22.30.1 Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication

Manual Transmittal

November 18, 2021

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 22.30.1, Wage and Investment Outreach Procedures, Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication.

Material Changes

(1) This IRM was reorganized and some IRM sections have been changed due to re-numbering.

(2) IRM 22.30.1.5, Record Retention, added (1) to define records kept in SPEC. Record Retention contents in (1) is in (2).

(3) IRM 22.30.1.8 (1), Volunteer Return Preparation Overview, revised paragraph to reflect the statutory definition: targeted audience of the VITA program. The target audience definition is also found in Publication 4671 and in IRM 22.30.1.10.1.2 (5).

(4) IRM 22.30.1.8 (1), Volunteer Return Preparation Overview, added members to the targeted audience (Armed Forces, their spouses and Native American).

(5) IRM 22.30.1.8 (5), Volunteer Return Preparation Overview, added grantees must decide to prepare returns for taxpayers when income is above the threshold.

(6) IRM 22.30.1.8.6 (2), Volunteer Recognition, added clarification that SPEC Staff cannot use federal funds to buy plaques, medals trophies, or other commemorative items to recognize partners and volunteers, not government employees.

(7) IRM 22.30.1.8.6.2.2, Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) and Territory Roles, revised the FS&A office does not have a role in the Volunteer Milestone Recognition Program.

(8) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.2.2 (2), Printed Training Products, deleted Order Entry and Delivery Schedule due to schedule changes, added reference to new Publication 5358, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials.

(9) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.3, Link and Learn Taxes, revised title to LLT and updated information about the number of certification courses to reflect 11 courses.

(10) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.5.2 (8), Military, added the platform online platform to supply overseas military training virtually, due to the pandemic and for bases not selected for in person training.

(11) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.3 (c), Territory Office Role, removed steps of exporting the CE Pending report sent by FS&A due to procedural change. Added requirement to keep Forms 13615 until end of year and removed the requirement of giving the forms to FS&A due to procedural change.

(12) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.4 (3), Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) Office Role, removed the need for verification of Form 13615 due to procedural change keeping forms in the territory. Added uploading of the CE Pending report to shared drive for retention.

(13) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (1), Program Support Office (PS) Role, replaced retention of Forms 13615 with CE pending report due to procedural change.

(14) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.3, Training Single Entry Time Reporting Codes modified section that SPEC employees must refer to SETR reporting codes in Document 11684, SETR Codes for SPEC.

(15) IRM 22.30.1.8.9, Ordering Materials and Supplies for VITA, deleted section, duplicate content found in 22.30.1.9.2.3.2, Printer Cartridge Bulk Order.

(16) IRM 22.30.1.8.9.1 (5), Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites, removed (5) as procedures changed for virtual processes. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.10 (5).

(17) IRM 22.30.1.8.9.2 (4), Prior Year and Amended Return Preparation, revised list of resources to reference materials for clarity. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.10.2.

(18) IRM 22.30.1.8.9.2 (6), Prior Year and Amended Return Preparation, deleted outdated information.

(19) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.5, Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB), modified section to show how SPEC FEAB aids and supports partners and taxpayers. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.10.5.5.

(20) IRM 22.30.1.8.9.5.5 (3), Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) Responsibility, added HQ FEAB analyst must discuss roadblocks. Deleted the final two bullets due to content being outdated and no longer pertinent.

(21) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1 (1), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), added Remote Site Reviews (RSR) as a procedural change.

(22) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.5 (1), Reference Materials Non-Compliance, IPU 21U0128 issued 01-22-2021, added electronic publications as a procedural change.

(23) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.6, Volunteer Agreement Non-Compliance, IPU 21U0128 issued 01-22-2021, added procedure change about government-issued photo identification for volunteers. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.6.

(24) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.8 (1), Civil Rights Non-Compliance, IPU 21U0128 issued 01-22-2021, revised language about civil rights as a procedural change.

(25) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.12.1, Headquarters Program Support Responsibility, revised title to Headquarters Responsibility, added if/then chart (2), added required actions by HQ (3) (4).

(26) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.12.2, Territory Responsibility, added required territory actions. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.12.2.

(27) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.12.3, Partner Responsibility, deleted section, no longer needed.

(28) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.3.7, Planning for Reviews, section re-added. Section previously deleted in error.

(29) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7, Planning for Reviews, IPU 21U0128 issued 01-22-2021, deleted instructions no longer correct and virtual sites now found in IRM 22.30.1.8.12.3.10, Reviewing Returns Using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model.

(30) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.1, High Risk Attributes, added guidance for high-risk actions. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.1.

(31) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.1.1, Making an Internal Referral, added more guidance on making an internal referral.

(32) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.1.4, Internal Referral Review Planned Actions, deleted section, no longer needed due to procedural changes.

(33) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.3, Volunteer Return Preparation Program Preparer Misconduct, added information on preparer misconduct. Deleted (2) (3), information outdated and no longer relevant. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.4.

(34) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.3.1, Headquarters Responsibility, added information for SPEC Headquarters. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.4.1.

(35) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.3.2 (2), Territory Responsibility, added actions required by the Territory for Return Preparer misconduct.

(36) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.11, Volunteer Registry, added a reference to follow IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.1.3, Making a Referral, and updated the guidance on adding a volunteer to the registry. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.11.

(37) IRM 22.30.1.8.12.13.1, Distribution of Alerts, deleted (4) because the information supplied is unrelated to the process of distributing alerts. (5) is now para (4) and removed bullet listing Volunteer Roles and Responsibilities because it is in Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook.

(38) IRM 22.30.1.8.15, SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM), added language on SPECTRM Site Quality Module. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.16.

(39) IRM 22.30.1.8.15.2 (3), SPEC Contacts Module, IPU 21U0465 issued 03-25-2021, revised section to list the date the coordinator passed the site coordinator test.

(40) IRM 22.30.1.8.15.4.1, Executive Order 13166, IPU 21U0128 issued 01-22-2021, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and Return Preparation Service, added list of Federal agencies and recipients of federal financial help. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.16.4.1.

(41) IRM 22.30.1.8.15.5, SPECTRM Production Module, added language on Form 13315, Partner Outreach Activity Report. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.8.16.5.

(42) IRM 22.30.1.8.15.7, SPECTRM Change Request, revised the submission time from SPEC Headquarters analyst.

(43) IRM 22.30.1.9.1, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, deleted to remove duplicate information and found in IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.12 (6) Standards of Conduct Training and Certification.

(44) IRM 22.30.1.9.1.2 (1) (2), Helping Partners Assess Risk and Develop a Security Plan to Protect Information, revised to include updates to existing guidance due to procedural changes.

(45) IRM 22.30.1.9.2, Computers for Volunteers, revised title to, Equipment and Software for Volunteers. Deleted (2) (3), duplicate information IRM 22.30.1.9.2.3, Territory Responsibilities.

(46) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.2, Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) Responsibilities, deleted (1c), and added content to 22.30.1.9.2.2 (1b).

(47) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7 (2a), Reporting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment, IPU 21U0465 issued 03-25-2021, added the requirement for recipients to let IRS know at once, or by the next business day if IRS owned equipment is lost or stolen, instead of ten business days of receiving the notice of theft.

(48) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.1, Documenting Stolen IRS Loaned Equipment, deleted reference to un-encrypted laptops used prior to 2006 located in column 8.

(49) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2, Reporting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers, IPU 21U0465 issued 03-25-2021, added requirements for recipients to let the IRS know at once, but not later than the next business day, if partner owned computer equipment is lost or stolen.

(50) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8 (1), Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment, IPU 21U0465 issued 03-25-2021, added requirements for recipients to let the IRS know at once, but no later than the next business day if IRS owned equipment is lost or stolen.

(51) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8 (2), Reporting lost IRS Owned Equipment, IPU 21U0465 issued 03-25-2021, added reference what to do when IRS equipment is lost in an IRS office location. Previously in IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8 (1).

(52) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.4 (1) (c), Tax Software Territory Responsibilities, modified section to reflect the difference in an FSA Fusion site or Free File Alliance. This corrects an earlier typographical error. Added a note for a temporary policy change that employees no longer need to complete Form 14574 for Fiscal Year 2021 and Fiscal Year 2022, due to sites limiting operations in Fiscal Year 2020, 2021 and COVID-19.

(53) IRM 22.30.1.9.6, New Product Ideas and Concerns, revised language into four sections. Added language for Document 13412, Where Do I Begin with a New SPEC Product Idea or Revision? and Form 15306, Business Case for New SPEC Products.

(54) IRM 22.30.1.9.7 (3), Product Forecasting and Inventory Management, deleted (3), outdated information on product forecasting and inventory management.

(55) IRM 22.30.1.9.9 (1), Product Availability, deleted outdated information on location of availability of training products. Added content to refer employees to Document 13414 to locate available products.

(56) IRM 22.30.1.9.9, (2), Product Availability, added linked Publication 5358, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials and Publication 5358, availability of printed training materials, and shipment from the National Distribution Center.

(57) IRM 22.30.1.9.9 (3), Product Availability, added LLT link and availability of new tax law material.

(58) IRM 22.30.1.9.9 (4), Product Availability, added availability of outreach products.

(59) IRM 22.30.1.9.9 (5), Product Availability, added information on tax and quality alerts.

(60) IRM 22.30.1.9.10 (1), Who to Call for Product Assistance? deleted information on link to MP product repository.

(61) IRM 22.30.1.9.10 (2), Who to Call for Product Assistance? revised link to Document 13414 and who to contact with inquiries.

(62) IRM 22.30.1.9.10 (3), Who to Call for Product Assistance? revised correct link between Product Pro page and MP product catalog.

(63) IRM 22.30.1.9.12, Quality Review Process, added information on Publications 4491-X, VITA/TCE Training Supplement.

(64) IRM 22.30.1.9.13, Completing the Interview, deleted section, content now IRM 22.30.1.9.12.

(65) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.3 (7), Civil Rights Reporting Requirements, deleted sentence and information is in IRM 22.30.1.10.3 (8).

(66) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.3 (8), Civil Rights Reporting Requirements, added post-award compliance reviews conducted by the Civil Rights Unit.

(67) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.5.3.2 (2), Buy American Act, modified to change the expected value exclusion rule under the Buy American Act of procurement ceiling from $3,500 to $10,000.

(68) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.5.4 (1) (a) (b) (c) (d) (g), Other Applicable Laws and Regulations, revised to reflect the most correct list of federal laws, regulations, OMB circulars, Department of Treasury circulars, and Federal management circulars that affect the VITA and TCE Programs that coincide with our Terms and Conditions documents.

(69) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.3, Quarterly/Final Financial Report Requirements, deleted section as content is outdated.

(70) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.1 (1) (a) (b) (c) (d) (e) (f) (g) (h) (i) (n) (o) (p), Receipt and Control, revised to incorporate the Enterprise Case Management (ECM) System into the Receipt and Control of the VITA and TCE applications.

(71) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.2 (4) (5), Application Completeness and Eligibility Processing, deleted reference employees no longer use the Receipt Log. This information is currently in the ECM System.

(72) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.3 (6), Ranking Panel Evaluation of Application Packages, revised to reflect the TCE ranking document – Form 14389 and deleted the “-“ in crosswalk.

(73) IRM 22.30.1.10.6.2 (1), Sub-Award Reporting, revised (1) threshold increased to $30,000, per Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to align with the final guidance for grants and agreements (for federal funds) dated August 13, 2020.

(74) IRM 22.30.1.10.8.3, SPEC Territory Office Responsibilities, Note deleted as Form 6729-A, Volunteer Tax Preparation Visitation Report is obsolete.

(75) IRM 22.30.1.11.2, Outreach Roles and Responsibilities, deleted (4), content is outdated.

(76) IRM 22.30.1.12.2, Promotional Materials for Understanding Taxes (UT), deleted section that shows no promotional materials currently for Understanding Taxes.

(77) IRM 22.30.1.14, Filing Season Readiness Executive Steering Committee, revised verbiage to insert the FSR ESC meeting frequency and updated the Filing Season Readiness website link.

(78) IRM 22.30.1.15.1 (1), Headquarters Responsibilities, revised section to define what National Partnership does and ownership of the SPEC Partner Survey in paragraph 1. Added a statement that an FS&A analyst must work through local partner survey issues during the survey administration period in paragraph (h).

(79) IRM 22.30.1.15.2 (1), Contractor Responsibilities, deleted reference to contractor, W&I Research and Analysis, developing an action plan and meeting key deadlines to prepare, collect and administer survey data.

(80) IRM 22.30.1.15.2 (3), Contractor Responsibilities, deleted sentence that national partners and local partners must conduct interviews by mail, email internet or telephone, in the table titled, Administer Survey. The vendor must administer the survey online as outlined in the Statement of Work (SOW).

(81) IRM 22.30.1.15.3 (1), Verifying SPEC Partner Contact Information, deleted sentence that details the removal of FSA Remote and FEAB partners from the survey list. Further, SPEC Partners includes national and local partners in SPECTRM, as active.

(82) IRM 22.30.1.15.3 (2), Verifying SPEC Partner Contact Information, deleted sentence that all SPECTRM users can view all available reports. SPEC employees can use this report to ensure all partners receive a partner survey. Note: SPECTRM reports do not include IRS.gov exclusions.

(83) IRM 22.30.1.15.3.2, National Partnership (NP) Responsibilities, deleted section, the National Partnership function office no longer manages surveys. NP is now responsible for getting the survey distribution list and delivering it to the vendor.

(84) IRM 22.30.1.15.3.3, Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) Responsibilities, deleted section, the PSA function office no longer obtains the final partner survey list of emails for both local and national partners.

(85) IRM 22.30.1.16 (2), W&I SPEC Internet Content Publishing Procedures (IRS.gov updates and/or changes), modified section to reflect IRM 11.55.1 reference now obsolete in paragraph 2. Added the link to IRM 2.25.101.4, IRS.gov Content Publishing Business Process which supplies an overview for requesting changes to W&I content on IRS.gov.

(86) IRM 22.30.1.16 (4), W&I SPEC Internet Content Publishing Procedures (IRS.gov updates and/or changes), modified to include Form 14044 for content updates in item (4).

(87) IRM 22.30.1.16 (4), W&I SPEC Internet Content Publishing Procedures (IRS.gov updates and/or changes), modified the Note to include more information for updated content requests.

(88) IRM 22.30.1.16 (5), W&I SPEC Internet Content Publishing Procedures (IRS.gov updates and/or changes), modified the certification procedures to meet Filing Season Readiness in item/paragraph 5.

(89) IRM 22.30.1.16 (6), W&I SPEC Internet Content Publishing Procedures (IRS.gov updates and/or changes), deleted second sentence, as information is in paragraph 5 and in IRM 22.30.1.16.

