22.30.1  Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (Cont. 1) 
Volunteer Return Preparation Overview 
Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 
Compensation  (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.  (10-01-2011)
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 by Servicewide Communications and Liaison on a case-by-case basis. Requests for use of the logos must be provided to OPQ and allow a minimum of two weeks for approval.  (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.  (10-01-2013)
Civil Rights Requirements

  1. The External Civil Rights Division (CRD) in conjunction with General Legal Services (GLS), created a Title VI Assurance Form 13325, Statement of Assurance Concerning Civil Rights Compliance for IRS SPEC Partnerships and if applicable Form 13324, IRS Civil Rights Assurance for Sub-recipients under SPEC Partnership Agreements that is required to be signed by SPEC partners prior to receipt of federal financial assistance as defined in IRM, Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  2. SPEC is required to solicit new assurance forms annually from partners. Some partners are exempt from civil rights requirements because their agency is already covered, e.g., federal agencies, Military and the Coast Guard. While TCE partners are not exempt, they sign the civil rights Assurance Form as part of the grant application process.

  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 an assurance form 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 - to be used by VITA (Publication 4053 SP, Civil Rights Poster in Spanish)

    • 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.)


    Territories may either mail the Civil Rights notification documents as a part of the package or have these items shipped to the partner's address.

    6 Enclose a self-addressed, envelope with the business reply label properly affixed for the partner to return the signed assurance form to the territory office. 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 assurance form, put your area number at the top right hand corner and make a copy.


    The Civil Rights Division will also accept electronic or scanned signature Form 13324 and Form 13325 by email. Send electronic or scanned signature Civil Rights Assurance Form to:edi.civil.rights.division@irs.gov .


    Territory offices are required to keep copies of the signed assurance forms for a minimum of three years.

    8 Hold all original signed Assurance Forms until you have received one from each partner:
    • 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 assurance form 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 assurance forms.

    9 Mail or email the original signed assurance forms annually to the External Civil Rights Division (CRD) via UPS overnight delivery no later than January 10 to the following address:

    Director, Civil Rights Division, IRS, AWSS
    EDI Operations
    1111 Constitution Ave., NW, Room 2413
    Washington, DC 20224
    email to edi.civil.rights.division@irs.gov
    10 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?"

  4. For the purposes of civil rights, a sub-partner is a partner that works directly with a SPEC partner or coalition. They do not communicate with the SPEC territory office. The partners’ cover letter instructs the partner (not the sub partner) to contact the territory office if they have sub-partners. The sub-partners’ Assurance Form 13324,Internal Revenue Service Civil Rights Assurance for Sub-recipients under SPEC Partnership Agreements, is a restricted form and can only be ordered by the IRS by calling the distribution center at 1-800-829-2765 and providing your order point number.


    The sub-partner forms must be maintained at the partner level and should not be sent to the territory or the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Sub-partners should not be listed in SPECTRM.  (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.  (10-01-2011)
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 PRO contains a complete listing and description of the volunteer training products. Specific guidance and course information is also available on irs.gov (Keyword: Community Network). The Community Network 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.  (10-01-2014)
Link and Learn Taxes (LLT)

  1. SPEC's e-learning application, LLT, is the preferred method of training for employees and volunteers. LLT is also available in Spanish. The site contains the eight VITA and TCE courses and the necessary testing and certification tools. The site also contains a link to the Electronic Tax Software Practice Lab for VITA and TCE Volunteers. Volunteers using LLT for training and certification gain insights into the types of tax situations they will encounter at the site and experience using the return preparation software available to them from the IRS. The software contains programming and tax law for the upcoming filing season.  (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  (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.  (10-01-2014)

  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 and FSA)

    • 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 1st

    • 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 1st

  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 1st.

    • 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 30th
    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)  (10-01-2013)
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. All instructors and quality reviewers must be certified at the Basic level or higher.
    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 emailing 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.  (10-01-2014)
Continuing Education (CE) Credit for Enrolled Agents and Other Tax Return Preparers (OTRP)

  1. To help enrolled agents (EA) maintain their Qualifications, the director, Office of Professional Responsibility, has set continuing education (CE) requirements. EAs can earn CE credit by serving as a certified instructor and/or quality reviewer in the SPEC VITA/TCE programs.

