22.30.1  Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (Cont. 2)

22.30.1.3 
Volunteer Return Preparation Overview

22.30.1.3.10 
Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites

22.30.1.3.10.5  (01-10-2013)
Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB)

  1. Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB) is a SPEC-partners collaborative effort to furnish taxpayers with the information, knowledge and skills needed to evaluate their financial options and to identify those choices that best suit their needs and circumstances.

  2. FEAB, in conjunction with tax education outreach and tax preparation, comprises the third prong of the SPEC business model.

22.30.1.3.10.5.1  (01-10-2013)
SPECs Role in FEAB

  1. SPEC's role is to facilitate the sharing of information among SPEC partners to promote financial education and asset-building opportunities for SPEC’s targeted audience.

  2. Examples of topics for information sharing include:

    • Direct Deposit

    • Savings Bonds

    • Home Foreclosure

    • Cancellation of Debt

22.30.1.3.10.5.2  (10-01-2013)
Administrative Requirements

  1. The SPEC Relationship Manager is responsible for the completion of Form 14099, SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool. This form will guide the relationship manager in determining FEAB services offered by the partner/site.

  2. Form 14099,SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool also serves to assess the overall activity level of our partnerships around awareness/planning, knowledge, transaction and application activities at all sites listed in the partner module of SPECTRM.

22.30.1.3.10.5.3  (10-01-2013)
Headquarters Responsibilities

  1. SPEC headquarters has the following responsibilities with regard to FEAB:

    • Providing guidance to SPEC territories related to the promotion of FEAB opportunities

    • Monitoring performance through the use of SPECTRM reports

    • Updating Form 14099,SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool as needed

    • Collaborating with partners to provide taxpayers with the information, knowledge and skills to evaluate their financial options and identify those that best suit their needs and circumstances

    • Updating SPECTRM as needed to capture partners FEAB activities

22.30.1.3.10.5.4  (10-01-2013)
Area Responsibilities

  1. Area offices have the following responsibilities with regard to FEAB:

    • Validating the territory offices data entry as recorded in SPECTRM

    • Monitoring the territory offices timely corrections of any input and/or data discrepancies

    • Communicating between headquarters and the territory

22.30.1.3.10.5.5  (10-01-2013)
Territory Responsibilities

  1. Territory offices have the following responsibilities with regard to FEAB:

    • Collaborating with partners to provide taxpayers with the information, knowledge and skills to evaluate their financial options and identify those that best suit their needs and circumstances

    • Identifying FEAB services offered by SPEC partners by utilizing Form 14099,SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool

    • Assessing the overall activity level of SPEC partnerships around awareness, planning, knowledge, transaction and application activities at all sites listed in the Partner Module of SPECTRM annually

    • Entering the data secured from Form 14099,SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool into the Partner Module of SPECTRM by January 15th annually

    • Monitoring FEAB activity of SPEC partners through field site visits

    • Communicating with the area

22.30.1.3.11  (10-01-2012)
Identifying VITA and TCE Returns

  1. It is important to identify returns as VITA and TCE prepared. The SIDN was implemented to identify all VITA and TCE Returns. The correct SIDN must be included on each paper and electronic return.

  2. Returns identified as VITA and TCE returns with the correct SIDN are counted and reviewed during campus processing to determine the qualitative and quantitative results of the program. The Individual Master File (IMF) or Customer Accounts Data Engine 2 (CADE2) report captures the number and type of return prepared by the volunteer program.

22.30.1.3.12  (10-01-2012)
Toll Free Assistance

  1. Preferential toll-free assistance is available to VITA and TCE volunteers from January through April. The telephone number for all 50 states is 1-800-829-8482 (800-TAX-VITA). Volunteers must identify themselves as VITA and TCE volunteers when calling for technical assistance. This number is "not" to be provided to the public.

  2. Volunteers should be advised that the use of this toll-free number is restricted to tax law questions within the scope of the VITA/TCE Program.

  3. Anyone with form orders or account questions must be referred to irs.gov, under "Where's my refund?"

22.30.1.3.13  (01-10-2013)
Quality Review Process

  1. The Five (5) Core Principles of the Quality Process are:

    1. Communicate pro-actively the value of the quality improvement efforts to stakeholders.

    2. Provide support to partners to ensure all volunteers receive appropriate training.

    3. Provide volunteers and partners with a set of required and recommended QSR.

    4. Ensure all participants in the volunteer preparation program understand their respective roles, and responsibilities to ensure accurate return preparation.

    5. Collaborate continually with stakeholders to assess the quality of the volunteer return preparation program.

  2. SPEC has created a comprehensive multi-tiered quality review process. Types of reviews include:

    • QSS Reviews (comprised of a site review and three return reviews)

    • Field Site Visits

    • Internal/External Referral Review

    • SPEC Shopping

    • Grant Financial Reviews

    • Grant Administrative Visits

  3. All review plans take into account the continuing operation of the site during the visit. Most site visits should be conducted between February 1 and April 15. If possible, visits will not be made during the first scheduled week and last scheduled day of site operation. If the site coordinator is not available, conduct the review with the designated alternate.

  4. Most review results are entered into the SPEC Site Quality module by the reviewers.

  5. SPEC provides all reviewers intensive training on effectively conducting reviews, capturing best practices, and providing constructive feedback to the site coordinator on how to improve potential problem areas.

22.30.1.3.13.1  (10-01-2013)
VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR)

  1. All taxpayers using the services offered through the VITA/TCE Programs should be confident they are receiving accurate return preparation and quality service. The purpose of the QSR is to ensure quality and accuracy of return preparation and consistent operation of sites. The QSR must be communicated to all volunteers and partners to ensure IRS and partner mutual objectives are met.

  2. A return is accurate when the tax law is applied correctly and the completed return is free from error based on the taxpayer interview, their supporting documentation and the completed Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

  3. Our partners and volunteers are the most valuable resources SPEC has in the volunteer tax preparation program. The QSR were developed to ensure VITA and TCE sites have consistent guidelines to assist with the operation of each site. It is SPEC’s responsibility to provide site coordinators and volunteers with the tools and support necessary to comply with each QSR.

  4. The 10 practices below have been identified as necessary to ensure taxpayers visiting VITA and TCE sites receive quality service and accurate return preparation. These are referred to as the "Quality Site Requirements."

    Quality Site Requirements
    1 Certification: Prior to working at a VITA/TCE site all volunteers must complete the VSC training and complete and sign Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement -VITA/TCE Programs – VITA/TCE Programs, annually. In addition, volunteers must pass the VSC test with a score of 80 percent or higher.

    Volunteers who answer tax law questions, instruct (teach) tax law, prepare or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns must be certified in tax law. All VITA and TCE instructors and site quality reviewers must be certified at a minimum, at the Basic level or higher (based on the complexity of the return).

    All site coordinators must complete Site Coordinator Training annually. Site Coordinators and volunteers are required to take the Intake/Interview and Quality Review training to make sure they understand the entire process. This training is available through Link and Learn Taxes.
    2 Intake/Interview Process: All sites must use Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet for every return prepared by a VITA/TCE volunteer. To ensure accuracy, this process must include an interview with the taxpayer while using Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.
    3 Quality Review Process: All returns prepared by a volunteer preparer must be quality reviewed and discussed with the taxpayer. Quality review must be conducted as a Designated or Peer- to- Peer review. Self review is no longer an approved option.
    4 Reference Materials: All sites must have one copy (paper or electronic) of the following reference materials available for use by volunteers:
    • Publication 4012,Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 17,Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA), must be available at the site within five days of IRS issuance. VTA can now be accessed through the vendor's Solution Center.