(90) IRM 22.30.1.17.1.4, Functional Office Responsibility, added Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) in the process due to SPEC’s re-organization.

(91) IRM 22.30.1.17.1.5, Other Information, modified section for customers to send questions to the SPM Program Analyst and/or the Chief, SPM.

(92) IRM 22.30.1.18.1 (2) (b), SPEC SPM Staff Responsibilities, added Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) in the process due to SPEC’s re-organization.

(93) IRM 22.30.1.18.2 (3), Functional Contacts/Alternates for the SPEC Partner Email Box, added Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) in the process and their role in the processing SPEC Partners mailbox inquiries.

(94) Editorial changes made throughout to remove italics from titles, updated titles to closely reflect sub-section content, added IRM references and hyper-links, reorganized content, updated spelling, grammar, citation tags, and websites, and editorial changes have been made throughout the IRM to adhere to plain writing standards. .

Effect on Other Documents

IRM 22.30.1, dated 01-01-2022 (effective September 04, 2020), is superseded. This IRM incorporates the following IRM Procedural Updates (IPUs), issued after 10/01/2021: 21U0128, issued 01-22-2021 and 21U0465 issued 03/25/2021.

Audience

All Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) employees and managers

Effective Date

(01-01-2022)

Frank A. Nolden
Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication
Wage and Investment Division

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose: This IRM provides program direction and guidance to all Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) employees and managers in delivering services to taxpayers with satisfying their tax responsibilities.

  2. Audience: All SPEC employees, managers, and analysts.

  3. Policy Owner: The Director, SPEC is the program owner.

  4. Program Owner: SPEC’s Headquarters office.

  5. Primary Stakeholders:

    • Media and Publications (MP)

    • Communication and Liaison (C&L)

  6. Program Goals: Effectively, promptly, and efficiently oversee the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program to educate and prepare free tax returns for millions of low to moderate-income taxpayers, high-school students, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, those with limited English proficiency, and Native Americans.

Background

  1. SPEC is the outreach and education function of IRS’ Wage and Investment (W&I) Division. SPEC’s strives to help taxpayers in satisfying their tax responsibilities by building and keeping partnerships with key stakeholders who inform, educate, and communicate with our shared customers.

  2. SPEC achieves its mission by combining resources and goals with other organizations for better access to lower income and underserved populations in local communities. This approach, known as a "leveraged" approach, places an emphasis on partner involvement and introduces relationship management as a key element in its operations.

  3. SPECs partners consist of corporate, faith-based, non-profit, educational, financial, government and military organizations.

  4. SPECs community coalition members must work together to help lower income individuals in their own neighborhoods. The coalitions have greater access to taxpayers, higher potential for expanded resources, and own the important intangibles of taxpayers’ credibility and trust.

  5. SPEC uses a three-pronged approach to serve the W&I taxpayer: Tax Preparation, Tax Education (Outreach), and Financial Education and Asset Building.

    1. Tax Preparation - The first part of SPECs approach is to collaborate with work together with partners to prepare tax returns. The well-known volunteer tax preparation programs (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) draw involvement from community leaders who have common goals and customers

    2. Tax Education - The second part of SPEC's three-pronged approach encourages partners must supply helpful tax information to individuals who receive help. Partners in coalitions must educate families about tax issues like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), filing responsibilities, and finding tax office locations

    3. Financial Education and Asset Building - The third part of SPEC’s three-pronged business mode encourages fiscal responsibility. SPEC and its partners must continue to educate low-income taxpayers about asset-building opportunities by collaborating to provide taxpayers with the information, knowledge and skills needed to evaluate their financial options and make informed financial decisions. See IRM 22.30.1.8.9.5, Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB)

Authority

  1. Authorities for this program include:

    • IRC 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

    • IRC 7526A

    • Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR)

  2. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) provides that taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous, and professional help in their dealing with the IRS. Employees must talk to taxpayers in a way that helps them easy to understand any letters received from the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to speak to management, whenever not satisfied with the level of quality customer service.

Responsibilities

  1. The SPEC Director oversees the policies in this IRM and approves and authorizes its issuance.

  2. SPEC Executives, referred to as Chiefs and/or SPEC Headquarter Managers, must manage, prepare, and support SPEC programs.

  3. Management officials must:

    • Use internal controls to supply program oversight, relating to each program, process or activity for employees and staff

    • Verify all actions taken by employees and staff

  4. SPEC employees execute all programs, policies, and procedures to successfully meet all program goals.

Program Management Reviews

  1. For information on SPEC’s measures reporting, see IRM 22.30.1.3, Measures Reporting.

  2. For more information on Performance Reviews, see IRM 22.30.1.8.12.12.

  3. To manage the effectiveness of SPEC Programs and goals, SPEC staff uses the following reports:

    • Operational Reviews

    • Measures Report

    • Scorecard Report

    • Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews

    • Field Site Visit Reviews

    • Remote Site Reviews

    • Financial Reviews

    • Remote Site Reviews

    • Safety and Security Reviews

    • Travel Reviews

    • SPECTRM Reviews

Terms

  1. Acronym - An abbreviation formed from the first letters of a phrase or term.

  2. Audience - SPEC employees must take responsible actions for those who need more knowledge about the program, process, or activity.

  3. Internal Control - A process effected by management that supplies reasonable assurance that the program meets achieved goals.

  4. Internal Management Control - Official communications that appoint policies, authorities and deliver instructions to IRS officials and employees.

  5. IRS Organization - The highest-level operating division of office headed by an executive.

  6. Management Official - An individual employed by an agency in a position having duties and responsibilities which require or authorize the individual to formulate, decide or influence the policies of the agency.

  7. Manager - The SPEC employee’s first line manager.

  8. Policy Owner - IRS organization or the title of the executive (position only) responsible for the program. For more information om the IRS’ organization, see IRM 1.1.13, Organization and Staffing.

  9. Program Controls - The program reviews and quality assurance activities associated with the program.

  10. Program Effectiveness - SPEC staff measure program goals by using references, link to documents and/or websites to find the benefits to employees.

  11. Program Owner - The office which has primary responsibility for setting up the policy, process, and procedures necessary to implement and manage the IRS program. Directors within this office must develop and publish IRM procedures. The program owner is the IRM owner for the program.

  12. Program goals, include:

    • Data sources

    • Storage location

    • Reporting mechanisms

  13. Purpose - A description of the program, process, or activity. SPEC managers must figure out and name:

    • Program objectives

    • Employees responsible for taking the action

    • The type of work employees performs. See Audience

Acronyms

  1. Below is a list of commonly used acronyms and abbreviations that SPEC uses. The Acronym database supplies more definitions and titles found in SPEC’s IRM.

    Acronyms and Abbreviations Description
    AARP American Association of Retired Persons
    ACORN Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now
    AFTC Armed Forces Tax Council
    ATS Assurance Testing System
    BIT Basic Instructor Training
    BOE Business Objects Enterprise
    CADE Customer Account Data Engine
    CAPS Computer Assisted Publishing System
    CARE Customer Assistance Relationships and Education
    CAS Customer Account Services
    CBA Cash by Appropriations
    CE Continuing Education
    CI Criminal Investigations
    CITC Classroom Instructor Training Class
    CPA Certified Public Accountant
    CRU Civil Rights Unit
    CTEC California Tax Education Council
    DATA Digital Accountability and Transparency Act
    DB Dun and Bradstreet
    DOJ Department of Justice
    DUNS Data Universal Numbering System
    E-Filing Electronic Filing
    E-Services Electronic Services
    EA Enrolled Agents
    EDI Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
    EFIN Electronic Filing Identification Number
    EITC Earned Income Tax Credit
    ELF Electronic Filing
    EN/CH English/Chinese
    EN/KR English/Korean
    EN/RU English/Russian
    ERO Electronic Return Originator
    FEAB Financial Education and Asset Building
    FFR Federal Financial Report
    FOIA Freedom of Information Act
    FSA Facilitated Self Assistance
    FS&A Field Support and Analysis
    FSV Field Site Visit
    GAAP Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or Generally Accepted Practices
    GAO Government Accountability Office
    GPO Grant Program Office
    HHS Health and Human Services
    HQ Headquarters
    HSA Health Savings Account
    IMF Individual Master File
    IMT Inventory Management Tool
    ITIN Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
    KISAM Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management
    KBI Key Business Indicator
    LEP Limited English Proficiency
    LLT Link and Learn Taxes
    MA Management Assistant
    MIS Management Information System
    MP Media and Publications
    MOU Memorandum of Understanding
    MR Media Relations
    NAB National Asset Building
    NDC National Distribution Center
    NHQ National Headquarters
    NP National Partnerships
    OLT Online Taxes
    PBT Process Based Training
    PLA Property Loan Agreement
    PMS Payment Management System
    POC Point of Contact
    POD Post of Duty
    PPRA Performance Progress Report Performance Measure
    Product PRO SPEC’s one-stop Intranet Site
    PS Program Support
    PSA Product Systems & Analysis
    PTIN Preparer Tax Identification Number
    QNA Quantity Needs Assessment
    QNS Quantity Needs Survey
    QPO Quality Program Office
    QSR Quality Site Requirements
    QSS Quality Statistical Sample
    RM Relationship Manager
    RPO Return Preparer Office
    RSR Remote Site Reviews
    SA Survey Administrator
    SAM System for Award Management
    SERP Servicewide Electronic Research Project
    SETR Single Entry Time Reporting
    SIDN Site Identification Number
    SL Stakeholder Liaison
    SOI Statistics of Income
    SOW Statement of Work
    SPECTRM SPEC Total Relationship Management
    SPM Strategy and Program Management
    SQM Site Quality Module
    TAC Taxpayer Assistance Center
    TCE Tax Counseling for the Elderly
    TIGTA Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
    TIN Taxpayer Identification Number
    TM Territory Manager
    TPDS Third Party Data Store
    UEI Unique Entity Identifier
    UT Understanding Taxes
    VITA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
    VRPP Volunteer Return Preparer Programs
    VSC Volunteer Standards of Conduct
    VV Virtual VITA

Related Resources

  1. For information on SPEC's organization structure, see IRM 1.1.13.6.2, Wage and Investment Division.

  2. Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer.

  3. Publication 5170, Taxpayer Bill of Rights (Brochure).

  4. Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return

  5. Form 2333-V, Order for VITA/TCE Program

  6. Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund.

  7. Form 6729, QSS Return Review Sheet.

  8. Form 6729-B, Shopping Return Review Sheet.

  9. Form 6729-C, Return Review Sheet.

  10. Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet.

  11. Form 6729-P, Partner Return Review Sheet.

  12. Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet.

  13. Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor's Test/Retest.

  14. Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return.

  15. Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition

  16. Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

  17. Form 9234, Volunteer Certificate of Appreciation.

  18. Form 9661, Cooperative Agreement.

  19. Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report.

  20. Form 13357, Community Service Leadership Certificate of Appreciation.

  21. Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement.

  22. Form 13533-A, FSA Remote Sponsor Agreement.

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

  24. Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs.

  25. Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet.

  26. Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen/Lost Equipment.

  27. Form 13981, Grant Agreement.

  28. Form 14044, W&I IRS.gov Content Publishing Request (CPR).

  29. Form 14099, SPEC Partner/Site Financial Education & Asset Building Assessment.

  30. Form 14307, Partner Milestone Recognition.

  31. Form 14308, SPEC Site Milestone Recognition Form.

  32. Form 14309, SPEC Volunteer Milestone Recognition Form.

  33. Form 14335, Primary Contact Information for VITA/TCE Grant Programs.

  34. Form 14355, Grant Financial Review Report.

  35. Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Taxpayer Consent.

  36. Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report.

  37. Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet.

  38. Form 14526, Employee Performance Review - Site Review.

  39. Form 14700, VITA TCE Grant Classification Sheet.

  40. Form 15025, Grant Financial Review Activity Record.

  41. Form 15083, Employee Performance Record for QSS Reviews and QPO Activities.

  42. Publication 15272, VITA/TCE Security Plan.

  43. Publication 730 Important Tax Records Envelope (VITA/TCE).

  44. Publication 1084, VITA/TCE Volunteer Site Coordinator Handbook.

  45. Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program.

  46. Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns.

  47. Publication 1915 Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

  48. Publication 3112, IRS E-File Application and Participation.

  49. Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide.

  50. Publication 4053, Your Civil Rights are Protected Poster for IRS Assisted Programs (VITA/TCE/LITC) (English & Spanish Version).

  51. Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust.

  52. Publication 4396-A Partner Resource Guide.

  53. Publication 4454, Your Civil Rights are Protected.

  54. Publication 4473, Computer Loan Program - Welcome Package.

  55. Publication 4491, VITA/TCE Training Guide.

  56. Publication 4491-X, VITA/TCE Training Supplement.

  57. Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data A Guide for Your Business.

  58. Publication 4671, Helping You Help Others VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions.

  59. Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return (English & Spanish Version).

  60. Publication 4836, VITA/TCE Free Tax Programs - English & Spanish.

  61. Publication 4883, Grant Programs Resource Guide for VITA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance & TCE Tax Counseling for the Elderly.

  62. Publication 4961, VITA/TCE Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training.

  63. Publication 5101, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training 2022 Filing Season.

  64. Publication 5140, Job Aid: Partner Site & Return Reviews.

  65. Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements.

  66. Publication 5171 Return Review Job Aid.

  67. Publication 5245, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program Terms and Conditions.

  68. Publication 5358, Fact Sheet: Filing Season 2021: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials for SPEC Partners and Employees.

  69. Publication 5261, Fact Sheet: Filing Season 2022: TaxSlayer Procedural Updates for SPEC Partners and Employees.

  70. Document 13172, Fact Sheet for SPEC Employees - Updates Field Site Visits and Remote Site Reviews.

  71. Document 13412, Job Aid: SPEC Products At-A-Glance.

  72. Document 13414, Job Aid: SPEC Products At-A-Glance.

  73. Document 13364, VITA/TCE Scope and Product Change Requests for SPEC Employees.

  74. IRC 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978, Public Law No. 95-600, 92 Stat. 2810, November 6, 1978.

SPEC Business Model

  1. SPEC uses a leveraged approach to taxpayer service by placing primary emphasis on partner involvement and relationship management as key elements in achieving its goals. SPEC’s Relationship Managers (RM) must supply oversight and guidance to partners and volunteers engaged in free tax preparation and outreach programs at sites throughout the nation.

  2. SPEC delivers this taxpayer service through a three-pronged business model of income tax return preparation, educational outreach and financial education, and asset building information offered to taxpayers. SPEC supplies leveraged benefits to millions of taxpayers through national and local partners who deliver most of the programs and services.