  2. EAs and Other Tax Return Preparers (OTRPs) can be helpful in providing professional tax related services. Therefore, offering CE credit can be a way to encourage EAs and OTRPs to participate in SPEC programs such as VITA and TCE as a certified instructor or volunteering as a quality reviewer.

  3. An OTRP is a tax return preparer professional who is not classified as an EA, Enrolled retirement plan agent or Certified Public Accountant.

  4. EAs and OTRPs, interested in CE credits, must notify the SPEC partnering organization that they are seeking credits as a tax law instructor, quality reviewer, or both and provide the partner his/her Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

  5. EAs and OTRPs must also register and include their PTIN and Link and Learn Taxes when certifying in tax law at the "Advanced" level. They must also use their PTIN in Link and Learn Taxes when certifying for the course they intend to instruct.

  6. EAs and OTRPs cannot receive compensation for any activities they are requesting CE credits for as a volunteer.

  7. The Director, Office of Professional Responsibility and Treasury Department, and Circular No. 230 provide information on continuing education. CE credit requirements should be routed to:
    Director, Office of Professional Responsibility ATTN: N:CSC:DOP
    1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC 20224

  8. Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs., was revised to include a section entitled "For CE Credits Only." In this section, the SPEC partner must include:

    1. Volunteer's PTIN and name on PTIN card

    2. Site name and address

    3. Number of hours completed as Quality Reviewer

    4. Number of hours volunteer taught tax law in one or more of the specialty certification modules

  9. Available credits are limited to partner needs or demands. To meet the requirements for CE credits as a quality reviewer or instructor, SPEC volunteers must adhere to Quality Reviewer and Instructor requirements.

  10. In order to qualify for continuing education credits, a quality reviewer must prior to volunteering:

    • Notify the SPEC partnering organization they are seeking credits as a quality reviewer and provide the partner his/her Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

    • Register and include their PTIN in Link and Learn Taxes when certifying in tax law at the Advanced level.

    • Complete VSC (Ethics) training and pass the test.

    • Certify at the Advanced certification level using Link and Learn taxes on irs.gov.

    • Review tax returns for accuracy at a VITA or TCE site for a minimum of 10 hours.

  11. EA or OTRP volunteers meeting the above requirements will receive 14 continuing education credit hours as follows:

    • 1 hour for Ethics training VSC

    • 3 hours for Federal Tax Law Updates

    • 10 hours for Individual Federal Tax Law training

  12. In order to qualify for continuing education credits, an instructor must prior to volunteering:

    • Notify the SPEC partnering organization they are seeking credits as a tax law instructor and provide the partner his/her Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

    • Register and include their PTIN in Link and Learn Taxes when certifying in tax law at the Advanced level.

    • Complete VSC (Ethics) training and pass the test.

    • Certify at the Advanced certification level using Link and Learn Taxes on irs.gov,

    • Certify and teach for a minimum of 4 hours in one or more specialty certification levels, which includes: Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Puerto Rico, Military, International, Foreign Students, Cancellation of Debt (COD).

  13. EA or OTRP volunteers meeting the above requirements will receive 8 continuing education credit hours as follows:

    • 1 hour for Ethics training VSC

    • 3 hours for Federal Tax Law Updates

    • 4 hours for Teaching Specialty Tax Law course(s)


    A volunteer meeting all requirements of a Quality Reviewer and Instructor is entitled to a maximum of 18 hours of continuing education credits. Credit for Ethics training and Federal Tax Law updates is provided only one time.  (10-01-2014)
Connecting EA or OTRP to Partners

  1. IRS.gov provides instructions for the EA or OTRP 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 EA or OTRP for completion of their continuing education credits.  (10-01-2014)
Other Program Requirements and Responsibilities

  1. In order to receive CE credits EAs and OTRPs must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). The PTIN must be used when registering in Link and Learn Taxes and provided to the VITA or TCE partner for use in confirming volunteer hours.

  2. The EA or OTRP Instructor must provide the partner 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. The partner will complete the instructor hours under the CE Credits section on Page 2 by checking the instructor volunteer position and adding the applicable instructor hours.

  3. The EA or OTRP Quality reviewer 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. The partner or site coordinator will complete the volunteer quality review hours under the CE Credits section on page 2 by checking the quality reviewers position and adding the applicable number of volunteer hours as a quality reviewer under the appropriate section (Enrolled Agent or Other Tax Return Preparer).

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

  5. Once the territory office receives Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs the Relationship Manager will confirm the EA or OTRP has completed the requirements for receipt of the CE credits on the SharePoint. The territory office must complete Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, by adding the maximum CE credits for the EA or OTRP.