    5 Volunteer Agreement: All volunteers (e.g., site coordinators, preparers, quality reviewers, greeters, screeners, client facilitators, etc.) must complete the VSC training and certify to their adherence by signing Form 13615, The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement –VITA/TCE Programs , prior to working at a VITA/TCE site. Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs must be certified and dated by the site coordinator, sponsoring partner, instructor, or IRS contact verifying the volunteer has completed the required VSC training, and has signed Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement -VITA/TCE Programs before the volunteer can work at the site.
    6 Timely Filing: All sites must have a process in place to ensure every return is electronically filed or delivered to the taxpayer in a timely manner.
    7 Civil Rights: All VITA/TCE sites, including Military that service civilians, must display Publication 4053/4053 (SP),Your Civil Rights are Protected. Evidence of Civil Rights posting/displaying will also include the AARP poster revised with the updated civil rights language. AARP sites are required to display D143, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide. This poster includes the approved civil rights language.
    8 Site Identification Number: It is critical that the correct Site Identification Number (SIDN) is included on ALL returns prepared by VITA/TCE sites.
    9 Electronic Filing Identification Number: The correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) must be used on every return prepared.
    10 Security, Privacy and Confidentiality: All guidelines outlined in Publication 4299,Privacy, Confidentiality and Standards of Conduct – A Public Trust must be followed.
  5. The QSR can also be found in the following locations:

  6. In order to pass a quality site review conducted by IRS, all QSR listed above must be met. The measured questions are in bold on Form 6729, Site Review Sheet and will be used to determine adherence to the QSR. Refer to the table below for corrective actions:

    If ... Then ...
    a site is identified as non-compliant as reviews and/or field site visits are conducted, the primary goal is to work with the site and assist them in becoming compliant as soon as possible. If possible, corrective action(s) should be taken immediately. Provide the assistance and support necessary to meet the QSR. This may involve discussions, counseling, and/or mentoring assistance with the site within a reasonable period. Withdrawing support and/or closing a site should be the last resort.
    follow-up actions are required after a site review, the relationship manager is responsible for completing the action(s) within seven calendar days after the initial visit. The territory manager will be notified of any non-compliant QSR.
    withdrawal of IRS support is warranted, the physical safety of all parties at the site will have the highest priority. If the environment becomes confrontational while the SPEC employee is in the process of discontinuing a relationship or removing government property from a site, the SPEC employee should immediately leave the premises, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and their territory manager, and wait for their assistance and/or guidance on how to proceed. The territory manager will notify the area office who will notify the director, headquarters operations.

22.30.1.3.13.1.1  (10-01-2014)
Volunteer Certification

  1. Annually, all volunteers are required to complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) training and pass the VSC test with a score of 80 percent or higher, prior to working at a VITA/TCE site. All volunteers are required to annually complete awareness training on the Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process. In addition, instructors, site/local coordinators, return preparers, and quality reviewers are required to view the IRS PowerPoint that details how to prepare and quality review tax returns. This process includes interviewing the taxpayer and discussing items on Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet..

  2. Volunteers who answer tax law questions, instruct tax law classes, prepare or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns must be certified in tax law annually. If the site uses a screener and the screeners addresses or provides assistance with tax law-related issues, the screener must be certified at the level of the complexity for each return. IRS certified volunteer preparers can only prepare or quality review returns based on the appropriate level of certification required. If the site is preparing returns at the Advanced, Military, International, Foreign Student/Scholar or Puerto Rico levels, the IRS certified volunteer preparer’s certification level must be equivalent.

  3. All IRS certified volunteer preparers must prepare returns that are within scope for VITA/TCE programs. Out-of-scope returns should be identified early in the return preparation process. All out-of-scope returns must be referred to an professional return preparer. The definition of scope refers to VITA/TCE permissible tax law topics applied to a volunteer prepared tax return. Scope does not refer to income levels. A Scope of Service chart is located in Publication 4012,Volunteer Resource Guide.

  4. All designated /peer to peer quality reviewers must be certified at a minimum, at the Basic level or higher (based on the complexity of the return). All instructors at a minimum are required to be certified at the Advanced level.

    Note:

    See specific guidance located on Strengthening the Volunteer Programs for further clarification on Volunteer Certification.

  5. Volunteers who assist in various roles (for example, greeters, receptionists, equipment coordinators, etc.) who do not provide assistance with tax law-related issues do not have to certify in tax law.

  6. Site coordinators must have a method to verify certification the day the volunteer reports to the site and must develop a process to ensure volunteers are preparing and/or quality reviewing returns based on their appropriate level of certification. Site coordinators must also certify completion of Site Coordinator Training prior to the site opening. This training course may be obtained via Link and Learn Taxes. Site Coordinator Training is also available from the local IRS SPEC territory office.

  7. For VITA/ TCE certification, volunteers must complete one of the following IRS (classroom, self-study or Link and Learn Taxes or partner-created training courses based on the type of level of returns they will be preparing at their site:

    • Basic

    • Advanced

    • Military

    • International

    • Foreign Student/Scholar

    • Puerto Rico

    • Cancellation of Debt

    • Health Savings Accounts

      Note:

      AARP Tax-Aide requires its tax counselors to be certified at the Advanced level. If AARP volunteers are not certified at the advanced level, the volunteer should not prepare or correct returns, conduct quality reviews, or perform any other duties requiring knowledge of tax law. The AARP state coordinator must be advised of such.

  8. Volunteers are certified at the above levels by passing one of the following tests with a score of 80 percent or above:

    • IRS electronic test through Link and Learn Taxes

    • IRS paper test, Form 6744, Volunteer Assistor's Test/Retest

    • Publication 4961, Volunteer Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training, Publication 4961 is only used by volunteers not certifying in tax law

  9. Listed below are volunteer positions and required training/certification applicable for each position.

    Volunteer Position Volunteer Standards of Conduct and Intake/Interview and Quality Review Training Site Coordinator Training Tax Law Certification
    Site Coordinator Required Required Required if, SC prepares returns, corrects rejects, provides tax law assistance, or conducts quality reviews. The certification level is based on complexity of return.
    Instructor Required Not Required Advanced level required or higher - based on level of course instruction.
    Return Preparer Required Strongly Encouraged Required - Basic level or higher required based on complexity of returns prepared.
    Quality Reviewer Required Strongly Encouraged Basic level or higher required based on complexity of returns reviewed.
    Screener (answers tax law questions) Required Not Required Required (Level is based on complexity of questions answered).
    Greeter (does not answer tax law questions) Required Not Required Not Required.
  10. All SPEC Partners must submit a list of their volunteers using Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar document containing the same information.

  11. Partners are required to send Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing to their local SPEC territory office by February 3rd. Partners are only required to update this form if a new volunteer is added to their program, due by the 3rd business day of each month. Instructions for preparing a volunteer listing is included on Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.1.4.6Number of Volunteers (Form 13206), Volunteer Assistance Summary Report).

22.30.1.3.13.1.1.1  (10-01-2014)
Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance

  1. A noncompliant issue occurs:

    If ... Then ...
    Some volunteers at the site have not completed Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) training, passed the test and/or are not certified in tax law, Volunteers should complete the return they are currently preparing. The volunteers may not prepare any other returns until they become certified.

    An IRS certified volunteer preparer must review the return for accuracy. Uncertified volunteers and their site coordinators should be directed to the Link and Learn Taxes located on irs.gov, or to Publication 4491,Process-Based Training Guide, to assist them with certification in VSC and/or tax law. Form 6744,Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest, also contains VSC and tax law certifications. Publication 4961,VITA/TCE VSC (Ethics), contains only VSC training and certification test.
    All volunteers at the site have not completed VSC training, passed the test, and are not certified in tax law, Inform the site coordinator that the volunteers cannot prepare returns or perform quality reviews until they become certified. Allow the volunteers to complete the returns they are currently preparing, but they cannot prepare any other returns.