Measures Reporting

  1. The Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) group figures out the official annual SPEC count of sites and local partners. PSA gets this information from SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM) by March 15 or the first business day; thereafter if March 15 falls on a weekend or holiday.

    Note:

    This does not change the requirement that the analyst must enter all active sites in the SPECTRM system by January 15 entered each year.

  2. The National Partnerships (NP) group figures out the official annual count of national partners and coalitions. NP extracts this data from SPECTRM, except for the number of coalitions, found on The Point, until SPECTRM has the capability to capture this data.

  3. SPEC Headquarter SPM Program Analyst sends weekly filing season and monthly Program Activity Code (PAC 1C) reports as directed by Customer Assistance Relationships and Education (CARE) Headquarters (HQ), which includes:

    • Monthly and cumulative planned data PAC 1C report

    • Monthly and cumulative fiscal year data for the previous two years via PAC 1C report

    • Uses anomaly statements on data that is more or less than 10 percent of the previous year cumulative performance

  4. SPEC’s SPM assigned program analyst uses the following methods to calculate Number of Returns Prepared by Volunteers.

    • Site Identification Number (SIDN) Workbook II Report 09 – Program Summary report (source for paper)

    • Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) (prepared returns) reports (supplied by the Chief, NP)

    • The ELF 1541 SPEC Area and Territory Summary report to capture e-file returns

    • To calculate fiscal Year returns, add the sum of paper, e-file, and FSA returns for the periods October 1 through December 31, along with the following year filing season ending September 30

    How to calculate total number of returns for calendar and fiscal years Methodology
    How to calculate the total number of returns filed is the sum of paper and e-file returns filed Number of e-file Returns for FY xx (plus) the Number of paper Returns for FY xx (plus) total Number of FSA Paper/E-file Returns for xx (=) equals the total number of returns prepared Fiscal Year xx
    How to calculate Fiscal Year E-file Returns is the sum of returns filed from October 1 through December 31 and January 1 through September 30 E-file returns filed from October 1, to December 31, (plus) e-filed returns from January 1, to September 30, (=) the Number of e-file Returns for Fiscal Year xx
    How to calculate Fiscal Year paper Returns is the sum of returns October through December and January to September 30 Paper returns filed from October 1, to December 31, (plus) Paper returns filed from January 1, to September 30, (=) number of paper returns filed for Fiscal Year.
    How to calculate Calendar Year E-file Returns is the sum of returns filed from January through December 31 E-file returns filed from January 1, to December 31, (=) the Number of e-file Returns for Calendar Year xx.
    How to calculate Calendar Year paper Returns is the sum of returns from January to December 31 Paper returns filed from January 1, to December 31, (=) number of paper returns filed for Calendar Year.

  5. SPEC assigned program analyst uses 3 External Measures shown on Weekly Measures and Monthly PAC 1C report:

    • Outcome Measures: Percent of Returns Prepared Electronically by SPEC Volunteers

      Note:

      This measure reflects the percentage of individual (Form 1040 and 1040-SR) returns transmitted electronically by SPEC partners and Volunteers. As SPEC continues to process more paper returns, expect the percentage of e-file returns to decrease slightly.

    • Output Measure: Number of Returns Prepared

    • Balanced Measures: Surveys administered annually: Partner Satisfaction (Formerly Local Partner Satisfaction) and Partner Dissatisfaction (Formerly Local Partner Dissatisfaction)

      Note:

      VITA/TCE Return Preparation Accuracy (formerly Volunteer Return Preparation Program (VRPP) Quality Rating): SPEC employees must continue to conduct shopping and return reviews. VITA/TCE sites measure the accuracy of volunteer return preparation volume by adding shopping and return reviews. SPEC staff decides the quality of return preparation returns by reviewing on-site returns. These reviews decide the application of tax law by comparing a customer prepared questionnaire (Intake Sheet) to the filing status, dependents, and EITC application on the return.

  6. SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines.

Program Performance and Reporting

  1. The sections that supplies guidance on SPEC Programs and reporting procedures.

SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines

  1. SPEC’s assigned SPM Program Analyst pulls or reviews the following reports:

    • ELF 1541 report – pull the “MIDNIGHT” drain during filing season

    • ELF 1541 report – pull the “MIDNIGHT” drain during non-peak season (5/1/xx-9/30/xx)

    • ELF 1541 report on the Tuesday. SPEC uses the Area Reports and Non-Profit Organization Summary Report to calculate the Measures for VITA and TCE production

    • SIDN report available Tuesday mornings, using the 09 and 02 production reports for the Measures

    • The return production for the week requires management approval. SPEC sends the report to CARE by 11:00 a.m. every Thursday

    • PAC 1C – due monthly – refer to CARE monthly due date report

    • The Chief, NP sends the weekly FSA report to the SPM assigned analyst weekly.

    • CAS Submission Processing Senior Tax Analyst sends the weekly (every Monday) Prior Year reports to the assigned SPM program analyst.

    • Update all “HEADER and FOOTERS” on all Excel spreadsheets.

    • The Chief of SPM must approve SPEC’s weekly report before sending to others.

    • The SPM coordinator sends all Post, weekly and monthly reports to the Point, SPEC’s intranet site, to the assigned SPEC “the Point” coordinator.

    • Request special BEARS permissions using the platform to access the ELF 1541 and SIDN reports. SPEC staff must contact the NP manager for further instructions to request access.

    • For help with the SIDN report contact, Chief, NP.

    • For help with the ELF 1541 report, contact the assigned Program Analyst in PSA.

    • The assigned NP analyst sends the TaxSlayer Production report to the assigned SPM Analyst, available on the STARS shared drive weekly, then monthly until after 9/30.

      Note:

      Find the TaxSlayer folder on the STARS shared drive site.

Data Dictionary

  1. The SPEC 2021 COMPREHENSIVE DATA DICTIONARY lists and defines performance measures for SPEC. Key Business Indicators describe internal measures used by SPEC management. This report gauges the success of SPEC initiatives and to decide how to effectively employ limited resources for SPEC goals.

Returns Prepared Reports

  1. SPEC obtains the number of returns prepared at volunteer tax preparation sites from the IMF or CADE2 Report, Site Identification Workbook, and the ELF (Electronic Filing System) 1541 Report. These reports supply the total number of paper and electronic returns filed by SPEC's volunteer programs.

Number of Sites

  1. SPEC reports the count and location of VITA, Military VITA, TCE, VITA Grant and co-located sites. All open tax preparation sites include sites open one-day a week for several weeks during the filing season, appointment only, and sites closed to the public. SPEC staff must enter all sites, including sites open for only one day, in SPECTRM.

Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report)

  1. SPEC must report the number of volunteers helping with the VITA/TCE programs. SPEC must count and report the number and certification level(s) of all volunteers.

  2. Partners and military VITA sites must report the names, positions, and certification levels for every volunteer. For more information on training and certification levels, refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.7, VITA and TCE Training.

  3. Partners and military VITA sites must report all volunteers on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing having the same information by February 3rd but no later than February 15th, for sites opening after February 3rd. Partners and military VITA sites must send a new report by the 3rd of each month to show new volunteers not previously reported. Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, includes instructions for preparing a volunteer listing.

  4. Except for AARP volunteers, SPEC territories must record the number of their local volunteers from Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing with the same information in the Production Module in SPECTRM. The Territory office must review and approve all volunteer counts. To input volunteer counts:

    1. Go to SPECTRM Production Module

    2. Select Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report

    3. Search for one site of the partner (search for one military site within the territory to report all volunteer counts)

    4. Add the total number of volunteers assigned to the partner. As partners report new volunteers, add the new volunteer count to the existing count

    5. Repeat this for every assigned partner

    6. Refer to the SPECTRM User Guide for step-by-step directions

  5. Territory offices must record all partner volunteer totals (except AARP volunteers) into SPECTRM within fourteen calendar days of receipt.

  6. Territory offices must record the total number of military volunteer counts for their Territory into SPECTRM under one local military VITA site listed in SPECTRM.

  7. Territory offices must record all partner and military VITA site volunteer totals (except AARP volunteers) into SPECTRM by May 15 for the official volunteer count.

  8. AARP uses an alternative to Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. AARP must supply a volunteer listing to the SPEC Territory office by February 3rd and or the third business day of each month as new volunteers report to the site. The site listing must include the same information as listed on the current Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. SPEC must share the current Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, with the AARP Relationship Manager (RM). Territory offices must not report the number of AARP volunteers in SPECTRM.

  9. AARP National must send their official number of volunteer counts to the SPEC HQ designee by May 15th. The SPEC designee must input this data into SPECTRM.

  10. All domestic military VITA sites must provide their volunteer listing on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing with the same information to the Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) and a copy to their local SPEC RM by February 3rd but no later than February 15th, for sites opening after February 3rd. They must send a new report on the 3rd of each month to show new volunteers not previously reported.

  11. All overseas military VITA sites must supply their volunteer listing on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar document having the same information to the SPEC HQ RM. The SPEC Headquarters RM must input the volunteer count into SPECTRM by May 15th.

  12. The RM must review the Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, partner listing, or AARP list for current IRS employees. To promote volunteerism, the RM reports IRS employees to SPEC HQ for special recognition.

  13. The responsible Territory or SPEC Headquarters’ office must compare all volunteer lists (Form 13206, partner listing and AARP list) to the names listed on the Volunteer Registry. If the Volunteer Registry includes a partner’s or volunteer’s name, the Territory office must notify and inform the partner or volunteer they may never volunteer for the VITA/TCE program. If the partner or volunteer tries to volunteer after notification, the Territory office must contact TIGTA. Territory offices must not include the barred volunteer in the volunteer count in SPECTRM.

VITA/TCE Volunteer and Partner Recruitment Referral Process

  1. IRS.gov, Volunteer Recruitment Referral Process, provides instructions for individuals and partners interested in volunteering in the VITA/TCE program to complete the form posted on irs.gov, VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up, if not already affiliated with one of our partnering organizations. SPEC HQ receives sign-up information from a periodic extract for Verint software. Agency-Wide Shared Services (AWSS) sends the extract to SPEC. A SPEC HQ analyst reviews the VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up form and compiles a list of interested volunteers on a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet includes the roles and responsibilities of the territory.

  2. The form includes a question to capture individuals interested in obtaining Continuing Education credits and a question to find IRS employees interested in volunteering.

  3. PSA group issues an Area Summary report in spreadsheet format of the information from forms received through IRS.gov.

    1. The PSA group delivers this data to the areas once a week from August through April, which is during the heavy recruitment and training period

    2. The PSA group delivers this data bi-weekly from May through July when the demand for volunteers is low and SPEC needs to look for new partners

  4. HQs PSA group sends the Area Summary report to the Growth Territory Managers (TM), Chief, PSA and Chief, Program Support (PS). The Area Summary report includes a count of the total potential volunteers and partners provided to the Area office.

  5. Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) analysts must send information from the Area Summary report to the proper Territory office managers.

  6. Territory office managers must supply potential volunteers’ information to the proper partners based on the potential volunteer’s address and zip code or as requested by the potential volunteer.

  7. Territory office managers must send an email, within fourteen business days during the months October 1st through January 31st, to the potential volunteers acknowledging their interest in volunteering and recommending to a local partner. Regular contact must occur February 1st through September 30th. The TM must carbon copy the partner on the email. Territory offices must post templates of letters to the Point under VITA/TCE Programs/Volunteer Information/Volunteer Communication. These template letters include links for Fact Sheets to use, including CE Credits, IRS Employees interested in volunteering, how to use Link and Learn Taxes (LLT), how to use the Practice Lab, and how to get-started with certifications.

  8. Territory Office Managers must contact interested partners within prescribed timeframes. Placing a phone call is the preferred method for contacting partners before sending follow-up emails. Managers must post partner templates on The Point for optional use.

  9. Territory offices must document actions taken by completing the following Area Summary report columns - Date TM received volunteer/partner list "DD/MM/YY," Date Acknowledgement letter and associated Fact Sheet(s) sent to volunteer and Assigned Partner "DD/MM/YY," Name of Community Organization/Partner assigned to the potential partner, and Comments/Feedback. If there is no associated partner near the interested volunteer’s zip code, mark N/A in the proper field on the spreadsheet and add a remark to the comments section. Territories must use the spreadsheet unless they have a mechanism in place to capture the information already.

  10. PSA forwards complaints from potential volunteers to the proper Area office for follow-up.

  11. FS&A analysts must watch how the process works.

  12. HQ updates the online form annually based on Area and Field input.

  13. HQ updates the Volunteer Recruitment Referral Process IRM procedures based on recommendations from Volunteer Recruitment SME team and management approval.

VITA/TCE Return Preparation Accuracy (formerly VRPP Quality Rating)

  1. Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) reviews measure the adherence of sites to the Quality Site Requirements (QSR) and the accuracy of volunteer return preparation on VITA/TCE sites. SPEC decides return preparation quality through on-site reviews of completed returns. The reviews figure out tax law accuracy by comparing a customer prepared questionnaire to the filing status, dependents, income, and credits on the return.

Disaster Relief

  1. The President of the United States signs Disaster Relief Acts to aid taxpayers affected by natural disasters. A disaster is a grave occurrence or major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth with devastating results. When the President declares a city or county a disaster zone, the IRS develops guidelines for all levels of the agency. Based on those guidelines, SPEC shares these policies and guidelines with the areas, territories, and partners (i.e., talking points, instructions, SETR codes, etc.,).

  2. For more information on Disaster Relief, please refer to IRM 25.16, Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief.

Record Retention

  1. SPEC assigned program analyst ensures management keeps records, follows laws, executive orders, agency procedures and follows proper disposal instructions according to established guidelines.

  2. For information on Record Retention, please refer to IRM 1.15, the Records and Information Management Program.

Communications Guidelines for SPEC Employees

  1. SPEC employees must review communication guidelines before agreeing to media interviews.

    • No SPEC employee must ever contact a media outlet without first contacting W&I Communications and Liaison (C&L)

    • No SPEC employee must ever respond to a media inquiry without contacting W&I C&L

    • If a SPEC employee becomes aware of media coverage or media activity resulting from a partner (partner news release or news conference), then they must notify W&I C&L at once

  2. If SPEC employees receive a IRS news release outside of the normal announcement or publicity of VITA and TCE sites, they must collaborate with W&I (C&L) for approval. SPEC employees can re-write releases and distribute them locally without added clearance. Refer to the table below:

    If Then Then
    You wish to do a news release publicizing a VITA event. First check, The Point, for news release templates for your situation. If none. W&I C&L helps you write a news release for this event. W&I C&L posts templates on the SPEC intranet site and include space to add local information for others to use. Media Relations helps place the release with local media; and handles all incoming media calls; and serves as the point of contact for the media on the news release.
    You get a call from any news outlet You must contact W&I C&L to handle the request. W&I C&L and Media Relations may contact you for more information after reviewing the inquiry.