  6. The territory office must review the certifications levels and the volunteer and/or instructor hours to validate if the EA or OTRP qualifies to receive CE credits and to determine the maximum amount of CE that can be reported to the Return Preparer Office (RPO). In order to receive CE credits, the EA or OTRP must have (1) received a passing score in specific tax law certification modules (shown as "P" for each module on Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs) and (2) completed the minimum amount of volunteer and/or instructor hours to qualify for CE credits. Review IRM, Continuing Education (CE) Credit for Enrolled Agents and Other Tax Return Preparers (OTRP) for further clarification.  (10-01-2014)
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 volunteer spends teaching speciality certifications and/or quality reviewing 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, Advances, and at least one specialty module if volunteer is an instructor

    7. For volunteers participating in the CE program, complete the following on Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs - PTIN, name on PTIN card, site or training address, volunteer position, tax law courses taught, and the number of hours the volunteer taught specialty courses and/or quality reviewed returns.

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

    9. Fax, email, mail, scan or deliver a copy of Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs for Continuing Education credit volunteers only, to the local SPEC Tax Consultant.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.  (10-01-2014)
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 an EA or OTRP 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 instructor and/or quality reviewer, 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; Instructor - 8 credits; Quality Reviewer and Instructor - 18 hours.

    4. Update the CE SharePoint site with the required information (e.g., PTIN, address, volunteer position, certification) not later than May 15th.

    5. The SPEC Territory Relationship Manager will forward Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs to the CE Area Analysts who will review and forward to headquarters for retention of the prescribed four year term.

    6. Work with the area analysts to resolve any discrepancies with data on the SharePoint site.

    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.

  2. The SharePoint is designed to allow searches on the PTIN.  (10-01-2013)
Area Office Role

  1. Serve as Liaison between territory office and headquarters.

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

  3. During territory Operational Reviews, the area offices should review the certification reports in Link and Learn Taxes against Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs and compare them to the entries on the SharePoint for accuracy.

  4. If there any discrepancies, the area office must notify headquarters immediately to rectify the EA or OTRP.  (10-01-2014)
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.

  2. 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 or Instructor)

    4. PTIN

    5. Volunteer name

    6. Volunteer address

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. On a monthly basis, beginning in June, OPQ will provide a list of EA and OTRP to the RPO confirming the requirements for receipt of the CE credits were met. this shall be done using template provided by the RPO.

  6. OPQ will issue CE certificates, at the conclusion of each filing season, to each EA and OTRP who met all requirements of the program.

  7. All Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, the Share Point site and other individual Continuing Education data will be maintained by headquarters in a shared drive for the prescribed four year term.  (10-01-2011)
SPEC Training Support Tool

  1. The SPEC Training Support Tool is used to assess each partner’s training needs. Territory offices can assess the level of risk for each partner based on a review of the partners’ prior year results; reject rates, production, Quality Site Requirement results and return review results. Results gathered from Form 13826SPEC Training Support Tool will help determine SPEC’s level of involvement with each partner. Although the use of Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool is optional, it can be a useful guide for new partnerships.  (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  (10-01-2011)
Partner Assistance for Volunteer Training

  1. Risk levels identify the amount of assistance relationship managers will need to provide partners in delivering training to volunteers. Low risk indicate very little involvement is needed, while high risk will require more involvement in partner training plans. The risk levels are as follows:

    1. Low Risk - Requires face-to-face conversation with the partner to cover the quality process, as well as, any new tax law and vendor software updates, with a PowerPoint® presentation. If a face-to-face meeting is not feasible due to travel, timing or other barriers, the territory may decide to use conference call discussions.

    2. Medium Risk - Requires the relationship manager (or designated SPEC employee) to complete the action in (a) above, and also be involved (in person) in a partner train-the-trainer session.

    3. High Risk - Requires the SPEC employee to complete the actions in (a) and (b) above, and to assist the partner with developing a detailed written plan for the delivery of the Quality Process, tax law, and vendor software training. In addition to the training plan development, the relationship manager (or designated SPEC employee) should observe the delivery of the volunteer training. If not possible due to the location of the training, the relationship manager should conduct a comprehensive review of the lesson plans to ensure all critical items are included.  (10-01-2013)
Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training and Certification

  1. The intent of the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) is to provide guidance and structure for regulating VITA/TCE volunteers and to protect taxpayers. All 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.