    If certified at the appropriate level, the IRS reviewer at the site should quality review the returns prepared by the uncertified volunteers. Care should be given when informing the remaining taxpayers that the site will have to close for that day. An alternative to closing the site could be to solicit the assistance of IRS certified volunteer preparers from other sites. If this is not possible, the remaining taxpayers should be given other local VITA/TCE site locations that will assist them in their tax return preparation. The site cannot reopen until the volunteers are certified in tax law and the VSC.
    Volunteers are certified but the verification has not been provided, If there are IRS certified volunteer preparers, but verification has not been provided, the volunteer preparer may be allowed to complete the return they are currently preparing, and an IRS certified volunteer must review the return for accuracy. The volunteer preparer may not prepare any other returns until certification verification is provided to the relationship manager.
    Volunteers are not fully certified based on the complexity of the return,

    Note:

    IRS certified volunteer preparers can only prepare returns and conduct designated/ peer to peer quality reviews based on their levels of certification

    Volunteer preparers should complete the return they are preparing and an IRS certified volunteer preparer with the appropriate level of certification must review the return for accuracy. IRS certified volunteer preparers cannot complete any returns above their certification level. If the return does not fall within the volunteer preparer’s certification level, refer the taxpayer to another IRS certified volunteer preparer with the appropriate certification level or to another site that prepares returns at that certification level.
    Volunteer preparer, quality reviewer, site coordinator, or instructor has not viewed the Intake/Interview and Quality Review Training PowerPoint Volunteer preparers, quality reviewers, site coordinators and instructors are required to view the IRS created PowerPoint on the Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process. Refer volunteers to www.irs.gov to meet this requirement or contact the relationship manager for an electronic copy.
  2. Recommended Follow-Up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up action immediately or within seven calendar days to ensure all volunteers have completed VSC training and are certified in tax law if preparing or reviewing tax returns. Immediately request written confirmation from the partner and/or site coordinator confirming that either uncertified volunteers have passed the IRS test and have been certified or the uncertified volunteers are no longer preparing or reviewing returns. Confirmation should also be requested to verify that volunteers have completed the required VSC training. A due date should be established for receipt of written confirmation.

22.30.1.3.13.1.2  (10-01-2014)
Intake and Interview Process

  1. All sites must use Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet for every return prepared. All IRS certified volunteer preparers must use a correct intake and interview process when preparing returns. To promote accuracy, this process must include an interview with the taxpayer while reviewing Form 13614-C and all supporting documents, prior to preparing the return. Whenever the taxpayer lists any person as a potential dependent on their return, the volunteer preparer is required to finish the "To be completed by Certified Volunteer" section on page one. While completing the intake and interview process, verify that the return is within the IRS certified volunteer preparer’s certification level. If the return does not fall within the volunteer preparer’s appropriate certification level, refer the taxpayer to another IRS certified volunteer preparer with the appropriate certification level or to another site that prepares returns at that certification level.

  2. This process must include an interview with the taxpayer while using Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, to ensure that accurate information has been secured from the taxpayer. The intake and interview process must ask the questions as listed on Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

  3. The Intake and Interview process must include:

    1. Verification of the identity of all taxpayers and spouses using a photo ID

    2. Explanation that the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the information on the return The taxpayer needs to review their return prior to signing it

    3. Query of the taxpayer to determine if they are uncertain about any responses

    4. Explanation of the tax preparation process that includes encouraging questions throughout the interview process

    5. Probing questions to ensure complete information is gathered

  4. Resources for IRS certified volunteer preparers:

    • Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet

    • Publication 4012,Volunteer Resource Guide - Interview Tips and flow charts to probe for accurate and complete information

    • Publication 17,Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts or AARP Cyber Tax Messages

    • Interactive Tax Assistant(ITA)

  5. Form 13614-C, Form Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet is a useful tool for promoting the interview/conversation with the taxpayer and securing all necessary information. In addition, all source documents must be reviewed and verified with the taxpayer. Volunteers are required to request proof of identity "photo ID" for all taxpayers and spouses, Social Security cards for all persons reported on the return, all Form W-2,Form 1099,Form 1098Mortgage Interest Statement and any other documents needed to prepare an accurate tax return. The certified volunteer should effectively take advantage of the taxpayer interview by asking questions and confirming all information provided. Having a conversation with the taxpayer can also help identify other possible issues that may have been missed that could potentially affect the return.

    Note:

    An IRS certified volunteer preparer must exercise due diligence when preparing or assisting in the preparation of, approving, and filing tax returns. Based on this volunteers may rely in good faith without requiring certain documents from the taxpayer. However, the volunteer preparer may not ignore the implications of information furnished to, or actually known by, the preparer. The preparer must ask questions if the information furnished appears to be incorrect, inconsistent, or incomplete. In addition, if a volunteer is not comfortable with the information provided by a taxpayer, they are not obligated to prepare the tax return.

22.30.1.3.13.1.2.1  (10-01-2014)
Intake and Interview Process Non-compliance

  1. AA noncompliant issue occurs when the site is not using a complete Intake and Interview Process which includes an interview with the taxpayer while reviewing Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet. Explain to the site coordinator the requirement to use a correct intake and interview process for all returns prepared.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days after the initial review/visit to ensure that the site is using a complete Intake and Interview process when preparing returns.

22.30.1.3.13.1.3  (10-01-2014)
Quality Review Returns

  1. All returns must be quality reviewed and discussed with the taxpayer. All sites are required to have a complete Quality Review Process in place to verify all items listed on Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet in the "IRS Certified Volunteer Quality Reviewer Section" are correct. A Quality Review process includes a 100 percent review of all returns. All quality reviews must be conducted by a designated or peer-to-peer quality reviewer. A self-review is no longer an approved option. The designated reviewer should be the most experienced IRS certified volunteer preparer at the site.

  2. Every site should ensure that a quality review process is used to confirm that tax law was correctly applied and the tax return is free from error based on the taxpayer interview and the available supporting documents. A quality review process should contain the following critical components for an effective and thorough quality review of all tax returns:

    • Taxpayer participation – a conversation with the taxpayer to solicit their understanding and agreement to the facts of the return

    • The quality reviewer is required to use available source documents to confirm identity (Photo ID), income, expenses, credits, and deposit/debit information on the return. If income or expenses are listed on the return that do not require a source document and one was not provided, the intake sheet should be marked to show a verbal response was provided.

    • Tax law reference materials, as necessary

22.30.1.3.13.1.3.1  (10-01-2014)
Quality Review Process Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when sites do not have a complete quality review in place which includes a discussion with the taxpayer, verification of the taxpayer’s source documents, and review of Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet. The reviewer will explain the requirement for a quality review process and immediately notify the territory/relationship manager.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, but within seven calendar days after the initial review/visit to ensure that the site is using a complete Quality Review Process on all returns prepared.

22.30.1.3.13.1.4  (01-10-2013)
Reference Materials

  1. All sites must have one copy (paper or electronic) of the following reference materials available for use by volunteers:

    • Publication 4012, Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts – must be available at the site within five calendar days of IRS issuance

    Note:

    Sites using the designated vendor software have electronic access to Publications 4012 and Publication 17,Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals, Volunteer Tax Alerts, and the Interactive Tax Assistant(ITA).

  2. The use of reference materials is an important key to producing an accurate return. As an example, a large number of errors in return preparation occur with the determination of filing status, dependency and eligibility for tax credits. Each of these determinations can be made in a quality fashion by simply following one of the flow charts or decision trees in Publication 4012 . Training certified volunteer preparers to use these flow charts should be emphasized during training. Each site must have key reference materials available to help foster the use of these resources.

  3. Site coordinators must have a process in place to ensure all Volunteer Tax Alerts have been distributed and discussed with all volunteers.

22.30.1.3.13.1.4.1  (01-10-2013)
Reference Materials Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when reference materials are not available at the site. The reviewer should immediately assist the site coordinator with downloading the reference materials from the vendor product The reviewer should contact the territory/relationship manager who will assist the site with ordering the products.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will make a phone call or site visit within seven calendar days to verify that reference materials were received and are being used by the volunteers. If reference materials are not available to the volunteers, this situation should be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

22.30.1.3.13.1.5  (10-01-2014)
Volunteer Agreement

  1. All volunteers (site coordinators, certified volunteer preparers, designated and peer to peer quality reviewers, non-certified and certified greeters, screeners, etc.) must complete the VSC training annually, and certify to their adherence by signing and dating Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs , prior to working at a VITA/TCE site. Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs must be signed and dated by the partner organization verifying the volunteer has completed the required VSC training, and has verified the volunteers' identity using a photo ID, before the volunteer can work at the site.