SPEC Awards Program

  1. The SPEC Awards Program recognizes exemplary contributions to the SPEC organization made by SPEC employees. Any employee or manager in SPEC can nominate an employee or manager in SPEC. Task teams can nominate SPEC employees for an achievement award.

    Note:

    Work groups cannot nominate task teams for the achievement award. A SPEC employee cannot self-nominate themselves.

Nomination and Selection Process

  1. SPEC staff must send all nomination forms by email to the SPEC Awards Program. Each nomination write-up must include no more than two pages and must include the following:

    • Name of person making the nomination

    • Name of individual/task team (if a person nominates a team, the nominator must name each team member and chairperson)

    • Narrative must specifically address and include the criteria for the award and the reason for nomination

  2. Upon receipt of all nominations, the SPEC Awards Selection Committee must recommend the award winners to the Director of SPEC for final decision on award winners. The SPEC Award Selection committee recognizes the Award winners during a pre-designated group meeting and on SPEC’s website, The Point.

  3. The SPEC Awards Selection Committee is composed of:

    • Director, SPEC

    • Chief, Strategy & Program Management

    • One Area Director

    • Three Territory Managers (one from each Area office)

    • SPEC Awards Coordinator (SPM Analyst)

Writing an Effective Award Nomination
  1. The task in writing an award nomination is to let others know why your nominee is so great! You can brag about someone you know, but the catch is that you may use only written words to introduce this person. SPEC staff must write a narrative that describes the nominee.

  2. As a nominee, you must make every word count. Put yourself in your reader’s shoes. Assume your reader has no knowledge of your nominee’s contribution. Then tell them why your nominee clearly deserves this award.

    • First, you must name and use the criteria when you write something. You must have a purpose whether you compose a letter to a friend or drafting a novel. When writing an award nomination, you must include specific criteria. These criteria form the basis of your nomination narrative.

      Example:

      The criteria for a SPEC Achievement Award: One, exceptional individual or team effort in support of SPEC’s program goals and aims and Two, creation or development of a major program enhancement or improvement of high value to SPEC.

    • You must use strong verbs to address the criteria and to explain accurately how your nominee reflects the criteria. As a rule, prefer words that convey action rather than passive verbs that include derivations of the infinitive "to be," such as: is, are, were, etc.

      Example:

      Weak: Mary brought the SPEC partnership model to life in her community. A substantial number of people attended her presentation.
      Better: Mary pioneered the partnership model in her community. People flocked to her presentation.

    • Show do not tell. You must show and do not tell. As much as possible, give examples that illustrate and describe the characteristics of the individual. Let your words evoke a picture. Use sentences that describe situations where your nominee displayed the criteria asked for. Be specific and write down the details that matter.

      Example:

      Weak: Mary helped in the development of several volunteer management tools last year.
      Better: Mary recognized that partners needed to recruit volunteers for several jobs. She designed, developed, and created nine individual job descriptions for volunteer opportunities.

    • Your narrative must standalone. Prepare the narrative so that it tells your story with no other documents attached or necessary.

    • Adhere to the requirements by using the proper format, page limit, criteria, etc. specified by the award guidelines.

SPEC Awards

  1. The SPEC Awards:

    • Leadership Award

    • Partnership Award

    • Individual Achievement Award

    • Achievement Award for Task Teams

    • The Catherine Harvey Award

    • Director's Choice Award

    • Territory of the Year Award

    • Headquarters Function of the Year Award

Leadership Award
  1. SPEC gives a leadership award to an individual whose leadership attributes resonate throughout SPEC; based on actions, not the position.

  2. The SPEC Leadership Award recognizes:

    • Individual action that shapes and leads SPEC into the future

    • Leadership displayed in administration or performance of duty, which distinguished the employee as exceptional in every sense

    • Attributes of a leader that SPEC employees must emulate

    • Ability to recognize an opportunity and lead the organizations response

    • Success in garnering internal support and participation

    • Individual effort with material and profound impact on the nature or culture of SPEC

Partnership Award
  1. The SPEC Partnership Award must recognize an individual, or small group of employees, working to develop a single coalition or initiative and innovation in support of partnership. This award recognizes innovation, creativity, and effort regardless of the success or failure of the initiative. This award is open to all SPEC employees.

  2. The SPEC Partnership Award recognizes:

    • Individual innovation and creativity in support of partnership

    • Personal initiative, commitment, and effort

    • Individual initiatives that yielded lessons learned for SPEC

    • Ability to garner support for a partnership

Achievement Award for Individual and Task Teams
  1. The SPEC Achievement Award given to an eligible individual or Task Team for distinguished acts in support of SPEC's goals and aims. All worthy SPEC employee(s) and task force team members must support SPEC’s mission at a prominent level to meet award qualifications.

  2. The SPEC Achievement Award recognizes:

    • Exceptional individual or team efforts in support of SPEC’s programs, goals, and aims

    • Creation or development of a major program enhancement or improvement of high value to SPEC

Territory of the Year Award
  1. The SPEC Territory of the Year Award must recognize an individual territory in recognition of their full support and achievement of SPEC’s strategic business plan goals and success in implementing the partnership approach. The SPEC Director must select the award winner from all the SPEC territories.

  2. The SPEC territory of the Year Award recognizes:

    • Exceptional team effort in support of SPEC's program goals and aims

    • Compelling evidence of effective partnerships reaching and helping our customers

    • Leadership as a group in support of SPEC

Director’s Choice Award
  1. The ADs Choice Award selected by each AD to honor an Area, Headquarter/TM. In selecting the winner, the AD must consider the achievement of SPEC Strategic Business Plan goals and successes in implementing the partnership approach.

  2. The SPEC AD’s Choice Award recognizes:

    • The manager that shows evidence of leadership in support of SPEC’s program goals and aims

    • The manager that shows evidence of effective partnerships, reaching and aiding our customers

Headquarters Function of the Year Award
  1. The SPEC Director must select one SPEC HQ Function Award winner in this category. Concepts considered include SPEC's Strategic Business Plan goals, achievements and operations.

  2. The SPEC HQ Function of the Year Award recognizes:

    • The group that displays evidence of a team effort in support of SPEC’s program goals and aims

    • The group must show evidence of exemplary customer service

    • The group must show evidence of leadership as a group in support of SPEC

Catherine Harvey Award
  1. This notable award presented in memory of Catherine Harvey, SPEC’s former Senior Technical Advisor. In addition, the nominee must display significant contributions to SPEC, achievements can include community service or volunteerism, exceptional communication, leadership, people skills, and top-notch customer service. This award is open to all SPEC employees.

  2. The Catherine Harvey Award recognizes:

    • The individual who made significant contributions to SPEC

    • The individual with exceptional communication skills

    • The individual who supplies excellent leadership

    • The individual who shows top-notch customer service

    • The individual who shows a high degree of excellence

Volunteer Return Preparation Overview

  1. Organizations (for profit and not for profit), employers and individuals (referred hereinafter as partners) across America share a commitment to public service and partner with the IRS to supply free tax preparation to the under-served populations in local communities. SPEC HQ and National Organizations sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with National Organizations to create a national partnership. SPEC TM must use Form 13533, VITA Sponsor Agreement, or Form 13533-A, FSA Remote Sponsor Agreement, to approve local organizations not affiliated with a national partner. The targeted audiences for these free tax preparation services include taxpayers with low-to-moderate income (defined by the EITC threshold), persons with disabilities, elderly, taxpayers in rural locations, members of the Armed Forces and their spouses, Native Americans, and taxpayers with limited English proficiency (LEP).

  2. SPEC’s volunteer program offers federal and state tax preparation services, free of charge. IRS partners recruit volunteers to the work the program. All volunteers must complete tax law certification offered by the IRS prior to volunteering their services by passing a test with a score of 80 percent or higher. Partners must ensure volunteers adhere to all IRS QSR.

  3. Volunteer sites run in geographic areas consistent with the targeted audience populations. SPEC offices, along with partners, decide the best location for volunteer sites with the use of existing research, including census data, to find the largest concentrations of the targeted population.

  4. The volunteer return preparation program limits the scope of specific tax law topics. The scope of the volunteer programs changes periodically depending on IRS and legislative change. Therefore, to ensure volunteers only prepare returns within the scope of the volunteer program, refer to Publication 4012, Volunteer Resource Guide, for a list of the latest tax law topics. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 protects all volunteers who adhere to QSR and prepare returns only within scope of the volunteer return preparation program.

  5. SPEC partners must market their programs to our targeted populations; the low to moderate income taxpayers (defined by the annual EITC threshold), elderly, persons with disabilities, and those with LEP. The value of low to moderate income can vary depending on the cost of living in a particular geographic location; therefore, partners must exercise sound judgement in setting up income limitations for return preparation. Caution: At least 90 percent of taxpayers served by VITA grantees must have income at or below the maximum annual income limit to qualify for the EITC (the VITA low-income threshold). Grantees need to take this limitation into consideration in deciding whether to prepare returns for taxpayers with income above the VITA low-income threshold.

    Note:

    For example, our VITA low-income threshold is $54,000 for Tax Year 2017. If a taxpayer with W-2 income of $70,000 comes to a site and all income and expense items fall within scope according to the scope chart in Publication 4012, Volunteer Resource Guide, the site must exercise sound judgement and rationale in deciding whether to prepare the return.

Volunteer Return Preparation Components

  1. SPEC’s Volunteer Return Preparation Program consists of two components which include:

    • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

    • Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
  1. Thousands of volunteers supply free tax aid and prepare millions of U.S. Federal and State tax returns since the implementation of the VITA program in 1969. The targeted population for VITA services includes individuals with low-to moderate-income (defined by the EITC threshold), persons with disabilities, elderly, and LEP. The VITA program delivers service to those taxpayers who most need tax aid and cannot afford the services of a paid preparer.

  2. SPEC allows volunteers to use IRS software to prepare and electronically file their own tax return and the returns of family and friends. Unlike VITA/TCE returns, these returns have no income or tax law scope limitations.

  3. The Military is a partner in the VITA program. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) consists of tax program coordinators from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The AFTC oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide. They serve as the main channel for outreach and free tax preparation to military personnel and their families.

Virtual VITA/TCE
  1. The Virtual VITA/TCE (formerly Alternative VITA/TCE Model and Alternative Rural) approach uses the same process as traditional VITA/TCE except that the preparer and/or quality reviewer does not prepare/review the return in the same location at the same time as the taxpayer. Technology, such as internet, fax and video connect the volunteer preparer and the taxpayer. Although suitable for rural environments where fewer traditional VITA sites exist, this approach applies to urban settings to supply a free alternative to qualified taxpayers.

Purpose of Virtual VITA/TCE
  1. In traditional VITA and TCE sites, a certified volunteer interviews taxpayer face-to-face before preparing quality reviewing and e-filing. This is the greatest method of volunteer tax preparation.

  2. To increase the amount of free tax preparation provided to all eligible taxpayers, SPEC expanded the VITA and TCE Site requirements to address the needs of partners and taxpayers. One possibility for SPEC Partners involves the use of Virtual VITA/TCE Model instead of a traditional model to meet the needs of their taxpayers and volunteers.

  3. Virtual VITA/TCE sites exist when volunteers prepare or quality review a return in a different location from the taxpayer (non-face-to-face).

Preparing Returns Using Virtual VITA/TCE
  1. Eligible taxpayers cannot take advantage of the traditional VITA and TCE program for a variety of reasons, while partners face their own distinct challenges trying to run a traditional free tax preparation site. This includes taxpayers unable to visit a traditional VITA and TCE site due to travel constraints and sites who lack certified volunteers or equipment.

  2. The Virtual VITA/TCE Model uses the same process as traditional VITA/TCE except for the location of the taxpayer during return preparation/quality review. Technology (i.e., internet, fax, video, phone, etc.) connects the volunteer preparer and the taxpayer.

  3. In traditional VITA and TCE sites, a certified volunteer must conduct face-to-face interviews with taxpayers ahead of return preparation, quality review and e-filing.

  4. Partners can use the Virtual VITA/TCE Model as an alternative when running a traditional VITA/TCE sites is not an option.

  5. This model supplies VITA and TCE services through the site models listed below:

    • Intake Site

    • Preparation Site

    • Quality Review Site

    • Drop Off Site

  6. In all instances, the Virtual VITA/TCE process must include the following:

    1. Adherence to the 10 QSR

    2. Approved partner documentation of the Virtual VITA/TCE process (using Form 15273 or equivalent) by the TM. This happens before the site opens. This only applies to those partners who run Virtual VITA/TCE site(s) during their normal course of business, not partners who only use Virtual VITA/TCE as part of their filing Contingency Plan.

    3. Explanation of the process to the taxpayer(s). This explanation includes the time it takes to prepare the return.

    4. Agreement to the process and signature on Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Site Model Taxpayer Consent. This consent form stores all the required information outlined later in the IRM. Sites must not use substitute forms for consent.

    5. Taxpayer verification using photo identification at the intake site. If the taxpayer(s) must return to the site, the taxpayer(s) must again supply a photo identification when they return to review, sign, and pick up a copy of their return.

    6. Non-face-to-face communication between the taxpayer(s) and preparer, and/or the quality reviewer by phone or by electronic means such as video conference or other electronic means

    7. Different certified volunteers to prepare quality review the return

    8. Availability of all tax documents including the completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, to the certified volunteers during the return preparation and the quality review

    9. Other approved delivery methods, such as mail, fax, personal delivery, email, secure video conference or secure scan/upload

    10. The opportunity for taxpayers to review their return and ask questions to a certified volunteer before e-filing occurs

    11. Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization signed by the taxpayer

    12. A copy of the signed Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization and their e-filed tax return given to the taxpayer.

Types of Returns Prepared
  1. Each Virtual Site serves taxpayers that meet the current VITA and TCE guidelines.

Virtual Site Process
  1. The transmitting site must apply for only one EFIN.

  2. Each Virtual Site location must obtain a separate SIDN for use on all tax returns prepared using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model. This allows SPEC to track those sites using the Virtual VITA/TCE process and while allowing taxpayers to find those sites using IRS.gov.

  3. All sites must follow the software contract requirements.

  4. The volunteer at the virtual intake location:

    1. Explains the process to the taxpayer

    2. Verifies the photo ID and the Social Security cards for the taxpayer and dependents

    3. Recommends that the taxpayer complete the Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet. If necessary, help the taxpayer with completing Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

    4. Supplies the taxpayer with a Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Site Model, Taxpayer Consent and secure a signed permission prior to discussing taxpayer information.