  2. 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 Form 6744,VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.

  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, 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 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.  (10-01-2012)
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 tax site 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; revoking or retrieving the sponsoring organization’s grant funds; deactivating IRS 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; 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 OPQ.  (10-01-2013)
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, which now includes additional test questions on their understanding of the Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process. Tax consultants must use Link and Learn Taxes (LLT) to complete this certification.

    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: All tax consultants to complete this training through ELMS 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.  (10-01-2013)
Training Certification

  1. Upon completion of test in LLT (Advanced Level), the SPEC employee must print out the certification Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement-VITA/TCE Programs, sign and date the form, and provide a copy to their territory manager. The territory must also sign and date the form and maintain a copy in the employee's EPF.

  2. Employees are required to use LLT to complete their VSC and tax law certifications.  (10-01-2012)
Territory Manager Responsibility

  1. When assigning tax consultants to conduct reviews, TM should be confident in the tax consultants’ ability to demonstrate the appropriate skills, knowledge and professionalism. The results of the reviews conducted by the territory will drive strategic improvements in the volunteer return preparation programs. Ensuring that tax consultants are prepared and adequately trained is the responsibility of the territory manager.

  2. Once the tax consultant has completed all the required training, copies of the specific training certifications must be provided to the territory manager. The certification documents should be maintained in their Employee Performance File for one year.  (10-01-2013)
VITA and TCE Site Management

  1. VITA and TCE sites should be established where low-income taxpayers live, work or are likely to conduct other business. Territory offices should assist volunteers and partners with identifying preferred site locations to maximize the opportunity for free tax preparation assistance in the community.

  2. Potential sites should offer:

    • Adequate parking

    • Accessibility by public transportation

    • Handicap accessibility

    • Privacy during return preparation

    • Secure storage if computers are to be left at the site

    • Telephone line and/or Internet access

    • Have no evident security risks

  3. VITA and TCE sites require on-site management by a site coordinator/manager as well as behind the scenes management by the territory office. SPEC partners should ensure that each VITA site has a site manager and an alternate. The site manager or alternate should be present whenever the site is open.  (10-01-2013)
VITA and TCE Site Manager Responsibilities

  1. Refer to Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook for a list of Site Coordinator/Manager Responsibilities.  (10-01-2013)
Reasonable Accommodation for VITA and TCE Sites

  1. For requests for reasonable accommodations go to IRM,Training for Hearing and Visually Impaired Volunteers.

  2. Reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities is required under a variety of federal statutes. Both IRS and their sponsors must make reasonable accommodation for taxpayers and volunteers. Facts and circumstances will determine what level of accommodation is provided and who is responsible.

  3. There is no distinction between a volunteer and a taxpayer for purposes of providing reasonable accommodation for disabilities.

  4. If a partner sponsors a VITA site, the IRS has no obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for either a volunteer or taxpayer. The sponsor has an obligation under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

  5. If a site is considered to be an IRS sponsored site, there is an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for a volunteer as well as taxpayers. The determination will be made on what is considered reasonable on a case-by-case basis.

  6. An organization, either the IRS or the sponsor, can utilize the least expensive means to meet a person's accommodation request.


    To provide instruction for students that are hearing-impaired, the SPEC TM may elect to provide an interpreter to sign, provide instructors that are hearing-impaired, use videotaped training sessions, or provide a written transcript.

  7. The territory manager should also consider whether, after this person is trained, the volunteer will be at a site where the volunteer will actually be able to deliver services to the taxpayers.

  8. If the sponsor/partner is conducting a training class for VITA volunteers, the sponsor has the obligation to provide reasonable accommodation upon request. The same analysis described above would apply to the sponsor or partner's obligation with respect to what is reasonable.


    If AARP is sponsoring a site, AARP will be responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for the volunteer or taxpayer. If AARP volunteers are attending an IRS conducted training class, IRS would be responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for a volunteer if requested.  (10-01-2011)
Request for Reasonable Accommodation Funds

  1. Refer to W&I Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for interpreter services, look on under "Disability" and click on "Interpreter Services Procedures."  (03-04-2014)
Accommodating Persons with Disabilities Referred from Taxpayer Assistance Centers

  1. Effective immediately, the following process will be in place for those Taxpayers with Disabilities who previously had returns prepared at a TAC and currently need assistance from VITA/TCE sites. Special consideration will be given to those Taxpayers with Disabilities needing assistance.