  2. Signed Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement -VITA/TCE Programs , must be maintained at the sponsoring organization or site coordinator level.

  3. Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs includes the following agreements to the Volunteer Code of Conduct.
    "As a participant in the VITA/TCE Program, I will" :

    • Follow the QSR.

    • Not accept payment or solicit donations for federal or state tax return preparation.

    • Not solicit business from taxpayers I assist or use the knowledge I gained (their information) about them for any direct or indirect personal benefit for me or any other specific individual.

    • Not prepare false returns.

    • Not engage in criminal, infamous, dishonest, notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct deemed to have a negative effect on the VITA/TCE Program.

    • Treat all taxpayers in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.

  4. AARP Tax Aide will complete a similar document to Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, and send a unified list of volunteer certifications containing the same information as requested on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. However, AARP must secure Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs. from all volunteers and the list should show each volunteer has signed their agreement.

  5. In summary, a copy of Form 13615, The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement –VITA/TCE Programs or Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, (or partner created form) containing the same information as these forms should be available at partner/site for every volunteer at the site to verify agreement and adherence to the standards of conduct. All Form 13615, Form Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement –VITA/TCE Programs must be signed and dated by the volunteers and certified by the partner organization (signed and dated) prior to a volunteer working at a site. If these forms are not available at the site, the site coordinator should have a method in place to track and provide this information.

  6. Additional guidance on Volunteer Certification can be secured from the Volunteer Reporting and Certification process guidance listed on both The Point and the partner page on IRS.gov.

22.30.1.3.13.1.5.1  (10-01-2014)
Volunteer Agreement Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs has not been completed, signed and dated by the volunteer and certified (signed and dated) by the partner organization prior to the volunteer working at the site or when a VITA/TCE site or volunteer engages in conduct or an activity that violates the VSC Agreement. If a site or sponsoring organization fails to comply with these standards, the consequences may include:

    • 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

    • Disallowing use of IRS-SPEC logos

    • Holding partner responsible for stolen refunds or other losses due to fraudulent acts at a site

  2. The reviewer should inform the site coordinator that the volunteer cannot work at the site until Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs has been completed, signed and dated by the volunteer and certified (signed and dated) by the partner organization.

  3. If an inappropriate action or violation occurs, the IRS reviewer must immediately notify their manager and begin the Internal Referral Process.

  4. Inappropriate activities may also be identified by volunteers, taxpayers or anyone else visiting the site and can be reported to IRS by calling toll free 1-877-330-1205, in operation from January to May, or by email at wi.voltax@irs.gov. Publication 4836,VITA and TCE Free Tax Programs, is required to be displayed at the site or in a visible location to facilitate awareness of the opportunity to make a referral. This contact information is also included on Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet Publication 730, Important Tax Records Envelope and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide D-143.

  5. Recommended Follow-up Actions: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately to ensure that Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs have been completed, signed and dated by the volunteer(s) and certified (signed and dated) by the partner organization.

  6. The relationship manager and/or territory manager must address any inappropriate actions or violations with the site coordinator and/or partner. The territory manager will immediately review the circumstances and discuss them with the AD. The AD will brief the director, headquarters operations and decide whether it is appropriate to refer the matter to either the Criminal Investigation Division or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. In consultation with the director, headquarters operations, the AD will determine whether it is appropriate to withdraw support from the site. If necessary follow the Discontinuance of IRS Support guidance.

22.30.1.3.13.1.6  (10-01-2014)
Timely Filing of Tax Returns

  1. All sites must have a process in place to ensure every return is electronically filed or delivered to the taxpayer in a timely manner. For e-filed returns, Form 8879,IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is required to be signed by the taxpayer, which gives the site permission to e-file their tax return. IRS requires this form to be maintained for three years by the partner; however, VITA/TCE sites received a waiver for the three-year retention requirement for Form 8879,IRS e-file Signature Authorization and supporting documents. Based on this waiver, all VITA/TCE sites are required to secure the taxpayer's and spouse's signature on Form 8879. In addition, the signed Form 8879,IRS e- file Signature Authorization is required to be given to the taxpayer along with a copy of their tax return. Without a signed Form 8879, the site does not have permission to e-file nor does it provide evidence to show taxpayers had the opportunity to read the important declaration prior to submitting the e-filed tax return. If a Self-Select PIN is used, Form 8879,IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is not required. An ERO/site coordinator must ensure that stockpiling of returns does not occur at its sites. Stockpiling refers to waiting more than three calendar days to submit the return to the IRS once the ERO/site coordinator has all necessary information.

  2. Timely delivery of returns must include:

    • Retrieving e-file acknowledgements timely (preferred within 48 hours of transmission)

    • Promptly working e-file rejects that can be corrected by the volunteer

    • Timely notifying taxpayers (attempted within 24 hours) if rejects cannot be corrected

    • Providing the taxpayer with a completed return along with the correct processing center mailing address (for paper returns)

    • Promptly notifying taxpayers if any other problems are identified with return processing

  3. An attempt should be made to work all rejects as soon as possible. The Reject Report from the vendor can be used as a tool to ensure all rejects are being corrected. Reasonable attempts must be taken to inform the taxpayer within 24 hours if a reject cannot be corrected, or if the changes made exceed the following dollar limits, which means the taxpayer(s) must sign the corrected return:

    • $50 to "Total Income" or "AGI"

    • $14 "Total Tax" , "Federal Income Tax Withheld" , "Refund" or "Amount You Owe"

  4. Refer to Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns, and Publication 3189, Volunteer e-file Administrator Guide, for further guidance on working rejects. Publication 3189 is designed as a resource guide to assist volunteer e-file administrators in implementing the correct electronic filing procedures at volunteer e-file sites.

  5. Refer to IRS.gov for Publication 17Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals and/or 1040 instructions for Submission Processing Center addresses for paper returns.

22.30.1.3.13.1.6.1  (10-01-2014)
Timely Filing of Tax Returns Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the site does not have a process in place for:

    • Timely submission of e-filed returns

    • Timely retrieving e-file acknowledgements

    • Promptly working rejects

    • Timely contacting taxpayers with unresolved rejects

    • Providing taxpayers with the correct mailing addresses

    • Promptly notifying taxpayers of problems concerning timely return processing

  2. The reviewer will provide the site coordinator with the correct procedures depending on the situation. The reviewer should refer to the appropriate sections in Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns and Publication 3189, Volunteer e-file Administration Guide explain the process to the site coordinator and notify the territory/relationship manager.

  3. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days, to confirm the processes for timely filing returns are understood and being followed. If the necessary procedures for timely filing returns are not being used at the site, the matter should be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

22.30.1.3.13.1.7  (10-01-2014)
Civil Rights Information is Provided to All Taxpayers

  1. Civil rights information must be displayed or provided to taxpayers at all VITA/TCE sites.

  2. Civil rights notification must be provided to the taxpayer at the point of contact between the volunteer and the taxpayer even if a return is not completed. Using only Publication 730,Important Tax Records Envelope (VITA/TCE), the AARP envelope, or Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet as the source for notifying the taxpayers of their civil rights is not acceptable. These products only provide information to the taxpayer who receives service, not the taxpayer who is denied service.

  3. Therefore, all VITA/TCE sites are required to display a current Publication 4053 (English and Spanish (EN/SP) or Publication 4454,Your Civil Rights are Protected, or a current AARP Foundation Tax-Aide D-143 poster, explaining the procedures for filing complaints. Publication 4454,Your Civil Rights are Protected, is an optional product designed to notify taxpayers of their civil rights when tax preparation services cannot be offered, i.e., lack of information to prepare return, not within scope of the VITA/TCE Programs, etc).

22.30.1.3.13.1.7.1  (10-01-2014)
Civil Rights Non-compliance

  1. A noncompliant issue occurs when civil rights information is not displayed at the site or provided to the taxpayers visiting the site. The reviewer should immediately provide the site with one or more of the required civil rights products:

    • Poster, Publication 4053/4053 (English or Spanish),Your Civil Rights Protected

    • Publication 4454,Your Civil Rights are Protected

  2. The reviewer should contact the territory/relationship manager, who will assist the site with ordering any additional products needed using Form 2333V,Order for VITA/TCE Program, or the CAPS products ordering system.