  5. The Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Site Model, Taxpayer Consent must explain the entire process including:

    1. Why the site must make copies of their personal information

    2. How and why the site sends the information from one site to another

    3. Where the information goes

    4. How the partner/site uses the information

    5. The timeline for return preparation and maintenance of taxpayer information

    6. How the partner/site protects taxpayer information

    7. How the partner/site delivers necessary taxpayer documents (via mail, fax, email, personal delivery, secure video conference or secure scan/upload) to the virtual location for tax return preparation and/or the quality review

    8. Partner site location phone number and contact person.

  6. An IRS-certified volunteer at the virtual preparation or quality review site contacts the taxpayer and conduct an interview using the completed Form 13614–C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, supporting documents, and reference materials (if necessary). A certified volunteer prepares the tax return (using the Preparation Site SIDN). Then, a different IRS-certified volunteer contacts the taxpayer to conduct the quality review by confirming the accuracy of the information on the tax return based on the source documents, Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet and the taxpayer interview.

  7. An IRS-certified volunteer that did not prepare the return may conduct the quality review either face-to-face or non-face-to-face.

  8. Once the taxpayer(s) receives and reviews the completed tax return, the taxpayer(s) must sign Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

  9. SPEC employees must return all documents to the taxpayer, including the signed Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization and the signed Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Site Model, with a copy of the completed return. The Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, does not require storage at the site. The volunteer returns all other documents to the taxpayer or disposes of those documents correctly.

Virtual Site Process Approval
  1. A partner’s Virtual Site Plan (Form 13573 or equivalent) requires submission through the RM to their TM for approval. To allow sufficient time for review, feedback and approval, the RM must send all Site Plans to the Territory office by December 31. Send all filing season requests for approval at least one week before the Virtual VITA/TCE site expects to open. Territory offices should keep all Virtual Site Plans for their partners; do not send to HQ.

  2. A partner’s Virtual Site Plan may roll over from one year to the next if no changes to the Plan (including the location of the site(s) involved in the Virtual VITA/TCE process.

  3. Partners that only intend to use the Virtual VITA/TCE process on a contingency basis (i.e., due to loss of internet connectivity or software downtime) must not give a Virtual Site Plan to the Territory.

Measured Result
  1. SPEC measured results include:

    • Increased number of VITA and TCE Sites from SPECTRM database reports

    • Increased number of tax returns filed using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model reported from responses to the Partner Use field on TaxSlayer

    • Increased coverage rates in rural communities as decided by the SPEC Return Database

  2. SPEC captures all Virtual VITA/TCE returns (including those prepared under the optional Contingency Plan) by using the optional Custom Questions in TaxSlayer. RM must recommend that partners to use the Virtual VITA/TCE Partner Use Field to accurately count and report all virtually prepared returns.

Preparing Returns Using the Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Model
  1. Only some low-to-moderate income taxpayers interested in using volunteer tax preparation service receive help through the direct model. SPEC Partners increase taxpayer education and promote self-sufficiency, by capturing returns prepared through a Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Model. The Facilitated Self Assistance approach uses a certified volunteer to help taxpayers in the preparation of their tax return. A volunteer facilitator can help taxpayers at a free tax preparation site. This approach allows sites to offer options for taxpayers preparing simple returns. Partners can use any software that captures the SIDN and supplies both free federal and state filing options.

  2. The information that follows in this section:

    • Indicates criteria for inclusion of FSA in the VITA and TCE Program

    • Describes the types of available self-service models

Facilitated Self Assistance Model for VITA and TCE Program
  1. SPEC supplies various FSA models to taxpayers in the VITA and TCE Program.

  2. To count an FSA return as a part of the VITA and TCE Program, the following conditions apply:

    1. Taxpayer must input their own tax return (may receive occasional help from a volunteer).

    2. An available, trained, certified volunteer (minimum training level: VITA Basic) can help taxpayers and answer questions. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.7, VITA and TCE Training for more information.

    3. FSA does not need intake and quality review.

      Note:

      Sites can set up more controls as needed.

    4. A unique SIDN/vendor link (separate from any direct site) allows for an exact number of FSA returns.

      Note:

      FSA models do not have a unique EFIN for their location.

    5. Sites use an approved software provider which can generate an SIDN for the return record without requiring taxpayer input. This occurs through the insertion of either the SIDN or corresponding code into the provider URL.

    6. Providers must supply both federal and state returns offered at no cost to the taxpayer.

Facilitated Self Assistance Software Programs
  1. SPEC offers several types of self-service models under the VITA and TCE programs. Availability of specific models may vary for each filing season.

  2. Listed below is information on some primary models used:

    1. VITA/TCE Free File vendors: Offers vary by company and in most cases, link to their external offers on the Free File page on irs.gov. Links sent to partners include the embedded SIDN. Participating Free File software vendors include Tax Act, and Online Taxes (OLT). Companies agree to help SPEC individually outside of the main IRS MOU with Free File, Inc.

    2. Intuit (Turbo Tax): No longer with Free File in 2022 but expected to offer FSA services to the VITA/TCE program.

    3. MyFreeTaxes, an online collaborative sponsored by United Way Worldwide, United Way supplies taxpayer support through certified volunteers staffed at select 2-1-1 locations nationwide.

    4. Military One Source: Offers a variety of service resources to active-duty members of the military. HR Block supports the free federal and state tax preparation software for eligible taxpayers. No income/age restrictions for members of the military.

    5. TaxSlayer: TaxSlayer offers an FSA option for partners that wish to implement facilitated tax preparation at their in-person sites or remotely (no physical site). RM must review the Fact Sheets (Publication 5361, Fact Sheet: Filing Season 2021: TaxSlayer Procedural Updates for SPEC Partners and Employees) related to this FSA option. Partners cannot post this TaxSlayer FSA link on a public facing website.

Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Program Types
  1. FSA Fusion: Sites offers FSA services at the same location with the same operating days/hours as traditional VITA/TCE services. Fusion sites allow partners to triage taxpayers to decide which service works best for them.

  2. FSA Stand-Alone: Sites found independently of traditional VITA/TCE services or with distinct hours from traditional VITA/TCE operations at the same address. Stand-Alone sites focus on taxpayers who wished to prepare their own return with help from a certified volunteer on-site.

  3. FSA Remote: A remote site emails the site’s custom URL to a known individual and/or places a link on an intranet site. The site must offer an IRS-certified volunteer to help the client with tax law questions. Partners may offer this aid to taxpayers via phone, chat, or email on time.

  4. TaxSlayer FSA Remote sites cannot take any of the following actions with their custom URL:

    • Place on public-facing website

    • Send out in mass email

    • Post on any social media/blog platform

    • Include in electronic or paper newsletter/newspaper article

Territory Required Actions for Facilitated Self Assistance
  1. RM must take the following actions so that SPEC maximizes the potential of the FSA program:

    1. Large potential partners promote the use of the FSA model wherever possible. High volume sites, college campuses and career centers present some of the best areas for growth (with large numbers of computer-savvy taxpayers).

    2. Add the site into SPECTRM with the following naming convention: Site Name - FSA Model

    3. Input and select “Software Used,” depending on the software vendor

    4. For non-TaxSlayer related links, SPEC HQ must pull the SPECTRM data for FSA sites and email site links, instructions, etc. to FS&A Areas and Territories prior to the filing season.

    5. Engage partners to use this service during peak times for tax return preparation. The best ratio for volunteers involves helping between two to four taxpayers during peak times.

    6. Find any concerns/issues and elevate them to SPEC HQ for resolution by the national technical contacts/program managers for the software providers. DO NOT contact the software vendor contacts directly.

  2. Sites can request equipment for the FSA model. SPEC staff must refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2, Equipment and Tax Preparation Software for Volunteers for more information about computers for volunteers.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. The TCE Program offers free tax aid to individuals 60 years of age or older. IRC 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978, Public Law No. 95-600, 92 Stat. 2810, November 6, 1978, authorizes this cooperative agreement. This Act authorizes TCE cooperative agreements for the purpose of supplying training and technical aid to prepare volunteers to supply tax counseling help for elderly individuals in the preparation of their Federal income tax returns. IRS awards grants to private or public non-profit agencies and organizations granted tax exemption under IRC 501 of the Internal Revenue Code or federally recognized Indian tribal governments.

    Note:

    SPEC allows volunteers to use the software supplied by the IRS to prepare and electronically file their own tax return and the returns of family and friends. Unlike VITA/TCE returns, these returns have no income or tax law scope limitations.

  2. TCE sites can use the Virtual VITA/TCE Model for delivery of services to its targeted audience. For more information about VITA grants see IRM 22.30.1.10 Tax Counseling for the Elderly and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant Programs.

Volunteer Program - Headquarters Responsibilities

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

  2. PS issues volunteer program policies and procedures, monitors adherence to the volunteer program policies and procedures, and equips employees with essential information for successful delivery of the filing season.

    1. PSA develops the training materials and products volunteers use to train and certify for tax return preparation. PSA defines the "scope" of tax law topics for volunteers preparing tax returns in support of the volunteer program. PSA develops and creates products for tax education and outreach. PSA must issue the program plan which defines the measure of success for all SPEC programs and monitoring status. PSA also manages SPECTRM, SPEC’s Management Information System.

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

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

  4. NP secures and supports national partners with organizations that share common values with IRS for educating and preparing free tax returns for SPEC’s targeted audience. NP secures Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) for all national partners. Local affiliates of these national partners aids with the delivery of the VITA and TCE programs.

Legal Opinions from the Office of Chief Counsel
  1. Send an email to the assigned PS analyst (see HQ Program Assignments) to request an opinion from the Office of Chief Counsel. The email must include the following:

    • Subject

    • Detailed background information on the issue

    • Reason for the request

  2. The assigned PS analyst sends the request to a Special Counsel to the Division Counsel (Wage and Investment). Once Chief Counsel returns the opinion, the assigned PS analyst sends an email to the requestor, with copies to proper parties.

  3. Counsel supplies an opinion within 45 days.

    Note:

    For opinions needed sooner than 45 days, specify the date or timeframe in the email request. (e.g., within 10 days, 14 days, etc.).

Partner Endorsements
  1. SPEC employees must not use their government position, title, or authority to endorse products or organizations. When a partner asks for a quote from the IRS to support the partner’s services, contact Chief, PS to obtain Chief counsel approval.

  2. Counsel approves general statements of fact such as “ABC Partner has helped families with free return preparation since 1995.” Counsel also approves statements focused on all partners or a class of partners such as “We at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) appreciate how financial institutions embrace and support the VITA program.”

Volunteer Programs - Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) Office Responsibilities
  1. The FS&A office administers overall program guidance to Territory offices and measures Territory office accomplishments to carry out program goals.

Volunteer Programs - Territory Office Responsibilities
  1. Territory offices manage the volunteer program at the local level. Employees of the Territory offices receive direction from the FS&A office. Employee concerns and suggestions from the territory office must go through the FS&A office. The Territory office must communicate with SPEC local partners and volunteers.

Volunteer Protection Act of 1997

  1. The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 is a Public Law, written for the IRS and relates to organizations that use volunteers to supply services.

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

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

    2. Any other thing of value in lieu of compensation

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

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

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

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

  4. The Act does not protect volunteers, whether a coordinator, sponsor employee, or student, who receive more than $500 per year as compensation for work in the volunteer program from liability. Characterizing the payment as a stipend does not change the effect of the payment on the volunteer’s status under the Act. To ensure protection, a partner, whether grant recipient or not, who intends to pay their volunteers more than the amount above, can ask for legal advice from their attorney about potential liability for their organization and their volunteers.

  5. The IRS is not pursuing requests to change statutory language of the Volunteer Protection Act.

  6. SPEC employees must not give written advice on the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997. If a partner has questions about the Volunteer Protection Act, SPEC employees can supply the partner with a copy of the Volunteer Protection Act, found on “The Point.” For more information, refer to Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust.

Compensation
  1. IRS allows partners to use Federal Grant funds to supply stipends to volunteers within the volunteer return preparation program. Stipends may reimburse volunteers for travel or meals and presented in the form of regular or fixed payment amounts. Under the VITA and TCE Grant Programs, stipends are an allowable expenditure and addressed within both grant application booklets.

  2. For purposes of the IRS Grant Program, partners can use a stipend to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses.

Compensation for the (TCE) Program
  1. The TCE Program is subject to the following rules specific to compensation:

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

    • Grant funds cannot supply compensation in the form of salaries, wages, and benefits of program sponsor executives or administrators

    • It is permissible for Grant recipients to supply volunteers a stipend for travel and food

Compensation for the Grant Program
  1. The VITA Grant Program is subject to rules specific to compensation. VITA Grant funds cannot supply 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 supply 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 Pub 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 supply volunteers a stipend for travel expenses only.

Volunteer Program Publicity

  1. NP and Territories must watch partner publicity, so it does not misrepresent the VITA and TCE programs.

  2. Partner publicity items must:

    • Refer to the annual EITC eligibility amounts for families in any reference to income limitations

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

    • Use the term "IRS-Certified" only as a modifier to the word volunteer, i.e., IRS-certified VITA and TCE volunteer preparer

    • Only use existing IRS logos when approved, and only on a case-by-case basis. Requests to use the logos must follow the current process. For more information, please refer to: Process for use of IRS Logo by SPEC Partners

Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

  1. Title VI applies to all SPEC partner operations if the partner participates in a federal program or activity found in the United States that supplies benefit to others and receives federal financial help. Federal financial help includes 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 the recipient of government financial aid does not discriminate against potential beneficiaries of the help. Also, recipients must display posters explaining the procedures for filing complaints.

Civil Rights Requirements
  1. The Civil Rights Unit (CRU) in collaboration with SPEC, incorporates Civil Rights assurance language into Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust. Partners agree to follow with these assurances by signing Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, prior to receipt of federal financial aid as defined in IRM 22.30.1.8.5, Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

  2. SPEC must ask partners for Sponsor Agreements annually. The agreement stays valid for one year from the date of signature.

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

    Required Actions for Civil Rights Requirement

    Step Required Action
    1 Territories must review the current listing of partners to decide whether they receive federal financial assistance.

