, meeting volunteer hour requirements for instructor and/or quality reviewer, and taught specialty course(s) if volunteering as an instructor.

    3. Add the allowable CE hours on the bottom section of Form 13615. If all qualifications have been met, the number of hours should be as follows: Quality Reviewer -14 credits, Tax Return Preparers - 14 credits, and Instructors - 8 credits. A volunteer that completes the requirements of a quality reviewer and instructor can receive up to a maximum of 18 credit hours.

    4. Input the required information from the Form 13615 into the CE SharePoint Site. An input form should be completed for each Form 13615 received. It is referred to as the "2015 Continuing Education Credit Input Form" . All forms are required to be input by May 15, 2015.

    5. Notify OPQ analyst when the data has been input via email and include a master list of all AARP Form 13615.

    6. Add all Forms 13615 to the shared drive folder labeled 2015 CE Credits/AARP.  (09-11-2015)
Overseas Military HQ National RM Role

  1. The headquarters National RM for Overseas Military is responsible for ensuring the receipt of all Form 13615 for Overseas Military volunteers. All volunteer's completed Form 13615 (original or scanned) will be sent to the RM. Once the forms are received the RM must:

    1. Verify all required sections of the Form 13615 are completed accurately signed and dated.

    2. Confirm all CE requirements have been met, such as passing all required certifications, meeting volunteer hour requirements for quality reviewer and/ or tax return preparer, and taught specialty course(s) if volunteering as an instructor.

    3. Add the allowable CE hours on the bottom section of Form 13615. If all qualifications have been met, the number of hours should be as follows: Quality Reviewer -14 credits, Tax Return Preparers - 14 credits, and Instructors - 8 credits. A volunteer that completes the requirements of a quality reviewer/tax return preparer and instructor can receive up to a maximum of 18 credit hours.

    4. Input the required information from the Form 13615 into the CE SharePoint Site. An input form should be completed for each Form 13615 received. It is referred to as the "2015 Continuing Education Credit Input Form" . All forms are required to be input by May 15, 2015.

    5. Notify the OPQ analyst via email when the data has been input and include a master list of all Overseas Military Form 13615.

    6. Add all Form 13615 to the shared drive folder labeled 2015 CE credits/Overseas Military. All Form 13615 should be saved as pdf files using the volunteers first name, last name. For example: John Doe. If the volunteer is a CPA, then add "CPA" to the end of the file name.  (09-11-2015)
Headquarters(HQ) Office Role

  1. Headquarters is responsible for communicating changes or updates to the territory and area offices related to the CE credits program. The record keeping retention requirement for Continuing Education (CE) Credits, mandated by the Return Preparer Office (RPO) is for a term of 4 years. SPEC Headquarters must maintain copies of all Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct for volunteers requesting CE Credits and the volunteer data captured on the Continuing Education (CE) SharePoint Site. In addition HQ will take the following actions to process all requests for CE credits.

  2. OPQ will verify the master list received from the Area Office, National AARP RM, and Military Overseas RM to the SharePoint site to confirm all Form 13615 were input to the SharePoint Site.

  3. OPQ will review the master spreadsheets on the SharePoint Site for each area to verify completeness.

  4. Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) group will generate a PTIN certified report from Link and Learn Taxes, after certification test that includes:

    1. Date test taken

    2. Certifications

    3. Position (Quality Reviewer, Tax Return Preparer, and/or Instructor)

    4. PTIN

    5. Volunteer name

    6. Volunteer address

  5. PSA will compare PTIN certified report to SharePoint data and will analyze data to see if names on SharePoint site show up in Link and Learn Taxes. A report will be provided to Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ) of the names and PTINs that do not reconcile. Discrepancies will be provided to the area office by OPQ for follow-up and reconciliation.

  6. OPQ will use the SharePoint site information and PSA analysis to validate volunteers meeting certification requirements for instructor and/or Quality Reviewer and date tests taken using PTIN report.

  7. On a monthly basis, beginning in June, OPQ will provide a list of PTIN holders, per the IRS PTIN reporting template, to the RPO confirming those eligible for IRS CE credit.

  8. OPQ will issue CE certificates, at the conclusion of each filing season, to each volunteer who met all requirements of the program. All certificates will be provided electronically via email.

  9. OPQ will create folders on a Shared Drive to maintain Form 13615, CE SharePoint Site entries, the RPO Approved CE Credit template and the results of the Link & Learn survey for a period of 4 years.  (09-11-2015)
SPEC Training Support Tool

  1. The SPEC Training Support Tool is designed to assess partner’s direct training needs for volunteers and site coordinators by considering the criteria listed on Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool. The RM and TM will determine the actions for each partner’s training based on the assessment made and the method selected for delivering training. The TM must assess and make the final approval. This tool can help to justify travel costs if applicable.