  3. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days to verify that civil rights are posted or available for taxpayers visiting the site. If the site refuses to comply, this situation should be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

22.30.1.3.13.1.8  (01-10-2013)
Correct Site Identification Number (SIDN)

  1. It is critical that the correct Site Identification Number (SIDN) is reported on All returns prepared by VITA/TCE sites.

  2. E-file administrators should set up computer defaults to ensure the correct Site Identification Number (SIDN) automatically appears on each tax return. Refer to Publication 3189, Volunteer e-file Administrator Guide, for information on setting defaults.

22.30.1.3.13.1.8.1  (01-10-2013)
SIDN Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the SIDN is missing or is incorrect on tax returns prepared at the site after a sample check of computers and/or paper returns have been reviewed. If an incorrect SIDN or no SIDN is discovered, then all computers and returns should be reviewed. The reviewer will provide the correct SIDN and educate the site coordinator on the importance of using the SIDN on ALL returns prepared by the site. Show the site coordinator and/or volunteers where to include the SIDN on the returns. If electronic tax preparation software is being used, the reviewer will assist the site coordinator in setting the defaults. The territory/relationship manager should be notified immediately.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will review the weekly SIDN Cycle Report to verify return preparation is being reported using the correct SIDN. If the site refuses to comply and fails to use a correct SIDN, it should be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

22.30.1.3.13.1.8.2  (10-01-2013)
Unknown SIDNs

  1. SPEC will identify Site Identification Numbers (SIDN) that appear in the SIDN Workbook but is not in SPECTRM. Information in the SIDN Workbook is based on returns processed with the Taxwise software. SIDNs are manually entered into TaxWise, and typos may occur. The information entered in TaxWise must match information in SPECTRM to ensure volunteer sites receive credit for the returns processed at their location. Headquarter staff will send the area analysts the Unknown SIDN report at least three (3) times during the filing season. Area analysts will share this information with their territories to make corrections in TaxWise if necessary. Any Unknown SIDNs that cannot be fixed or are suspected of unscrupulous activity will be referred to the RPO to handle.

  2. SPEC also will identify individuals or sites that are not part of the VITA/TCE program that are using an SIDN instead of a PTIN. An SIDN is identified by an ‘S’, and a PTIN is identified by a ‘P’. Any individual who prepares or assists in the preparation of a tax return for compensation must follow IRS procedures and requirements for return preparers. Among these requirements, return preparers must register with the IRS Return Preparer Office (RPO), pass preparer tax compliance verification checks, and obtain a PTIN. SPEC will share with RPO individual or site names that are identified with using a SIDN for further investigation.

22.30.1.3.13.1.9  (01-10-2013)
Correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN)

  1. The correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) must be used on every return prepared.

  2. The paper Form 8633, Application to Participate in the IRS e-file Program, has been eliminated. All applicants are required to use the online IRS e-file application process located in E-Services. A separate EFIN must be requested for each physical location. E-file administrators should set the computer defaults to ensure the correct EFIN automatically appears on the tax return. Please refer to Publication 3189,Volunteer e-file Administrator Guide, for further EFIN procedures.

    Note:

    Sites using designated vendor provided software have electronic access to Publication 3189

22.30.1.3.13.1.9.1  (01-10-2013)
EFIN Non-Compliance

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the IRS reviewer performs a sample check on the computers (Form 8879 , IRS e-file Signature Authorization) and determines the site is using an incorrect EFIN. If an incorrect EFIN is discovered, then all computers should be reviewed and corrected. The reviewer will provide the correct EFIN and assist the coordinator in setting the correct defaults. The Reviewer should advise the site coordinator to contact designated software vendor immediately for instructions on re-setting EFINs on returns prepared but not yet transmitted. The territory/relationship manager should be notified immediately to determine the owner of the EFIN currently being used. The territory manager should notify the area office of the violation to determine what actions should be taken to notify the EFIN owner.

  2. If the site does not have an assigned EFIN and does not meet one of the three approved software license exceptions (i.e., Adhoc, Special Events or One ERO with Multiple Sites), the reviewer should immediately notify the territory/relationship manager and then advise the site coordinator of the licensing violation, explain that the software cannot be used to prepare returns and advise that the site must refer the taxpayers to another site with a valid EFIN.

22.30.1.3.13.1.10  (10-01-2014)
Security, Privacy, and Confidentiality Guidelines

  1. All Security, Privacy and Confidentiality guidelines discussed in Publication 4299,Privacy, Confidentiality and the Standards of Conduct – A Public Trust, must be followed.

  2. Publication 4299, serves as the central document for providing guidance covering privacy, confidentiality and security of all information received at VITA and TCE sites. To maintain program integrity and provide for reasonable protection of information provided by the taxpayers serviced through the VITA and TCE program, it is essential that partners and volunteers adhere to the strictest standards of ethical conduct and the following key principles be followed:

    • Partners and volunteers must keep confidential the information provided for tax return preparation.

    • Partners and volunteers must protect physical and electronic data gathered for tax return preparation both during and after the filing season.

    • Partners using or disclosing taxpayer data for purposes other than current, prior, or subsequent year tax return preparation must secure the taxpayer’s consent to use or disclose their data.

    • Partners and volunteers must delete taxpayer information stored on computers (both IRS loaned and partner owned) after filing season tax return preparation activities are completed.

    • Partners and site coordinators must keep confidential any personal volunteer information provided.

  3. Unique user names are strongly encouraged, however if not used, a partner must have a process in place to identify every volunteer that prepared or made changes to a tax return. The volunteer’s access privileges should be limited to the activities necessary to perform their volunteer role. For instance, a return preparer should not be assigned Administrative or SuperUser rights.

  4. By default, the designated vendor software assigns all new user names to the SuperUser group. If a volunteer does not require software privileges associated with the SuperUser group it must be changed to the appropriate level of access needed. It is highly recommended that site coordinators assign volunteers the lowest level role necessary for each particular user.

  5. SPEC’s corrective actions to increase identity theft prevention behavior at all VITA/TCE sites outline that all volunteers are required to:

    • Wear name identifications, at a minimum that includes the volunteers’ first name and the first letter of their last name. This can include a work ID, AARP name badges, IRS Badge Stickers, or similar products. New this year, Form 14509,Volunteer ID Card, is an optional product developed for volunteers. The ID badge does not need to be updated annually unless the information on the ID badge has changed. However, wearing identification no longer serves as proof of certification.

    • Request a photo ID from taxpayers/spouses and proof of social security number (SSN) or individual tax identification number (ITIN) for everyone listed on the tax return. Exceptions for requiring photo ID should only be made by the site coordinator under extreme circumstances and should not be the normal process at the site. For example, there may be limited situations where an exception may apply to a person with a disability, the elderly, or other unique circumstances. This exception to the rule does not include taxpayers known to the site or returning taxpayers.

    • Validate social security numbers by using various documents issued from the Social Security Administration. This includes social security cards, Medicare cards that include the letter “A” after the social security number (new this year), social security letters, social security income statements, and other documents issued from SSA. For more information, please refer to Publication 4299,Privacy, Confidentiality, and the Standards of Conduct-A Public Trust.

  6. Additional resources for Security, Privacy and Confidentiality guidelines include:

    • Publication 4494,VITA/TCE Training Guide

    • Link and Learn Taxes (available on www.irs.gov)

    • Publication 4600,Safeguarding Taxpayer Information

    • Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement – VITA/TCE Programs

    • Publication 3189, Volunteer e-file Administrator Guide

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4473, Welcome to the IRS Computer Loan Program

    • Publication 4390, VITA/TCE Computer Loan Program

    • Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers

22.30.1.3.13.1.10.1  (10-01-2014)
Non-Compliance with Security, Privacy and Confidentiality Guidelines

  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when taxpayer information is not appropriately destroyed or properly retained and protected or when the privacy of taxpayers', volunteers' and partners' individual information is not protected. The reviewer will provide Publication 4299 to the site coordinator if one is not available at the site, and explain the appropriate procedures as outlined in Publication 4299.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days to ensure proper procedures are in place and being used. If violations continue, this situation should be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

22.30.1.3.13.1.11  (10-01-2014)
Discontinuance of IRS Support

  1. Failure/refusal to follow these Quality Site Requirements is a violation of Volunteer Standards of Conduct # 1, which may result in removal from the VITA/TCE Programs and being added to the Volunteer Registry. Discontinuance of IRS support should be the last resort taken only if the site coordinator or sponsoring partner adamantly refuses, verbally or through actions, to correct the inappropriate actions or violations.