  2. If a Taxpayer with Disabilities (either it is evident or the taxpayer self-discloses he/she is disabled) visits a TAC for return preparation and is upset because they cannot get the return prepared and request the manager for assistance:

    • The TAC manager will secure the taxpayer’s name and phone number and contact the local SPEC contact (territory manager).

    • The SPEC contact will reach out to a VITA/TCE site to arrange for the Taxpayer with Disabilities to have an appointment scheduled for return preparation.

    • The site should contact the Taxpayer with Disabilities within 48 hours to arrange for the taxpayer to have their return completed.

    • If the site is unable to contact the Taxpayer with Disabilities within 48 hours, the TM or Relationship Manager should make contact with the taxpayer.

  3. Our process will be monitored to ensure these Taxpayers with Disabilities are being serviced and to determine the impact  (10-01-2012)
Ordering Materials and Supplies for VITA

  1. Printer cartridges are purchased annually in bulk. Any other purchase must be for emergency only. Area offices will need to provide an acknowledgment of receipt for purchased printer cartridges to the Headquarter Office Coordinator so Receipt and Acceptance can be input into WebRTS.

  2. All ADP components for computers will be purchased by the VITA and TCE Depot.  (10-01-2013)
Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites

  1. SPEC Partners are responsible for recruiting and retaining volunteers to deliver the free tax preparation program they support. Volunteers are required to complete training and become certified, using the IRS approved test, prior to return preparation. Volunteers must adhere to SPEC’s VSC as outlined in Publication 4299,Privacy, Confidentiality, and the Standards of Conduct - A Public Trust.

  2. The integrity of the volunteer program relies heavily on protecting taxpayer privacy. To instill confidence SPEC implemented a policy requiring volunteers to prepare all tax returns at the site with the taxpayer present, unless a Virtual VITA/TCE Model. Having the taxpayer present to answer questions will ensure that a complete and accurate return is filed. Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet must be used. If there is insufficient information to complete the return, all documents should be returned to the taxpayer with a request that they be brought back with the missing information needed to complete the return.

  3. VITA/TCE volunteers must not accept balance due payments. If there is a balance due, the taxpayer should mail the payment with the return. Taxpayers may also visit their local Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) to deliver the completed return and/or full payment for balance due returns.

  4. If the taxpayer is unable to make full payment, the following products are available to assist taxpayers:

    • Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer (also in Spanish)

    • Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List (also in Spanish)

    • Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process (also in Spanish)

    • Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request (also in Spanish)

    • "What If?" scenarios listed on IRS.gov includes "What if I can't pay my taxes?"

    • IRS toll-free assistance: 1-800-829-1040

  5. Due to special circumstances, Military VITA sites are permitted to allow taxpayers to leave their records for tax return preparation, as long as the VITA site is located on the military base and is operated by military volunteers. Adequate security and privacy is expected to ensure taxpayer records are properly safeguarded.  (10-01-2013)
Return Preparation Criteria

  1. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns. At a minimum, all volunteers must certify to basic or advanced certification level annually. Volunteers who serve as site coordinators or quality reviewers must at a minimum, be certified at the advanced level annually, unless the site prepares more advanced returns.  (10-01-2012)
Processing Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return

  1. Form 8453 , U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return is used to transmit supporting documents that are required to be submitted to the IRS.

  2. Sites must forward Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return to the designated Submission Processing Center. Territory offices will ensure sites are provided address labels to forward the Form 8453,, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return to the Submission Processing Center. The use of the labels is mandatory.

  3. PDF files required to be submitted with Form 8453,U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return can be attached with the electronic record if the return is filed through Modernized e-file (MeF). For more information refer to http://www.irs.gov, search for word Modernized e-file.  (10-01-2014)
Prior Year Return Preparation

  1. Experienced volunteer sites with the necessary software and reference materials are limited to preparing prior year tax returns that are within three years of the current tax year. If the taxpayer requires assistance with an older tax return (beyond the three year period), sites should refer them to irs.gov or a professional preparer.  (10-01-2012)
State Return Preparation

  1. VITA and TCE preparers may prepare and electronically file state tax returns for taxpayers, including those that:

    • Do not have a federal tax filing requirement.

    • Have no taxable income.