    Note:

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

    2 The Territory office must contact the assigned civil rights FS&A analyst if with questions or problems.
    3 Order one or more of the following civil rights notification documents for each required partner:
    • Publication 4053, Your Civil Rights are Protected Poster for IRS Assisted Programs (VITA/TCE/LITC) (English and Spanish Version) for use by VITA in the correct languages for the site demographics (Pub 4053 (EN/SP) (BR) - English/Spanish Braille, Pub 4053 - (EN/KR) – English/Korean, Pub 4053 (EN/RU) – English/Russian, Pub 4053 (EN/CN) – English/Chinese and/or Pub 4053 EN/VN – English/Vietnamese)

    • Publication 730, Important Tax Records Envelope (VITA/TCE), or TCE created publication with the same civil rights notification

    • Publication 4454, Your Civil Rights are Protected - The optional civil rights brochure (English and Spanish) for use if a taxpayer is sent away from a site and did not receive their civil rights (no poster displayed, or no return preparation)

    4 Assemble the package (i.e., Civil Rights Notification documents, Sponsor Agreement, Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement etc.,)
    5 Enclose a self-addressed envelope with the business reply label properly affixed for the partner to return the signed Sponsor Agreement to the Territory office by January 10. If no availability of business reply labels, territories can order postage stamps by following the instructions outlined in the W&I Financial Procedures Guidebook. SPEC employees must refer to the Postage section. IRM 1.22.4 Postage Accountability and Reporting Requirement, supplies guidance for IRS personnel responsible for buying and managing postage obtained from the United States Postal Service.
    6 Once the partner returns the signed Sponsor Agreement, the Territory office keeps the forms for a minimum of three years. (Do not send the forms to the Civil Rights Unit. Partners must secure and keep Sponsor Agreements signed by their sub-recipients).
    • If a partner does not respond by the response due date, territories must follow-up with a courtesy call

    • If a partner refuses to sign or does not provide the signed Sponsor Agreement after a follow-up courtesy call, the Territory office must end the relationship with the partner. Partners cannot receive Federal aid if they refuse to sign the Sponsor Agreement

    Note:

    NP must secure and keep Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, for AARP and the military.

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

    • "Date Civil Rights Signed?"

     

Volunteer Recognition

  1. RM must take every opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers, partners, and sites for their support of the volunteer programs. Be creative while adhering to IRS policies for use of federal funds.

  2. Federal funds may not buy plaques, medals, trophies, or other commemorative items to recognize partners or volunteers. Please note: Government employees cannot receive recognition.

SPEC Partner Letters and Certificates to Recognize Volunteers
  1. Certificates and letters SPEC partners use to recognize volunteers include:

    Letter or Certificate of Appreciation Purpose
    Form 9234, Volunteer Certificate of Appreciation Territory offices issue this certificate to individuals and groups or organizations that help the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer and programs.
    Publication 3711, VITA/TCE Certificate Folder (Catalog 31083Z) Territory offices use this folder to hold certificates.
    Form 13357, Community Service Leadership Certificate of Appreciation Territory offices issue this certificate to partners or coalitions that help the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer or outreach programs.
    Letter 3674 and Letter 3674 (SP), SPEC Volunteer Letter of Appreciation Territory offices issue this letter to personally recognize the efforts and contributions of the volunteers who take part in the VITA /TCE program. The SPEC Director signs this letter.
    Letter 3674-A and Letter 3674-A (SP), SPEC Partner Letter of Appreciation Territory offices issue this letter to volunteers and partners to recognize their volunteer tax preparation services and/or participation in the VITA and TCE program. The SPEC Director signs this letter.

Volunteer Milestone Recognition
  1. Partners, sites, and volunteers receive milestone certificates to recognize 10, 20, 30, and 40-years of service to the VITA/TCE programs.

Headquarters Role
  1. SPEC HQ must adhere to the following about Volunteer Milestone Recognition:

    • Prepare and ship all 20, 30, and 40-year volunteer, site, and partner milestone requests to meet the April 10th delivery deadline

    • Send a reminder to the area’s that February 25th is the deadline to receive all milestones

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

    • Confirm spelling for 20, 30, and 40-year requests

    • Complete and ensure Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator's Handbook and Publication 4396-A, Partner Resource Guide, includes correct recognition instructions

Territory Role
  1. The Territory offices follow the Volunteer Milestone Recognition. They must:

    • Prepare and ship all 10-year milestone certificates for volunteers, sites, and partners by April 10th

    • Send 40-year partner milestone requests to the PS HQ Analyst by February 25th

    • Communicate the milestone recognition process and the February 25th deadline to partners and supply templates (Form 14307, SPEC Partner Milestone Recognition Form, Form 14308, SPEC Site Milestone Recognition Form, and Form 14309, SPEC Volunteer Milestone Recognition Form) to ease the process

    • Ensure partners have current RM/TM contact information for emailing all 10-year milestone requests for volunteers, sites, and partners

    • Instruct and send a reminder for partners to send all 10-year milestone requests to their RM/TM highlighting the February 25th ordering deadline

    • Instruct and remind partners to send all 20, 30 and 40-year milestone requests for volunteers and sites to partner@irs.gov by February 25th

    • Confirm spelling of all requests received

    • Decide a method for record keeping of all 10, 20, 30 and 40-year milestone requests received

    • Ensure prompt responses to requests for clarification received from SPEC HQ’s

    • Coordinate travel arrangements for the SPEC Director’s award presentations where budget allows

    • Supply and take part in ceremonies for 30+ years recognitions if the budget allows

Partner Role
  1. Partners must complete the templates provided to them by their SPEC RM, naming volunteer and site milestone accomplishments. Partners must:

    • Send all completed 10-year milestone templates for volunteers, sites, and partners annually to the RM/TM no later than February 25

    • Send all completed 20, 30 and 40-year milestone templates for volunteers and sites annually through partner@irs.gov no later than February 25th

    • Confirm all spelling

    • Decide how to make presentations to recipients

    • Refer to Publication 1084, VITA/TCE Volunteer Site Coordinator Handbook, Publication 4396-A, Partner Resource Guide, or the Partner Corner on irs.gov for more information on volunteer recognition

VITA/TCE Training

  1. SPEC supplies training and certification for the free volunteer tax return preparation programs in both paper and electronic products. This helps volunteers supply high quality service and correct return preparation. SPEC employees, volunteer preparers and instructors taking part in the VITA and TCE Programs must certify to screen, prepare returns, and conduct quality reviews. Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator's Handbook, holds a complete overview of the volunteer programs and training curriculum with specific information about the scope of the program, policies, roles, and responsibilities, etc. The Product Professional has a complete listing and description of the volunteer training products. The Partner and Volunteer Resource Guide on IRS.gov has unique guidance and course information. SPEC updates this content each year.

Types of VITA/TCE Courses (Volunteers)
  1. Volunteers may choose from two traditional courses of study: Basic and Advanced. Two optional specialty modules exist for volunteers who prepare Military and International returns. Courses for Puerto Rico, Foreign Student and Scholar, Federal Tax Law Updates for Circular 230 Professionals, and Qualified Experienced Volunteers exist for volunteers in need of these specific topics. A summary of each course follows:

    • Basic: This course covers the completion of wage-earner type returns including wages, interest, Social Security income, and some adjustments and credits. Volunteers serving as return preparers and quality reviewers must certify in this course at a minimum.

    • Advanced: This course covers the completion of the full scope of returns prepared by the volunteer tax return preparation programs including capital gains and losses and more complex pension issues. This standalone course requires no tax law prerequisites. All VITA/TCE tax law instructors must certify in this course at a minimum.

    • Military: This course covers domestic military topics. It requires certification in Advanced as a prerequisite. Military representatives or instructors who go overseas to help or teach must certify 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 and includes topics of foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit. It requires certification in Advanced as a prerequisite.

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

    • Foreign Student and Scholar: Volunteer tax return preparers who help foreign/international students and scholars in preparing their returns use this course. It covers determination of residency status and application of treaty helps in addition to other federal tax issues commonly faced by foreign nationals. This course requires no prerequisites.

    • Federal Tax Law Update Test for Circular 230 Professionals: This course certifies VITA/TCE volunteers with the professional designation of attorney, Certified Public Accountant and Enrolled Agent, to certify on new provisions and tax law changes Volunteers with the Federal Tax Law Update Test for Circular 230 Professionals certification can prepare, or quality review all returns within the scope of the VITA/TCE Programs. Volunteers may choose the Federal Tax Law Update Test for Circular 230 Professionals test or the traditional certification path. SPEC partners may have other certification requirements; volunteers must check with the sponsoring partner.

    • Qualified Experienced Volunteer Test (QEV): No separate training material exists for this course. This test certifies experienced VITA/TCE volunteers on new provisions and tax law changes and more complex tax situations met at sites. Volunteers with QEV certification may prepare returns at the Advanced level. This stand-alone course requires no pre-requisites. Experienced volunteers may choose the traditional certification path instead. SPEC does not limit the number of years of volunteer service required before taking this test. However, SPEC partners may have other qualification requirements. Volunteers must check with the sponsoring partner.

  2. All volunteers must pass the Volunteer Standards of Conduct exam. All tax law certified volunteers, site coordinators, quality reviewers, and instructors must pass the Intake/Interview and Quality Review certification.

  3. Site coordinators must complete the Site Coordinator Training and pass the Site Coordinator Certification.

Syllabus and Curriculum
  1. SPEC strives for consistency in the training of all volunteers and supplies web-based Publication 4555-E, VITA/TCE e-instructor guidance. The publication has suggested course syllabuses and presentation times for classroom instructions. SPEC designed LLT training and the printed materials for instructor led classroom training and 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 applying tax law

    4. Conducting quality reviews

  2. Partners must tailor training to meet the needs of the taxpayers the volunteers serve. Each instructor has the flexibility to design their course for new or returning volunteers, a combination of both, and as a refresher training for the most experienced volunteer.

Training Delivery Methods
  1. SPEC encourages all employees and volunteers to train and certify using LLT. Volunteers seeking Continuing Education Credits must certify via LLT. SPEC encourages instructors 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. Publication 4555-E, VITA/TCE e-instructor guidance, explains lesson presentation times, checklists for teaching each lesson, effective techniques, etc. This publication supplies a list of added training options available to teach these training products. Partners decide the methods used based on their needs. SPEC designed the training products for process-based training 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 includes lecture and discussion in combination with the applicable course content and the online tax software Practice Lab on the LLT application

    3. Self-Study instructions allow students (using Publication 4491, VITA and TCE Training Guide, and/or LLT to independently complete their course with ad hoc face-to-face or electronic guidance from the instructor

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 includes visually impaired employees (volunteers).

  2. Provisions must accommodate hearing/visually impaired volunteers.

  3. Supply sign language interpreters for hearing impaired volunteers. Contact community associations for the hearing impaired in the community for a volunteer interpreter.

  4. Volunteers with hearing or visual impairments can train using Link & Learn Taxes. Territories may supply a written transcript of the training session.

  5. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.8.2, Reasonable Accommodation for VITA and TCE Sites, for more detailed information on accommodating employees (volunteers) with disabilities.

Printed Training Products
  1. SPEC training products guide volunteers through the information and skills they need to prepare correct returns. SPEC employees can find printed training products electronically on IRS.gov by mid-October. Partners and employees receive printed copies of the training materials in late November. Publication 4189, VITA/TCE Volunteer Test/Retest Answers, generates electronically in Link and Lean Taxes for SPEC TM, site coordinators and instructors who achieve a passing score of 80 percent or higher on the Advanced test and any of the Specialty courses. See IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.6, Certification Requirements and Testing for Volunteer Training for more information.

  2. Refer to Publication 5358, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials, for a complete listing and description of the training and site materials in print, electronic and e-book format. Pub 5358, Fact Sheet: Filing Season 2021: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials for SPEC Partners and Employees, includes key ordering information and dates for printed products.

  3. See links to SPEC’s e-learning applications, Link & Learn Taxes and Understanding Taxes on The Point and the Products PRO page.

E-learning Products
  1. SPEC supports two e-learning applications: LLT and Understanding Taxes. SPEC launches both products in the fall of each year with information for the upcoming filing season.

Link and Learn Taxes (LLT)
  1. SPEC encourages all volunteers to use the e-learning application, LLT for certification. LLT includes both English and Spanish lessons. The application has eleven VITA/TCE courses/certifications:

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet

    • Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC)

    • Site Coordinator

    • Basic

    • Advanced

    • Military

    • International

    • Circular 230 Professionals

    • Qualified Experienced Volunteers

    • Foreign Student

    • Puerto Rico

  2. The Practice Lab includes software lessons and tax law for the upcoming filing season. Volunteers can use the Practice Lab to train and certify. LLT connects volunteers to the Practice Lab.

Understanding Taxes (UT) Program Overview
  1. The Understanding Taxes (UT) program is an introductory tax education course originating 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. It presents several taxpayer simulations for an interactive experience with return preparation.

  2. UT migrated from a print product with annual updates to a web-based application. The website holds complete ready-to-teach lesson plans for the classroom. Every lesson includes 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 for various levels of education and training. It is an effective addition to the curriculum in several courses including: History, Math, Economics, Vocational Education, Government, Civics and Business.

  4. The website for Understanding Taxes is Understanding Taxes. For more information on the Understanding Taxes Program refer to IRM 22.30.1.12, Understanding Taxes (UT) Program.

Foreign Student and Scholar Program Training
  1. The Foreign Student and Scholar module of LLT is an income tax law course for volunteers who work at VITA/TCE sites specializing in preparing Form 1040-NR, US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, and Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals with a Medical Condition. This standalone course is only available in an e-learning format via LLT. Volunteers primarily use the training for self-study, and you can deliver through a traditional classroom setting as resources allow. Volunteers must complete the training paths in the course to successfully complete the certification tests.

  2. SPEC encourages colleges and universities to set up self-sufficient VITA/TCE sites offering this unique specialization.

  3. Volunteers must not use the VITA Hotline to obtain help about topics related to the preparation of the returns/forms mentioned above in (1). The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters at Frequently Asked Questions About International Individual Tax Matters, supplies answers to many general international federal tax matters affecting individual taxpayers.

Puerto Rico Course
  1. Volunteers who help residents of Puerto Rico must train and certify using the Puerto Rico course and test.

  2. The SPEC office in Puerto Rico coordinates the training for this course.

  3. LLT holds the annually updated Puerto Rico course and test in English and Spanish. SPEC supplies the Puerto Rico course and test only in e-learning format.

Military
  1. The Military National Relationship Manager (MNRM) coordinates Military VITA training and site management. The IRS and Armed Forces Tax Council partner to coordinate effective training, support, and operation of the Armed Forces’ global tax assistance efforts. MNRN negotiates locations for military VITA training with AFTC.

  2. MNRM roles include:

    • Serving as liaison between AFTC and SPEC

    • Communicating with AFTC members as needed

    • Coordinating the Overseas VITA training

    • Ordering tax preparation software and training products for overseas military VITA sites

    • Supplying guidance to AFTC as it relates to VITA Programs (Traditional, FSA and Virtual)

    • Supplying return preparation and VITA training reports to AFTC starting in February

    • Resolving technical tax law issues

    • Supplying updates to the military of returns prepared via TaxSlayer, FSA and ELF Reports bi-weekly (or as asked) starting in February

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

    • Ordering tax software as soon as it becomes available for overseas VITA sites

    • Preparing volunteer recognition certificates for overseas Military VITA volunteers by April 15

    • Reporting the total number of military volunteers into SPECTRM by May 15.