  2. If a site remains non-compliant, it will be the territory managers decision as to what IRS- provided support should be discontinued. area office review and approval is required before rendering a final decision to ensure all possible mediation attempts are considered. Upon area office review and approval, notification and concurrence from the director, headquarters operations must be secured prior to support being withdrawn.

  3. If a site has conducted inappropriate activities that may have a negative impact on the integrity of the Service and the VITA and TCE programs, headquarters must be notified immediately.

  4. In rare instances, headquarters executives may issue a determination to discontinue a national partner’s relationship. In these instances, headquarters will provide guidance for discontinuance of support.

  5. The physical safety of all parties at the site will be the highest priority. If in the process of discontinuing a relationship or removing government property from a site, the environment becomes confrontational, SPEC employees should immediately leave the premises, contact TIGTA and the territory manager, and wait for their assistance and/or guidance on how to proceed. The territory manager will notify the area office who will notify the director, headquarters Operations.

22.30.1.3.13.1.11.1  (10-01-2013)
Discontinuance of IRS Support Required Actions

  1. All territories must take the following actions to ensure no taxpayers are harmed when discontinuing IRS support of VITA and TCE sites. The territories must:

    1. Validate all taxpayer returns have been transmitted/acknowledged and either accepted by the IRS or delivered to the taxpayer for submission to IRS. If the taxpayer’s return is not complete, refer the taxpayer to another nearby volunteer site.

    2. Remove the partner and/or site from SPECTRM.

    3. Notify the GPO at 404-338-7894 if a grant recipient operates the site.

    4. Deactivate the EFIN. These procedures are located in SPEC Policy Directive 22.30.1-09.1 located on The Point..

    5. If the site is using an alternative electronic return preparation and transmission software, the site coordinator should back up all taxpayer data and provide the disk to the territory manager or tax consultants/relationship manager to be maintained by the local IRS-SPEC territory office..

    6. Per Publication 1345, IRS e-file Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns, all Form 8453U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return, not previously forwarded to the appropriate processing center must be forwarded.

    7. Secure and maintain taxpayer consents (IRC 7216) for one year from the date signed.

    8. Destroy all publicity posters and training materials sent to you by the site/partner.

    9. Ensure all loaned computers are returned to the Computer Depot.

    10. Ensure all loaned printers are returned to the territory.

    11. If applicable, provide the sites with procedures for deleting taxpayer data.

  2. All sites must:

    1. Validate that all returns have been transmitted and acknowledged by IRS. If the return was rejected, ensure appropriate actions have been taken either to correct the error and/or to provide the taxpayer with a paper return for submission to IRS.

    2. Back-up all taxpayer returns for desktop users only, if appropriate.

    3. After backing up the data, delete all taxpayer data from every IRS-loaned or non-IRS computers for desktop users only. Instructions can be secured from the IRS SPEC territory office for deleting taxpayer information on vendor software.

    4. Return IRS-loaned printers to the local IRS SPEC territory office.

    5. Return IRS-loaned computers to the Computer Depot.

    6. Return Taxpayer Consents secured as required by IRC 7216, if appropriate, (with taxpayer signatures) to the local IRS SPEC territory office.

    7. Return IRS products to the local IRS SPEC territory office.

    8. Return IRS training materials to the local IRS SPEC territory office.

    9. Discontinue using IRS or SPEC logos.

22.30.1.3.13.2  (10-01-2013)
Review Types

  1. SPEC’s Quality Process relies on multi-tiered reviews including site reviews, return reviews, and referral reviews in a comprehensive quality review process that includes all eight of the following:

    • 100 Percent Quality Review

    • 100 Percent VITA and TCE Grant Partner Review

    • Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews

    • Field Site Visits

    • Referral Reviews

    • Post Filing Season Reviews

    • Partner Reviews

    • SPEC Shopping

22.30.1.3.13.3  (10-01-2011)
100 Percent Site Quality Reviews

  1. SPEC’s QSR requires each site to conduct a 100 percent review of every return prepared prior to the taxpayer leaving the site. SPEC evaluates the site's compliance to this requirement during QSS reviews. Beginning with the 2011 Filing Season, all VITA and TCE sites are required to use Form 13614-C , Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, to complete each tax return and conduct the quality review.

22.30.1.3.13.4  (10-01-2013)
Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews

  1. QSS reviews are conducted by headquarters tax analysts assigned to the Quality Program Office (QPO). The Chief, QPO, reports to Chief, Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ). QSS reviewers are required to plan and conduct the QSS reviews, which include a site review and three return reviews. The results of these reviews will be used to determine the critical accuracy measure for VITA/TCE return reviews.

  2. QSS reviews are critical to the success of the VITA/TCE programs and play an integral part in improving the quality and consistent performance of sites. The review process validates accuracy of returns and compliance with the VSC and the QSR. It also provides opportunities to identify and correct problem areas or share best practices.

  3. Chief QPO, is responsible for conducting at least one field performance review for each employee. Chief QPO will notify the QSS reviewer of the site selected to conduct the performance review. The review will consist of observing employee's adherence to QSS Policy and Guidance, taw law determinations, and case file documentation.

  4. Chief QPO will provide verbal feedback once performance review is completed. Once case file is uploaded to Quality Shared Drive, the review will be documented on an employee performance sheet. Chief QPO will review employee monthly reports and approve all travel requests.

  5. QSS reviewers are required to complete the following training:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training Webinars and Knowledge Check

    • Form 13614–C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet

    • Site Coordinator Training, SDLM

    • QSS Continuing Professional Education (CPE) – all sessions •Tax law certification (at a minimum) at the military level

    • Cancellation of Debt (Link and Learn Taxes) •Health Savings Accounts (HSA) (Link and Learn Taxes)

22.30.1.3.13.4.1  (10-01-2013)
Selecting Sites for Review

  1. Each year the Statistics of Income (SOI) Office randomly determines the number of site reviews to select and makes the selection based on criteria established by SPEC. Reviews are selected from a prior year site listing provided to SOI from Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ). Prior year return information is pulled from SPECTRM.

  2. When the site identification number (SIDN) or site name is different from the Statistics of Income (SOI) list, use the steps below for QSS site selection:

    1. Search by SIDN. If the selected QSS site is present and open in 2013 in SPECTRM with the same name and same SIDN, it will be reviewed.

    2. Search by SIDN. If the selected QSS site is present and open for 2013 in SPECTRM with the same SIDN but the name and/or address is different, it will be reviewed. The review will be based the SIDN listed on the SOI list and the updated information in SPECTRM.

    3. Search by Site Name. If the selected QSS site is present and open for 2013 in SPECTRM with the same name but the SIDN has changed it will be reviewed. The review will be based on the site name if the SIDN does not exist in SPECTRM.

    4. If the selected QSS site is not present by SIDN or site name in SPECTRM, it will not be reviewed and should be referred to Chief QPO. These sites will be marked as not open on the QSS Review Scheduling Worksheet located on the quality shared drive.

22.30.1.3.13.4.2  (10-01-2014)
Assigning Sites

  1. The Chief QPO distributes and assigns the SOI selected sites to each QSS reviewer. The distribution of sites is based on geographic location of both the site and the QSS reviewer to optimize the most effective cost savings to the government.