    • Are eligible to receive refundable state/local credits.  (10-01-2013)
Individual Tax Identification Number

  1. All U.S. federal tax returns filed after December 31,1996 require a valid Tax Identification Number (TIN) for each person listed on the return. A valid TIN is either a valid Social Security Number (SSN) or an ITIN. An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the IRS, for certain resident and non-resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents. An ITIN is a nine digit number issued to individuals who have a tax filing requirement but who do not have, and are not eligible for, a SSN. ITINs are only for federal income tax purposes. The issuance of an ITIN does not:

    • Entitle the recipient to Social Security benefits or the EITC.

    • Create an inference regarding the individual’s immigration status.

    • Give the individual the right to work in the U.S.

  2. On December 17, 2003 the IRS announced changes to the ITIN application process to ensure ITINs were used for their intended tax administration purpose. The changes included revisions to the application standards and how taxpayers were notified of the assignment of the ITIN. The following changes were implemented for ITIN applicants:

    • Required use of current Form W-7, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number when applying for an ITIN.

    • Required Form W-7, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number be accompanied by a U.S. federal tax return (unless qualified under exception to tax filing requirement).

    • Streamlined the number of documents (13) the IRS accepts as proof of identity and foreign status to obtain an ITIN

    • Changed from an ITIN card to an authorization letter (CP 565) to notify taxpayers of assigned ITIN and avoid any similarities with a Social Security Card.


      ITIN cards issued prior to the change are still valid. Replacement letters were not issued. These taxpayers should continue to use the number previously assigned.  (10-01-2011)
ITIN/SSN Mismatch

  1. Although the ITIN does not authorize the individual to work in the U.S., ITIN holders frequently file tax returns under their ITIN with attached Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, showing the SSN that they provided to an employer. This creates an ITIN/SSN mismatch.

  2. IRS contacts employers to verify wages and withholding as part of its efforts to detect fraudulent returns. The ITIN/SSN mismatch alerts the IRS that the wages were not earned by true owner of the SSN and prevents erroneous notices regarding unreported income from being issued to that taxpayer.  (10-01-2013)
ITIN/SSN Mismatch Procedures

  1. When an individual comes to a volunteer tax preparation site with a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, reflecting a SSN requesting return preparation and produces an ITIN, the volunteer may prepare the tax return with the documents provided as long as the name on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, matches that of the ITIN holder.


    Prior to completion of any tax return, the volunteer must request proof of identity. Two forms of identification are required. One must be photo identification such as:

    • Passport

    • National identity card

    • Drivers license (U.S.)

    • State identification card (U.S.)

    • Military identification card

    • School photo ID

    • VISA

  2. The second form of identification must be the original or a copy of the ITIN Card or Letter.

  3. One or both of the forms of identification should reflect the taxpayer’s current mailing address. If the taxpayer cannot substantiate their identity, or if the volunteer is uncomfortable accepting the items presented as proof of identity, the taxpayer should be referred to seek professional tax assistance.

  4. Returns prepared with an ITIN/SSN mismatch can be filed electronically. Do not change any information on the Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,. Tax preparation software features that normally auto-populate the TIN on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, based on the TIN entered on the return should be disabled for ITIN returns. Additionally the software should allow for the preparer to list the SSN on the Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement,. Refer to e-file for ITIN/SSN Mismatch for additional information.

  5. The taxpayer is not eligible for the EITC. If the taxpayer becomes a permanent resident of the United States and secures a valid SSN at a later date, he/she can later file amended returns and claim the EITC for all years for which the statue of limitations has not expired.

  6. Effective immediately SPEC employees, partners and/or volunteers may:

    1. Conduct outreach sessions to help applicants with completion of Form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

    2. Provide educational information to applicants regarding requirements in applying for an ITIN.

    3. If a CAA is participating in the outreach sessions, the CAA may review the required documentation which may include a federal tax return, and accept the application for submission.

    4. If a CAA is not participating in the outreach sessions, applicants should be directed to or given Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and the completed Form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The applicant is then responsible for either mailing the Form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number application with the required documentation to the IRS Austin campus ITIN Unit, taking the completed. Form W-7, Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and original identity documents to a local TAC, or applying through a Certifying Acceptance Agent.

  7. SPEC employees, partners and/or volunteers may choose to offer return preparation in the outreach sessions as long as they are trained to do so.


    Unless the SPEC employee, partner and/or volunteer are CAA they may not accept Form W-7, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number for submission to the Austin campus ITIN Unit.

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