  3. Military VITA (FS&A) analysts roles include:

    1. Serving as a liaison between SPEC HQ, Areas, and Territories.

    2. Communicating policy, changes, updates, etc., to the Areas and Territories.

    3. Participating on conference calls coordinated by SPEC and AFTC.

    4. Completing data call requests prompt and sending responses to the MNR through the FS&A contact.

  4. Annual Post Filing Season meeting activities by MNRM and the AFTC Executive Director include:

    • Scheduling the meeting for all participants at a convenient location, date, and time SPEC and AFTC host annual post-filing meeting in May

    • Include all key participants from SPEC and AFTC, including leadership from both organizations

    • Jointly developing the meeting agenda

  5. Communication between SPEC and AFTC:

    • Any communications to the AFTC representatives from FS&A Areas and territories must include MNRM

  6. Military Page on IRS.gov

    • MNRM must review and approve all information added to irs.gov relating to Military VITA.

  7. Domestic Military VITA

    • HQ coordinates domestic military VITA unless agreed upon by Area, SPEC HQ, and AFTC. FS&A offices must coordinate all domestic tax preparation software orders with the field.

  8. Overseas Military VITA Training

    • The AFTC along with SPEC decides which overseas installations receive face-to-face VITA training

    • In 2021, SPEC used online platform to supply overseas military training virtually, due to the pandemic. In the future, SPEC may supply virtual training for overseas bases not selected for in-person instruction, or due to unexpected travel restrictions that prevent in-person classes.

    • See Overseas Instruction Guide

  9. Overseas Military VITA Timeline

    Monthly Timeline
    May Headquarters SPEC leadership meets with AFTC to select overseas VITA locations for face-to-face training
    August Confirm overseas military sites for face-to-face VITA training
    September • Seek overseas VITA instructors throughout SPEC
    •Select overseas instructors
    October •Conduct conference call with selected instructors, TM, FS&A analysts to discuss overseas travel requirements, responsibilities, and deadlines
    •Assign overseas instructors to their respective tour
    •Provide instructors with respective military point of contact information
    • Complete Form 1321, Authorization for Official Travel, consistent with IRS Travel Policy
    November •Instructors must certify on LLT through International module before Train-the-Trainer class in December
    •Train-the-Trainer instructors prepare for class held in December
    •Issue Report Instructions for Train-the-Trainer class
    •Trainees must prepare all necessary documents to exit U.S. by November 30
    December •Conduct Overseas Instructors Train-the-Trainer class
    •Instructors receive all official documents (Passport, E-Country Clearance, and Visa)
    January •Travel to respective base
    •Complete travel voucher by travel guidelines
    •Return Official Passport to IRS Travel Office within 5 days of return to U.S.
    February •Supply Trip Report to SPEC Overseas Military VITA Training Coordinator within 5 days of instructor’s return

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 must certify via paper or LLT as shown in the table below:

    Volunteer Type Requirement
    Volunteer return preparers, quality reviewers, and site coordinators All volunteer tax preparers, quality reviewers, and site coordinators must annually take and pass the Volunteer Standards of Conduct and Intake/Interview and Quality Review tests to certify annually. Site coordinators must successfully pass the Site Coordinator certification. Volunteers must certify at either the Basic or Advanced levels based on their training, experience, and specific site needs to prepare and quality review returns. Returning volunteers may substitute the Qualified Experienced Volunteer test for the Advanced test if their sponsoring partner organization allows.

    Note:

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

    Instructors All instructors must annually take and pass the Volunteer Standards of Conduct, Intake/Interview and Quality Review tests, and other tests for all curriculums they teach. Instructors must certify at the Advanced level or higher. Returning volunteers may substitute the Qualified Experienced Volunteer test for the Advanced test if their sponsoring partner organization allows. The instructor’s certification level must be equivalent or higher than the current course they instruct.
    Other Volunteers Volunteers only working in reception, clerical, non-preparer, or non-quality reviewer roles must only take the Volunteer Standards of Conduct test.

  2. Encourage volunteers to certify online wherever possible. This is the preferred method for certifying. IRS allows partners the choice of administering the IRS test in a classroom setting or allowing the volunteers to take the test at home. Volunteers access VITA/TCE training and online certifications through Link and Learn Taxes e-learning. LLT automatically scores the test and volunteers may sign, and print or email the electronic Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs. The volunteer must deliver the certification document to the training coordinator, instructor, or another person as appointed designated by the VITA/TCE partner.

  3. The Practice Lab is practice tax preparation software included in LLT to help in the certification process. Only VITA/TCE volunteers can use the Practice Lab as authorized licensees. SPEC RM must supply the password to partners prior to training.

  4. As needed, partners seek non-IRS instructors, such as college professors, enrolled agents, and accountants, to administer tests. When administering paper tests, instructors must correct the test or retest, mark correct answers, and include explanatory remarks.

  5. Volunteers must 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. Volunteer tax preparers and quality reviewers must pass the VITA/TCE certification with a score of 80 percent or higher. Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest, includes instructions for completion of the test and obtaining certification.

  7. The TM, SPEC Headquarters’ designee and FS&A analysts can obtain certification reports on LLT and can supply partner specific listings to sites for validation. IRS employees must use secure messaging when emailing within the IRS, if data contains Personally Identifiable Information (PII) information. To share with partners, use phone, fax, or postal mail. See IRM 11.3.1.11, Facsimile Transmission of Tax Information. managers who need access to the certification reports must first register on the LLT test login page and contact the FS&A training analyst for access to the reports.

  8. Instructors and partners confirm certifications when using other training delivery methods. Partners and/or sites must keep confirmed certifications on site.

VITA Retest-All Volunteer Training
  1. Form 6744, Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest, test booklet mirrors Link & Learn. SPEC encourages volunteers to certify online whenever possible. This is the preferred method to certify.

  2. Test takers have a different test for the test and retest.

  3. The retest is available to volunteers who do not pass the test. The format of the retest is like the test and graded in the same manner. Only offer the retest to volunteers once.

  4. Instructors and partners must consider added training for volunteers not passing the test on the first try.

  5. The partner may provide instructions with a letter to volunteers not passing the test. The letter must invite the volunteer to receive added training and take the retest, or to participate in another aspect of the VITA/TCE program activity such as: publicity, scheduling volunteers, clerical duties, greeter, etc.

Course and Instructor Evaluations
  1. SPEC encourages volunteer to send course evaluations. LLT has online surveys. Volunteers may take the Level 1 Survey after completing training with the VITA/TCE program. They must take the Level 3 Survey after completing their volunteer duties with the VITA/TCE program.

State and Local Tax Training - All Volunteer Training
  1. Partners or site managers request training for state and local tax return preparation through state and local tax officials. State and local training occurs along with or after federal tax training.

Continuing Education (CE) Credit for Volunteers of the VITA/TCE Program
  1. SPEC is an approved provider for Continuing Education (CE) Credits for Enrolled Agents (EA) and non-credentialed tax return preparers take part in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP), Certified Financial Planners (CFP), and California Tax Education Council (CTEC) registrants. Attorneys and Certified Public Accountants (CPA) can qualify, depending on the policies of their state or national licensing board. Offering CE credits to tax professionals encourages them to take part in SPEC programs and supply professional tax related services. A volunteer can earn CE Credits after taking the right coursework and volunteering as a Quality Reviewer, Tax Preparer and/or Tax Law Instructor at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site.

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

  3. The CTEC must register non-credentialed tax preparers for the state of California, approve tax schools and certify the education of tax preparers. CTEC registrants who take part in the VITA/TCE program can receive CE credit for completing volunteer training.

  4. Volunteers can receive up to 14 hours of IRS CE credits for certifying in tax law at the advanced level and volunteering as a quality reviewer, tax return preparer, or tax law instructor for a minimum of 10 hours. Volunteers who certify in a specialty course can earn 4 more hours of CE credits. Volunteers can earn a maximum of 18 CE credit hours.

  5. Volunteers who meet all requirements receive a CE Certificate. SPEC reports information to RPO for all volunteers who supply a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in LLT Attorneys and CPAs must send their CE Certificates to their local governing board/society for CE credit approval. CFP’s must self-report their CE credits on the CFP website.

    Note:

    Enrolled Agents and Non-Credentialed tax preparers rejected by RPO due to an invalid PTIN do not receive a VITA/TCE CE Credit certificate.

Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities
  1. All volunteers requesting Continuing Education (CE) credits must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for reporting CE credits to their IRS PTIN account. For more information see PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers.

    Note:

    Attorneys, CPA’s and CFP’s do not require a PTIN to earn IRS SPEC CE credits; however, if provided, their PTIN account reflects the hours.

  2. The volunteer must register within LLT and complete the following fields on the My Account Page in addition to the required fields:

    1. Select a Professional Status - Non-credentialed tax return preparers must take part in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) to earn CE credits.

    2. Name as listed on PTIN Card - Required if the volunteer has a PTIN.

    3. PTIN - EA, non-credentialed tax return preparers and volunteers who would like their credits posted to their PTIN account, must have a PTIN.

    4. CTEC Number - CTEC registrants must have a CTEC number.

  3. The volunteer must complete the following certifications before beginning volunteer service:

    1. VSC Training and pass the test with a score of 80 percent or higher.

    2. Intake/Interview & Quality Review Test.

    3. Certify to the Advanced level in tax law, using Link & Lean Taxes with a score of 80 percent or higher.

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

  5. The volunteer must complete a minimum of 10 hours volunteer service as a quality reviewer, tax return preparer, or instructor.

VITA or TCE Partner Role
  1. Partners play a key role in protecting the integrity of the CE credit program. SPEC partners must meet the following conditions to receive proper CE credits:

    1. Validate the volunteer's identity

    2. Document the number of hours the volunteer spends teaching Basic, Advance, or specialty courses, preparing tax returns, and/or quality reviewing tax returns

    3. Secure Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, from the volunteer (printed from LLT Taxes and signed by the volunteer) and add the sponsoring partner name/site name if not included

    4. Review Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs to ensure the volunteer certified (P) in VSC, Intake/Interview Quality Review Test, and Advanced and at least one specialty module if volunteer is requesting the maximum 18 CE credits

    5. Complete the following in the Continuing Education Credits ONLY section of Form 13615: input the SIDN, site or training address, finds the certification level and total hours of service

    6. Validate Form 13615, CE credit information after the volunteer meets all CE credit qualifications by signing (electronic or original signature) in the proper place(s). This may include signing in two sections.

      Note:

      Volunteers cannot sign their own Form 13615 as the approving official.

    7. Supply a completed Form 13615, to their SPEC RM when the volunteer meets all program requirements to qualify for continuing education credits

      Note:

      Send all forms for Overseas Military Volunteers directly to the Overseas Military SPEC HQ National RM.

    8. Supply Form 13615, to SPEC no later than April 30th for sites closing by April 15th. For year-round sites, provide it monthly after April 30th for volunteers meeting CE requirements.

Territory Office Role
  1. Once a partner or site coordinator sends Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, confirming volunteer completion of CE requirements, all RM must review the form to:

    1. Ensure completion of all required sections of Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, and verify signature of the sponsoring partner, site coordinator or instructor as the approving official. If the approving official is the sponsoring partner or there is no outside partner, the TM or designee should approve the form. The TM, or designee, cannot sign as the approving official for a volunteer who is not a site coordinator, instructor, or sponsoring partner.

      Note:

      Volunteers cannot sign their own Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, as the approving official.

    2. Confirm completion of all CE requirements, such as passing all required certifications, and meeting volunteer hour requirements

    3. Use the CE Pending Report from FS&A, complete the volunteer hours completed column for each volunteer to show yes or no to reflect the volunteer completion of the minimum ten volunteer hours

    4. Update the Approved by RPO column to show yes for all volunteers not subject to RPO approval. (i.e., attorneys, CFP’s, and CPA’s)

    5. Save all Forms 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, until the end of the calendar year in case of any necessary follow-up

    6. Forward the updated CE Credit Pending Report to the assigned FS&A contact via email

      Note:

      All emails with PTIN information require encryption.

    7. During field site visits, confirm site coordinators know the CE credit procedures. If applicable, review Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, at the site and supply help if necessary.

    8. Explain CE credit requirements during partner discussions.

Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) Office Role
  1. Serve as liaison between Territory offices and PS.

  2. Export the CE Credit Pending Report and provide it to Territories.

  3. Combine the CE Pending Reports provided by the Territory offices.

  4. Coordinate with territories on discrepancies with data provided to PS affecting the ability to supply CE credits to volunteer. PS must supply FS&A discrepancies requiring follow-up and reconciliation.

    Note:

    PS must give FS&A access to the CE Credit Shared Drive.

  5. Review the combined report to confirm completion of all required items. This includes volunteer first and last name, address, email address, PTIN name PTIN Number, CTEC Number, professional status, volunteer hours completed, and the approved by RPO column should show yes if the volunteer is an Attorney, CPA, or CFP. Forward the final report to PS via email and upload the report to the CE Credit shared drive. FS&A staff must encrypt all emails prior to sending. .

Overseas Military HQ National Relationship Manager (RM) Role
  1. The SPEC HQ National RM for Overseas Military must ensure the receipt of all Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, for Overseas Military volunteers. Upon receipt, the RM must:

    1. Verify all required sections of the form for completion, signature and date of the sponsoring partner, site coordinator or instructor as approving official

      Note:

      Volunteers cannot sign their own Form 13165 as the approving official.

    2. Confirm completion of all CE requirements, such as passing all required certifications, and meeting volunteer hour requirements

    3. Export the CE Credit Pending Report from the Reports Menu in LLT and filter the report to include only volunteers with an approved Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement – VITA/TCE Programs

    4. Complete the volunteer hours completed column of the CE Pending Report for each volunteer and the Approved by RPO column to write down yes for all volunteers not subject to RPO approval. (i.e., attorneys, CFPs, and CPAs)

    5. Forward the updated CE Credit Pending Report to PS via email. All emails require encryption.

Program Support (PS) Office Role
  1. SPEC HQ must communicate changes or updates to FS&A, the territory and Area offices related to the CE credit program. The Return Preparer Office mandates the record keeping retention requirement for Continuing Education (CE) Credits for a term of 4 years. SPEC HQ must keep copies of all completed CE Credits pending reports for volunteers requesting CE Credits.

  2. The LLT data portal stores CE Credit data, generates certificates and allows volunteers to print out a completed CE Certificate.