22.30.1.3.13.4.3  (10-01-2014)
Pre-Research

  1. Once QSS reviewers receive their case assignments, they are required to conduct extensive preliminary research.

  2. The research includes accessing site and production information tools such as:

    • Third Party Data Store (TPDS)/ Employee User Portal (EUP)

    • SPECTRM

    • SERP and/or irs.gov

    • VMIS Locator (website AARP only sites)

    • NPO-ELF 1541 Report

    • Production Report from the software vendor (if applicable)

    • SIDN Workbook Report

22.30.1.3.13.4.4  (10-01-2013)
Planning for the Reviews

  1. Based on data in SPECTRM, the QSS reviewer will determine if a site is open for the current filing season. All site visits must be scheduled and entered into the quality shared drive. The QSS reviewers are responsible for any changes in their schedules and must keep the shared drive updated on a weekly basis.

22.30.1.3.13.4.5  (10-01-2013)
Unannounced Review

  1. All QSS reviews are unannounced. The QSS reviewer will not notify the TM, relationship manager RM, or area quality analyst.

  2. The QSS reviewer will send a courtesy email within 24 hours after the visit to notify the TM that the site was visited. However, results of these reviews will be issued within two weeks after the review.

22.30.1.3.13.4.6  (10-01-2014)
Explaining the Visit to the Site Coordinator

  1. Upon entering the site, the QSS reviewer will introduce themselves, provide IRS identification, thank the site coordinator for their participation in the VITA or TCE program, and offer Publication 4675,Acknowledgement of Return Review Participation. The reviewer will give a brief explanation of the QSS review process.

  2. The QSS reviewer is required to ask the Site/Local coordinator for a brief explanation of the site’s return preparation process from start to finish. This will enable the reviewer to determine if the site has a process in place to follow SPEC’s policy and procedures. The reviewer will request a place with access to an electrical outlet to conduct return reviews, preferably away from the purview of taxpayers and volunteers. The reviewer will then immediately identify and select the first return to be reviewed.

22.30.1.3.13.4.7  (10-01-2013)
Taxpayer Notification

  1. Publication 4675 , Acknowledgement of Return Review Participation, was developed to notify taxpayers (selected for return reviews) of the purpose of the review and to secure permission to review their tax return. Publication 4675 explains how all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as names, addresses, social security numbers, banking routing information, contact numbers, etc., is removed from their return and supporting documents prior to submitting the case to headquarters.

  2. The reviewer must present IRS identification, Publication 4675, when asking for the taxpayer’s permission to review their return. Ensure the taxpayer understands the review by explaining Publication 4675 and asking if the taxpayer has any questions prior to conducting the return review. The reviewer must not allow the return to be selected by the Site Coordinator.

22.30.1.3.13.4.8  (10-01-2014)
Selecting and Conducting the Return Reviews

  1. The QSS reviewer will randomly select the next completed return they observe which has undergone the site's quality review process, but before the taxpayer signs the return. If the site does not conduct quality reviews, the reviewer should still proceed with conducting the return review. The next return should be randomly selected after the QSS reviewer has fully completed the prior return review. The reviewer will conduct a return review using Form 6729-RQSS Return Review Sheet, and Document 13132,Form 6729-R Job Aid, to determine whether the return is accurate. This process is followed until three returns have been reviewed.

  2. A return is accurate when tax law is applied correctly and the completed return is free from error based on the taxpayer interview, their supporting documentation, and the completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

22.30.1.3.13.4.9  (10-01-2014)
Conducting the Site Review

  1. A site review should be conducted to determine site adherence to the QSR and VSC. Generally, the three return reviews are conducted prior to the site review; however, a site review may be conducted at any time if returns are not available for review.

  2. The reviewer will conduct a site review using Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, and Pub 5141, Form 6729 Job Aid to determine the site's adherence to the Quality Site Requirements and Volunteer Standards of Conduct.

22.30.1.3.13.4.10  (01-10-2013)
Scanning and Redacting the Return

  1. Once each return review is completed, scan all of the required documents. Prior to leaving the site, the names, social security numbers, bar codes, phone numbers, EIN, addresses, local business names, and any other identified PII should be redacted (removed) from the scanned returns and supporting documents.

  2. If the reviewer is unable to scan and/or redact the PII from the return and supporting documents due to time limits, the un-redacted returns must be secured in a Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) folder on their computer prior to leaving the site. PII must be redacted prior to sending the case file to headquarters or uploading them to the Quality Shared Drive.

    Note:

    Do not redact Dates of Birth (DOB). Do not scan Social Security Cards, ITIN letters or Photo Identification.

22.30.1.3.13.4.11  (10-01-2014)
Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator

  1. During your site coordinator discussion, explain that their relationship manager will email the final results within two weeks. However, if returns are incorrect or areas of non-compliance to the Quality Site Requirements are identified, the reviewer is required to work with the site to assist them in becoming compliant prior to leaving the site. If corrective actions cannot be completed, reviewers will send an email to the TM within twenty four hours of the visit identifying noncompliant QSR. If violations to the VSC are identified, the reviewer is required to follow the Internal Referral Process by immediately calling the Chief QPO and completing Form 14511,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. Form 14511Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report must be submitted to Chief QPO within twenty four hours after the review. Noncompliance to the QSR and VSC violations will be included in the written feedback to the territory manager.

  2. If errors are identified after you leave the site that change the results of your return review, correct Form 6729-R,QSS Return Review Sheet, by the due date of entering the form in the database. If you are still in the site area, you should return to the site to explain the identified error to the site coordinator. If possible, secure a corrected return. If you are unable to return to the site, annotate the appropriate identified error and what steps were taken to correct the error in your history and revise Form 6729-R,QSS Return Review Sheet,. You must attempt to contact the site coordinator to explain the identified error. If Form 6729-R,QSS Return Review Sheet, can not be changed in the database, inform Chief QPO.

22.30.1.3.13.4.12  (10-01-2014)
Completing the Quality Database

  1. As soon as possible, but no later than the Tuesday after the week of the review, the QSS reviewer must correctly enter Form 6729, Site Review Sheet and Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, into the Site Quality module in SPECTRM. Any edits must be made by the Wednesday after the review week. The Quality Database User Guide provides instructions on access and entering results into the Site Quality module.

22.30.1.3.13.4.13  (10-01-2014)
Post Review Notification

  1. Within 24 hours, the QSS reviewer will send either a Post Review Courtesy E-mail or Post Review Information Request E-Mail to the territory manager. These emails will not include results of the return reviews. The Post Review Information Request E-mail may contain:

    • Request for verification of VSC /tax law certifications.

    • Proof of volunteer and/or partner signature and date on Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs.

    • QSR non-compliance and corrective actions, if any.

    • VSC violations.

    • SPECTRM accuracy.

  2. The territory manager has two business days to respond to the Post Review Information Request E-mail. If requested items are not received, it will affect the results of the review. If the site coordinator refuses to comply with any QSR, it is a violation of VSC #1. QSS reviewers are required to follow the Internal Referral Process by immediately calling the Chief QPO and completing Form 14511,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. Form 14511 must be submitted to Chief QPO within 24 hours after the review.

22.30.1.3.13.4.13.1  (10-01-2014)
Final Written Results

  1. Copies of Form 6729,Volunteer Tax Preparation Visitation Report and Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet must be attached to the email containing the final results. Do not send this email using secured messaging since it will be shared with national and/or local partners. Within two weeks of the review, forward the final results to:

    • Chief Quality Program Office

    • Territory Manager

    • Area Chief of Staff and Area Quality analyst

    • National Relationship Manager (AARP sites)

    • Chief Grant Program Office (Grant sites)

  2. This written feedback will consist of an email with the results and any identified activities that includes, but not limited to:

    • Identified best practices

    • Areas of weaknesses

    • QSR non-compliant issues

    • VSC inappropriate activities

    • Corrective actions provided to the site coordinator

    • Recommended follow-up actions for the territory

  3. As soon as possible, but no later than five business days after receiving the final email results, relationship managers (RM) will review the information and forward the results and forms to:

    • Site Coordinator

    • Responsible partner, If applicable (includes AARP State Coordinator)

22.30.1.3.13.4.14  (10-01-2014)
Relationship Manager Follow-up Actions

  1. The Post Review Information E-mail may identify noncompliant QSR and corrective actions, if any, taken by the reviewer. The territory manager will contact the relationship manager (RM) who will initiate follow-up actions within seven business days after the initial visit to ensure QSR compliance. The RM’s corrective/follow-up actions should be documented at the bottom of the courtesy email and forwarded back to the QSS reviewer within seven calendar days from the initial review.

