All volunteers in the VITA/TCE Program must take the Standards of Conduct training and pass the certification test. Volunteer tax return preparers must be certified to prepare taxes and perform quality reviews of returns. Students must pass the applicable course test—Basic, Advanced, Military, or International in order to perform these duties. All volunteers who prepare or review returns must be certified in Basic, at a minimum. Volunteers can stop at Basic or proceed with other courses and certification levels. Volunteers can only prepare and quality review tax returns for the level at which they have been certified. Quality reviewers must be certified at the Basic level or higher. Instructors must be certified at the Advanced level. The passing score for certification for each course is a minimum score of 80%.
Here is the link to the volunteer return preparation test, Form 6744. (This is a large file - please allow a few moments for your browser to load it.) Caution: Questions on the online exams may be from the test or retest from the Form 6744 (test booklet). Volunteers should read each question on the online test carefully before answering.
The preferred method of training and certification is through Link and Learn Taxes on IRS.gov. The online test grades the test automatically and provides a helpful explanation for incorrect answers. In addition, the Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement, Form 13615 is updated with the volunteer’s information. This form is available for download and can be printed.
There are certification exams which correspond to the courses: Basic, Advanced, Military and International. Volunteers preparing tax returns must pass either the Basic or Advanced certification test. Note that Basic and Advanced are standalone certifications; it is not required to take the Basic exam if you wish to certify in Advanced. A minimum score of 80% is required to pass each certification test. Only volunteers who have passed the Advanced exam may choose to test for Military and International certifications.
There are two optional specialty courses only on Link & Learn Taxes: Cancellation of Debt and Health Savings Accounts. Individuals certified at the Basic level or higher may proceed to the HSAs exam. Individuals who have certification in Advanced, Military, or International can choose to certify in COD. Volunteers should consult with their site coordinator to determine whether certification in COD or HSAs is needed for their site.
In addition, there are supplemental training courses available on Link & Learn Taxes for Puerto Rico, and Foreign Students and Scholars. Certification guidelines for each are explained below.
Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Updated Test
The test covers new provisions and tax law changes. Volunteers with the professional designation of attorney, Enrolled, Agent or Certified Public Accountant have the option of certifying via the Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update Test. A volunteer who completes this certification level can prepare all tax returns that fall within the scope of the VITA/TCE program. As well as perform all volunteer roles such as tax preparer, quality reviewer and/or instructor.
Puerto Rico Certification
This year, there are two levels for Puerto Rico training and certification. Level I covers basic tax law topics and Level II covers advanced issues. A prerequisite for the Puerto Rico levels is the Basic VITA/TCE training and certification. After successfully completing Basic certification, volunteers can proceed to Puerto Rico Level I. Volunteers must pass the Level I test with a minimum score of 80% to certify. Students can stop there or proceed to Puerto Rico Level II. For Level II certification, students must achieve a minimum passing score of 80%. Volunteers can only prepare and quality review tax returns for the level at which they have been certified.
Foreign Student and Scholar Certification
This course is used as a training tool for volunteer tax return preparers who assist foreign students and scholars in preparing their returns.This course covers determination of residency status and application of treaty benefits in addition to other federal tax issues commonly faced by foreign nationals who must file a U.S. income tax return. There is no prerequisite for this course. The Foreign Student Course and test are available on Link & Learn Taxes. Publication 4704-FS, VITA/TCE Foreign Student and Scholar Test is an electronic version of the test. Volunteers must achieve a minimum passing score of 80% for certification.