  2. This is an optional tool, unless mandated by your Area Director and/or Territory Manager. If direct support or a direct support assessment is not required, this form should not be completed.  (10-01-2011)
Relationship Manager Responsibility

  1. The Relationship Manager is responsible for using Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool as a guide to assess a partner’s training plan for their volunteers and to discuss plans and actions for partners with the territory manager.  (10-01-2011)
Territory Manager Responsibility

  1. The territory manager is responsible for the following with regard to the SPEC Training Support Tool:

    • Deliver Training Support Tool to all relationship managers and discuss the benefits of use

    • Review completed Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool discuss the results with the relationship manager and indicate concurrence or other actions needed by signing and dating the form

    • Maintain Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, either in a partner file maintained by the relationship manager or a group file retained by the territory  (09-11-2015)
Criteria Used to Consider Direct Training Support for Partners

  1. Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, provides the criteria when assessing whether a partner requires direct training support. The process is to review each factor and select all that apply. Additionally, other factor(s) can be added to the process. After due consideration, if it is decided the partner requires direct training support, then the recommended method for delivering training and cost associated with the method will be documented. The TM will approve or disapprove and provide feedback as needed.  (02-13-2015)
Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training and Certification

  1. The integrity of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs depends on maintaining public trust. All taxpayers using VITA/TCE services should be confident they are receiving accurate return preparation and quality service. All volunteers are responsible for providing the highest quality and best service to taxpayers. Along with this responsibility, all volunteers must sign Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement, each year, stating they will comply with the Quality Site Requirements (QSR) and uphold the highest ethical standards. The Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) were developed specifically for free tax preparation operations. Volunteers must agree to the standards prior to working in a VITA/TCE free return preparation site. All participants in the VITA/TCE programs must adhere to the six Volunteer Standards of Conduct:

    Follow the ten Quality Site Requirements (QSR) See IRM, VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR)– QSR The purpose of QSR is to ensure VITA/TCE sites are using consistent site operating procedures that will ultimately assist with the accuracy of volunteer prepared returns. See Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, for a full description of each QSR. Non-compliance to the Quality Site Requirements only becomes a violation to the standards of conduct if a volunteer refuses to comply with the QSR and/or if the volunteer intentionally violates the QSR and refuses to change this behavior after being counseled. If the problem is corrected, it is not a violation of the VSC.
    Do not accept payment, solicit donations, or accept refund payments for federal or state tax return preparation. Free means we do not accept compensation for our services. Therefore, we do not want to confuse the taxpayer by asking for donations. Donation or tip jars located in the return preparation or taxpayer waiting area are a violation of this standard. Taxpayers can make cash donations to the sponsoring organization, but not in the tax preparation area.
    Donation or tip jars can be placed in another area at the site as long as that area does not give the impression that the site is collecting the funds for return preparation. This cannot be in the entry, waiting, tax preparation, or quality review areas.
    Taxpayers’ federal or state refunds cannot be deposited into VITA/TCE volunteer or any associated partners’ personal or business bank/debit card accounts.
    Do not solicit business from taxpayers you assist or use the knowledge gained about them (their information) for any direct or indirect personal benefit for yourself or any other specific individual. Volunteers must properly use and safeguard taxpayers’ personal information. Furthermore, do not use confidential or non-public information to engage in financial transactions, and not allow its improper use to further your own or another person’s private interests.
    Keep taxpayer and tax return information confidential. A volunteer preparer may discuss information with other volunteers at the site, but only for purposes of preparing the return. Volunteers cannot use taxpayer information for personal or business use.
    Do not knowingly prepare false returns.
    It is imperative that volunteers correctly apply tax law to the taxpayer’s situation. While a volunteer may be tempted to bend the law to help taxpayers, this will cause problems down the road. Volunteers must not knowingly prepare false returns.
    Trust in the IRS and the local sponsoring organization is jeopardized when ethical standards are not followed. Fraudulent returns can result in many years of taxpayer interaction with the IRS. The taxpayer may be required to pay additional tax plus interest and penalties resulting in an extreme burden. In addition, the taxpayer may seek damages under state or local law from the SPEC partner for the volunteer’s fraudulent actions. Even so, the IRS would still seek payment of the additional taxes, interest, and penalties from the taxpayer.
    Nationwide, identity theft continues to grow at an alarming rate. Unfortunately there have been instances of unscrupulous volunteers using information they have obtained at a VITA/TCE site to steal the identity of taxpayers. For example, using a stolen social security number to file a false tax return to obtain the refund is identity theft. Any suspicion of identity theft will be reported to IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The IRS considers this a very serious crime and has put in place measures to detect possible identity theft situations at VITA/TCE sites. The IRS is continually implementing new processes for handling returns, new filters to detect fraud, new initiatives to partner with stakeholders, and a continued commitment to investigate the criminals who perpetrate these crimes
    Do not engage in criminal, infamous, dishonest, notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct deemed to have a negative effect on the VITA/TCE programs. Volunteers may be prohibited from participating in VITA/TCE programs if they engage (past and future) in criminal, infamous, dishonest, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct prejudicial to the government. Volunteers must take care to avoid interactions that discredit the program. In addition, a taxpayer may look to state or local law to seek money from the SPEC partner for a volunteer’s fraudulent actions
    Treat all taxpayers in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.
    To protect the public interest, the IRS and its employees, partners, and volunteers must maintain the confidence and esteem of the people we serve. All volunteers are expected to conduct themselves professionally in a courteous, businesslike, and diplomatic manner. Volunteers take pride in assisting hard-working men and women who come to VITA/TCE sites for return preparation. Taxpayers are often under a lot of stress and may wait extended periods for assistance. Volunteers may also experience stress due to the volume of taxpayers needing service. This situation can make patience run short. It is important the volunteer remain calm and create a peaceful and friendly atmosphere.
  2. VITA/TCE volunteers are required to certify in VSC Training by passing a test. Volunteers must be certified in the VSC prior to certifying in tax law (i.e., Basic and Advanced) and before the volunteer begins working at a VITA/TCE site.
    The VSC training includes:

    • The six (6) VSC

    • A definition of unethical actions

    • How to report possible legal and ethical violations

    • Consequences for failing to adhere to the program requirements

    • Examples of situations that raise questions on ethical behavior

  3. SPEC will provide the Standards of Conduct Training online using Link and Learn Taxes and in Publication 4961, VITA/TCE Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training.

  4. The preferred method for completing the certification is online through Link and Learn Taxes. The volunteers with a passing score (i.e., 80 percent or higher) can proceed to certify in tax law (i.e., Basic and Advanced). Once all certifications are completed, volunteers will complete and sign Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs Forms printed from Link and Learn Taxes will include electronic signatures. Volunteers can take the written test in a classroom or through Link and Learn Taxes. If the test is administered without the use of Link and Learn Taxes, the sponsoring organization must grade the test. Once certified in VSC, the volunteer can proceed to certify in tax law.

  5. All volunteers, including greeters/ facilitatators, must certify in the VSC. An exception is provided for volunteers who only schedule appointments for the site.

  6. All volunteers are responsible for providing the highest quality and best service to taxpayers. All volunteers must sign and date a new Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, each year. By signing, the volunteer is stating they will comply with the program requirements and uphold the highest ethical standards. Partners or site coordinators must also sign and date Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, indicating they have confirmed the volunteer’s identity and validated the volunteer’s certification level. Furthermore, all SPEC partners must sign Form 13533,Sponsor Agreement, or Form 13533-A,FSA Remote Sponsor Agreement, certifying they will adhere to the strictest standards of ethical conduct.

  7. An alert will be circulated whenever a violation to the VSC is identified.  (02-13-2015)
Failure to Comply with the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC)

  1. By law, tax return preparers are required to exercise due diligence in preparing or assisting in the preparation of tax returns. SPEC defines due diligence as the degree of care and caution reasonably expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a volunteer in the VITA/TCE programs.

  2. The consequences to the volunteer, tax site and/or sponsoring organization for failing to comply with the VSC includes, but is not limited to, the following: terminating the partnership between the IRS and sponsoring organization; discontinuing IRS support; inclusion in the IRS Volunteer Registry to bar future VITA/TCE activity indefinitely; revoking or retrieving the sponsoring organization’s grant funds; deactivating VITA/TCE EFIN; removing all IRS products, supplies, and loaned equipment from the site; removing all taxpayer information from the site; disallowing use of IRS-SPEC logos; referral of conduct for potential TIGTA and criminal investigations; and holding partner responsible for stolen refunds or other losses due to fraudulent acts at a site.

  3. Relationship managers, TM, and others in the field should immediately report violations to headquarters using the Internal Referral Process.  (02-13-2015)
Filing Season Readiness Training Requirements (SPEC Employees)

  1. SPEC is committed to providing top quality service to all taxpayers that we serve. Our success depends largely on our ability to work collaboratively with our partners and volunteers to address the diverse needs of our mutual customer base. Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training is essential to SPEC’s continued success.

  2. All tax consultants conducting field site visits must complete the following training:

    1. Volunteer Standards of Conduct (Ethics): Prior to certifying in tax law, all tax consultants must certify in the VSC training using Link and Learn Taxes.

    2. Tax law Training: All SPEC employees conducting Site or Return Reviews must be certified through the Advanced level of the VITA and TCE volunteer training, through LLT, prior to conducting reviews.

    3. VITA/TCE Site Coordinator's (SC) Training: Site Coordinator training provides instructions and tools to help the SC manage their volunteers and monitor adherence to the VSC and the QSR.

    4. Field Site Visits Training: All tax consultants must complete this training before conducting field site visits. The training provides information on how to conduct field site visits and complete Form 6729, Site Review Sheet.

    5. Software Training (or refresher): This requirement can be accomplished by taking the recorded vendor webinar available through LLT on The Practice Lab. After successfully completing the vendor class, the employee will be able to recognize any inconsistencies in the set-up of the site’s vendor software, such as security requirements, EFIN, and SIDN.

  3. Filing Season Readiness Training (FSR): All employees are required to complete FSR Training. This training is designed to equip employees with the necessary information for successful execution of the filing season. All employees with the exception of secretaries and management assistants must complete the FSR Knowledge Check on ELMS.  (10-01-2013)
Training SETR Codes

  1. Refer to Document 11684, SETR Codes for SPEC, for a complete listing of training SETR codes.

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