  2. If recommended corrective/follow-up actions were unable to be performed, the reasons must be documented and forwarded within seven business days in the same manner listed above.

22.30.1.3.13.4.15  (10-01-2013)
Uploading Electronic Files

  1. Files will be maintained electronically. Paper case files will only be used if the reviewer experiences scanner problems.

  2. The QSS reviewer will upload the redacted case files to the quality shared drive. The case files include:

    • Courtesy and final results emails

    • History sheet

    • Form 6729

    • Form 6729-R

    • All tax returns reviewed including supporting schedules

    • All corrected tax returns

    • All documents used to prepare the returns

    • Form 13614-C

    • RM’s corrective actions and/or/ follow-up actions response

22.30.1.3.13.4.16  (10-01-2013)
Closing the Case File

  1. Electronic case files will be uploaded no later than seven business days from reviewer’s last day to edit forms (Wednesday after the review) in the quality database. Once the case file is uploaded to the quality shared drive, the case is closed.

  2. The QSS reviewer will maintain the electronic files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30th.

  3. If paper case files were created due to scanner failure, the QSS reviewer will mail the hard copy of the case file to the Chief QPO in headquarters no later than seven business days from reviewer’s last day to edit forms (Wednesday after the review) in the quality database. Mail paper case file to:

    Internal Revenue Service
    Attn: Chief QPO
    401 W. Peachtree St., NW, Ste 1520, Mail Stop W&I-54
    Atlanta, Georgia 30308

22.30.1.3.13.5  (10-01-2013)
Field Site Visits

  1. SPEC territory offices are required to visit a minimum number of the total sites located within their territory boundaries to promote the IRS relationship with site coordinators and volunteers and deter any wrongdoing based on headquarters requirements.

  2. Field Site Visits will be conducted to assess the extent to which the volunteer preparation sites adhere to the Quality Site Requirements. Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, will be used to conduct this review.

  3. SETR Code (850 00913) and Internal Order Code (SPHQT) should be used for Field Site Visits (FSV).

22.30.1.3.13.5.1  (02-10-2014)
Selection of Sites

  1. SPEC territory offices are required to complete a review of at least one site affiliated with each of the VITA and TCE grant partners located in their territory. VITA and TCE grant partners are also listed as a component of the area and territory comprehensive field site visit plan requirements; this may result in reviews being done at more than one site from each grant partner.

22.30.1.3.13.5.2  (10-01-2014)
Conducting Field Site Visits

  1. Field visits can be announced or unannounced. Visits should be planned to maximize available travel resources (e.g., several site visits in a particular area in one day).

    Note:

    The term reviewer and tax consultant are interchangeable throughout this section.

  2. Tax consultants should always take into account the continuing operation of the site during the visit. Most field visits should be conducted between February 1 and April 15. However, visits should be conducted throughout the course of the year when sites are open after April 15.

  3. Some pre-work must be completed before going on the field visit. The tax consultant conducting the visit will need to obtain the following information to verify its accuracy when applicable:

    • Site information should be verified through the SPEC/SERP reports, to confirm address, dates/hours of operations, contact information, and service provided. During the field visits, partners need to verify the reports that the territory office has provided with the actual data (site location and hours of operation) for accuracy.

    • Volunteer information can be validated using Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, or partner developed form containing the same information. The LLT Certification list should also be secured to take on the visit. This will provide a list of certified volunteers who have taken and passed the test using Link and Learn Taxes. Validate the site coordinator attended Site Coordinator Training. Ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects site coordinator training information.

    • E-file activity and accuracy as reported on the E-file reports page or Individual Master File (IMF) report. The E-file reports are issued daily. The IMF SIDN information will be available on a monthly basis. This monthly report will provide the number of returns filed using the SIDN and the e-file reject rates.

    • Signed assurances and/or agreements for VITA sites: Form 13325 , Statement of Assurance concerning Civil Rights Compliance for IRS SPEC Partnerships, or Form 13324,Statement of Assurance concerning Civil Rights Compliance for IRS SPEC sub-partnerships; property loan agreement on IRS equipment used; and/or privacy and confidentiality sponsor agreement.

  4. Reviewers will use the Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, to conduct these visits. Results from these reviews must be entered in the Quality Module by Tuesday of the week following the visit.

  5. Discuss the results of the visit with the site coordinator prior to leaving the site, and, follow-up by email to the site coordinator (and state coordinator if AARP) within 7 business days of the visit. A copy of Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, should be generated from the SPECTRM Site Quality Module and attached to the results email. E-mail templates will be provided to assist tax consultants with reporting the results of the visit.

  6. Use the following publications and documents to assist with the field site visit of VITA and TCE operations:

    • Publication 1084,Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 3189,Volunteer e-file Administrator Guide

    • Publication 4299,Privacy and Confidentiality - A Public Trust

  7. Tax consultants should observe the site’s activities and procedures while conducting the field visit. The site coordinator or their representative may be asked for clarification on site processes.

  8. In all cases, tax consultants should take the opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to the Site Coordinator and volunteers at the site.

  9. In instances where a field visit reveals a finding requiring a change on how the site operates, the tax consultant should discuss the issue and its resolution with the site coordinator prior to leaving the site, and report it to the relationship manager assigned to the site, if appropriate.

  10. The territory manager will make the determination on who will conduct field site visits. Generally, field visits are conducted by the tax consultants designated as the site’s or partner’s relationship manager.

  11. Territory managers are required to perform at least one field performance review on each tax consultant conducting field visits.

  12. If the territory manager assigns the field visit to a tax consultants not assigned to that site or partner, the tax consultants will provide immediate verbal feedback to the assigned relationship manager. Feedback includes providing positive comments and/or reporting any identified problem areas and providing recommended corrective actions.

  13. The quality area analyst should work with each territory during the planning stages to ensure all procedures are followed. Area offices must implement a process to ensure adequate oversight of all volunteer sites is adhered.

  14. Field Site Visit files will be maintained at the territory level.

22.30.1.3.13.5.3  (10-01-2013)
Follow-Up Site Reviews

  1. It may be necessary to conduct a follow-up visit of a site to ensure adherence to a requested change in operations. These follow-up visits should be looked upon as a way to assist site coordinators in improving their site operations or possibly to assist them in adopting other best practices to alleviate pitfalls they may have encountered. Follow-up visits should be conducted within 7 days of the initial visit.

  2. The timing of a follow up visit may be strongly influenced by the issues to be resolved. For instance, a site needs to make changes in its electronic filing transmission process but they only transmit once a week. It would not be of benefit to visit the site when they are not transmitting. In the event the visit reveals a site disregarding the QSR or other requirements, the coordinator should be instructed on how to bring the site into compliance. A follow up visit should be conducted to ensure the site has corrected the concerns. If the site has not corrected the concerns identified, consult with the territory manager to determine what further action should be taken. As a last resort, procedures should be followed for closing a site. These procedures are located in the VITA and TCE Site Requirements and Inappropriate Activities.

    Note:

    Refer to QSR for additional guidelines on conducting follow up visits.

22.30.1.3.13.5.4  (10-01-2013)
Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site Visits

  1. Site visits may be coordinated in advance with partners, either announced or unannounced as resources permit or the situation dictates. A minimum number of field site visits will be pre-planned by the territory to ensure a minimum number of territory sites receive a site field visit. In addition, supplemental or ad-hoc field visits may be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate by the territory manager. Field site visits may be conducted by anyone on the territory staff, whether the primary relationship manager or not. There is no grade restriction on who may conduct a visit, although employee experience level should be considered.

  2. QSS reviews, SPEC shopping reviews, and field site visits are all included when determining if sites were visited during a four year period. Every effort should be made to include one day, ad hoc, roving, and mobile sites when planning field site visits.


More Internal Revenue Manual