  3. PS uses the CE Pending Credit Report to confirm volunteers meet the CE requirements.

  4. PS must use the CE PTIN template to upload PTIN hours to RPO. PS must complete a template for each area using the data in the CE Pending Report and send to RPO for approval.

  5. After approval or rejection by RPO, the analyst must update the Approved by RPO Column for PTIN Volunteers in the CE Pending Reports for each area to write down yes or no. All rejected volunteers must return to the respective FS&A contact for correction. Resubmit corrected rejects to RPO for approval and update on the Pending Report.

  6. The analyst uploads the CE Pending Report into LLT Base Camp SharePoint Site for generation of certificates.

  7. PS must create folders on a Shared Drive to keep the CE PTIN Hours Upload template and the results of the LLT survey for a period of 4 years to meet RPO requirement.

SPEC Training Support Tool
  1. SPEC created the SPEC Training Support Tool to assess partner’s direct training needs for volunteers and site coordinators by selecting the criteria listed on Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool. The RM and TM must decide the actions for each partner’s training based on their assessment and the method selected for delivering training. The TM must assess and make the final approval. The TM may use the SPEC Training Support Tool to justify travel costs if applicable.

  2. SPEC needs the SPEC Training Support only when the partner needs direct support or direct support assessment and the AD and/or TM) mandate its use.

Relationship Manager Responsibility
  1. The RM must use 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 TM.

Territory Manager Responsibility
  1. The TM must manage the SPEC Training Support Tool by:

    • Delivering the Training Support Tool to all RM and discussing the benefits

    • Reviewing completed Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, and discussing the results with the RM. Showing agreement or other actions needed by signing and dating the form.

    • Keeping Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, either in a partner file kept by the RM or in a Territory group file.

Criteria Used to Consider Direct Training Support for Partners
  1. Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, supplies the criteria for assessing whether a partner needs direct training support. The RM reviews each factor and considers the partners’ needs. The RM recommends and documents the process for delivering training and the cost associated with the method. The TM approves or disapproves the recommendation and supplies feedback.

Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training and Certification
  1. The integrity of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs depends on keeping public trust. All taxpayers using VITA/TCE services must receive a correct return and quality service. All volunteers must supply the highest quality and best service to taxpayers. Along with this responsibility, all volunteers must sign Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement, each year, saying they agree to follow the QSR and uphold the highest ethical standards. SPEC developed the VSC specifically for free tax preparation operations. Volunteers must agree to the standards prior to working in a VITA/TCE free return preparation site. All participants in the VITA/TCE programs must adhere to the six Volunteer Standards of Conduct, listed in the table below. For a full description of the standard of conduct program and examples of ethical situations, see Publication 4961, VITA/TCE Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training.

    Follow the ten Quality Site Requirements (QSR) The QSR ensure VITA/TCE sites use consistent site operating procedures to improve the accuracy of volunteer prepared returns. See Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, for a full description of each QSR. Non-adherence to the Quality Site Requirements only becomes a violation of the VSC if a volunteer refuses to follow the QSR. If the volunteer agrees to follow the QSR, the volunteers meet the VSC.
    Do not accept payment, ask for, or accept refund payments for federal or state tax return preparation from customers. Free means volunteers do not accept compensation from the clients they serve. Volunteers do not want to confuse the taxpayer by asking for donations. Donation or tip jars found in the return preparation or taxpayer waiting area violates the standard. A client may offer payment, but volunteers must always refuse with a smile and say something like, “Thank you, but we cannot accept payment for our services.” If someone insists, volunteers may recommend cookies or donuts for the site. Taxpayers can make cash donations to the sponsoring organization, but not in the tax preparation area. Refer taxpayers interested in making cash donations to the site coordinator for more information.
    Sites can place donation or tip jars in another area at the site if that area does not give the impression of collecting the funds for return preparation. Sites cannot place donation or tip jars in the entry, waiting, tax preparation, or quality review areas.
    Sites cannot deposit taxpayers’ federal or state refunds into VITA/TCE volunteers’ or any associated partners’ personal or business bank/debit card accounts.
    VITA/TCE sites should only request direct deposit of a taxpayer’s refund into accounts bearing the taxpayer’s name.
    Do not ask for business from taxpayers you help or use the information you gained about them (their information) for any direct or indirect personal benefit for yourself or any other specific individual. Volunteers must safeguard taxpayers’ personal information. Do not use confidential or non-public information to engage in financial transactions, and do not allow its improper use to further your own or another person’s private interests.
    Keep taxpayer and tax return information confidential. A volunteer preparer may discuss information with other volunteers at the site, but only for purposes of preparing the return. Volunteers cannot use taxpayer information for personal or business use.
    Do not knowingly prepare false returns.
    Volunteers must correctly apply tax law to the taxpayer’s situation. While tempting for a volunteer to bend the law to help taxpayers, this causes problems down the road. Volunteers must not knowingly prepare false returns.
    Not following ethical standards jeopardizes trust in the IRS and the local sponsoring organization. Fraudulent returns can result in years of taxpayer interaction with the IRS with the taxpayer paying added tax plus interest and penalties resulting in an extreme burden. Also, the taxpayer may seek damages under state or local law from the SPEC partner for the volunteer’s fraudulent actions. The IRS would seek payment of the added taxes, interest, and penalties from the taxpayer.
    Nationwide, identity theft continues to grow at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, unscrupulous volunteers use information obtained at a VITA/TCE site to steal the identity of taxpayers. For example, using a stolen Social Security number to file a false tax return to obtain the refund is identity theft. Everyone must report any suspicion of identity theft to IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The IRS considers this a serious crime and has measures to detect identity theft situations at VITA/TCE sites. The IRS continually implements new processes for handling returns, new filters to detect fraud, new initiatives to partner with stakeholders, and a continued commitment to investigate the criminals who commit these crimes.
    Do not engage in criminal, infamous, dishonest, notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct considered to have a negative effect on the VITA/TCE programs. SPEC prohibits volunteers from taking part in the VITA/TCE program if they engage (past and future) in criminal, infamous, dishonest, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct harmful to the government. Volunteers must take care to avoid interactions that discredit the program. A taxpayer may consider state or local law to get money from the SPEC partner for a volunteer’s fraudulent actions.
    Treat all taxpayers in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.
    To protect the public interest, the IRS and its employees, partners, and volunteers must keep the confidence and esteem of the people we serve. All volunteers must conduct themselves professionally in a courteous, businesslike, and diplomatic manner. Volunteers take pride in helping diligent men and women who come to VITA/TCE sites for return preparation. Taxpayers under stress may wait extended periods for help. Volunteers may experience stress due to the volume of taxpayers needing service. This situation can make patience run short. The volunteer staying calm and creating a peaceful and friendly atmosphere helps reduce taxpayer stress.

  2. VITA/TCE volunteers must certify in VSC by passing a test. Volunteers must certify in the VSC prior to certifying in tax law (i.e., Basic and Advanced) and before the volunteer begins working at a VITA/TCE site.
    The VSC training includes:

    • An explanation of the six Volunteer Standards of Conduct defined on Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct

    • Information on how to report violations

    • Consequences of failure to adhere to the program requirements

    • Examples of situations that raise questions on ethical behavior

    • An overview of the components included in a complete Intake/Interview & Quality Review Process

  3. SPEC supplies the Volunteer Standards of Conduct Training online using LLT and in Publication 4961, Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training.

  4. SPEC prefers volunteers complete their certifications online through LLT. The volunteers with a passing score (i.e., 80 percent or higher) can try to certify in Intake/Interview & Quality Review and in tax law (i.e., Basic and Advanced). Volunteers must complete and sign Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs. Forms printed from LLT include electronic signatures. Volunteers can take the written test in a classroom. If the volunteer does not take the test in LLT, the sponsoring organization must grade the test and record the passing score on the Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs.

  5. All volunteers, including greeters/ facilitators and interpreters, must certify in the VSC. SPEC allows one exception for volunteers who only schedule appointments for the site and do not discuss any personal tax information provided by the taxpayers.

  6. All volunteers must supply the highest quality and best service to taxpayers. All volunteers must sign and date a new Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, each year. By signing, the volunteer states they agree to follow the program requirements and uphold the highest ethical standards. Partners or site coordinators must sign and date Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, showing 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 adherence to the strictest standards of ethical conduct.

  7. At management’s discretion, SPEC may circulate an alert to address any volunteer or partner egregious VSC non-compliant activities. The alert notifies volunteers of corrective actions and if needed, make changes, updates and/or clarifications to a volunteer standard of conduct.

Failure to Comply with the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC)
  1. By law, tax return preparers must exercise due diligence in preparing or helping with the preparation of tax returns. IRS-SPEC defines due diligence as the degree of care and caution expected from, and ordinarily exercised by, a volunteer in the VITA/TCE program.

  2. The consequences to the volunteer, tax site and/or sponsoring organization for not following the VSC include the following:

    • Terminating the partnership between the IRS and sponsoring organization

    • Discontinuing IRS support

    • Inclusion in the IRS Volunteer Registry and removal from volunteering in the VITA/TCE program indefinitely

    • Revoking or retrieving the sponsoring organization’s grant’s funds

    • Deactivating VITA/TCE EFIN

    • Removing all IRS products, supplies, and loaned equipment from the site

    • Removing all taxpayer information from the site

    • Disallowing use of IRS-SPEC logos

    • Referring for potential Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and criminal investigations

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

  3. RMs, TM, and others in the field must report violations to SPEC HQ using the Internal Referral Process.

Filing Season Readiness Training Requirements (SPEC Employees and Territory Managers)
  1. SPEC commits to supply top quality service to all taxpayers that we serve. SPEC’s success depends on our ability to collaborate with our partners and volunteers to address the diverse needs of our mutual customer base. SPEC’s continued success relies on Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training.

  2. All tax consultants and TM must complete the following training:

    1. Volunteer Standards of Conduct (Ethics) and Intake/Interview & Quality Review: Prior to certifying in tax law, all tax consultants and TM must certify in the VSC and Intake/Interview & Quality Review using LLT

    2. Tax law Training: All tax consultants and TM must certify in LLT in tax law through Advanced level. and certify in tax law through the Military level if conducting a Field Site Visit (FSV) and return review at a Military site or instructing Military tax law

    3. VITA/TCE Site Coordinator's (SC) Training and Site Coordinator Certification: Site Coordinator training supplies instructions and tools to help the SC manage their volunteers and monitor adherence to the VSC and the QSR. All tax consultants and TM must complete the Site Coordinator Training and pass the Site Coordinator Certification

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

    5. Software Training (or refresher): This volunteer can take the refresher training by completing the recorded vendor webinars available through LLT on The Practice Lab. After successfully completing the vendor class, the employee and TM recognizes 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 who review returns, write training materials, and educate partners on tax law topics must take FSR training. Also, TM who perform Field Site Reviews on employees must take FSR training. This training equips employees with the necessary information for successful execution of the filing season.

Training Single Entry Time Reporting Codes
  1. SPEC employees must refer to Document 11684, SETR Codes for SPEC, for a complete listing of training SETR codes.

Employee Training Certification
  1. After completing the required tests in LLT, the SPEC employee must print out the certification Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, sign, and date the form, and supply a copy to the TM. The TM keeps the signed and dated copy of the form in the employee’s personnel file.

  2. Employees must use LLT to complete their VSC and tax law certifications.

Territory Manager Responsibility
  1. When assigning Tax Consultant’s (TC) to conduct reviews, the TM must trust in the TC’s skills, knowledge, and professionalism. The results of the reviews conducted by the territory drives strategic improvements in the volunteer return preparation programs. The TM must ensure and train all TCs.

  2. At the conclusion of all required training, the TM must secure copies of the tax consultants’ (TC) completed certifications. Once the TC has completed all the required training, The TC must provide the TM with copies of the specific training certifications. The TM must keep the certification documents in the Employee’s Performance File (EPF) for one year.

VITA and TCE Site Management

  1. SPEC requires that partners set up VITA and TCE sites near where low-income taxpayers live, work, or conduct other business. Territory offices must help volunteers and partners find preferred site locations to maximize the opportunity for free tax preparation in the community.

  2. Potential sites must offer:

    • Adequate parking

    • Accessibility by public transportation

    • Handicap accessibility

    • Privacy during return preparation

    • Secure storage of computers left at the site

    • Telephone line and/or internet access

    • Have no security risks

  3. VITA and TCE sites require on-site management by a site coordinator/manager and behind the scenes management by the local SPEC Territory office. SPEC partners must ensure that each VITA site has a site coordinator and SPEC encourages sites have alternate coordinators, if possible. SPEC needs the presence of coordinators and/or alternate coordinators at sites in operation, either physically at the site or via phone or other electronic means.

VITA and TCE Site Manager Responsibilities
  1. Refer to Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook for a list of site coordinator responsibilities.

Reasonable Accommodation for VITA and TCE Sites
  1. For reasonable accommodations requests, see IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.2.1 Training for Hearing and Visually Impaired Volunteers.

  2. Several federal statutes require reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Both IRS and their sponsors must make reasonable accommodation for taxpayers and volunteers. Facts and circumstances decide the level of accommodation and responsible party.

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

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

  5. At an IRS sponsored site, the IRS has an obligation to supply reasonable accommodation for volunteers and taxpayers. The IRS decides what is reasonable on a case-by-case basis.

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

    Example:

    A SPEC Territory Manager (TM) must supply instruction for students with hearing-impairments, by supplying an interpreter to sign, provide instructors and a written transcript or use videotaped training sessions.

  7. The TM must consider whether the volunteer at a site can deliver services to the taxpayers after training.

  8. If the sponsor or partner conducts a training class for VITA volunteers, they have an obligation to supply reasonable accommodation upon request. The same analysis described above applies to the sponsor or partner's obligation with respect to what is reasonable.

    Example:

    AARP must supply reasonable accommodation for a volunteer or taxpayer at an AARP sponsored site upon request. IRS must supply reasonable accommodation for an AARP volunteer attending an IRS conducted training class upon request.

Request for Reasonable Accommodation Funds
  1. Refer to W&I Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) for interpreter services; look under "Disability" and click on "Disability Helpful Links and Forms" and then "Centralized funding for sign language interpreting and CART services."

Accommodating Persons with Disabilities Referred from Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC)
  1. Follow the process below for taxpayers with disabilities who visit a TAC and need tax preparation help from VITA/TCE sites. Sites must give special consideration to taxpayers with disabilities who need help.

  2. If a taxpayer with disabilities (either clear or self-disclosed) cannot get return preparation services while visiting a TAC and requests the help of a manager:

    • The TAC manager must secure the taxpayer’s name and phone number and contact the local SPEC contact TM

    • The SPEC contact must reach out to a VITA/TCE site to arrange a return preparation appointment for the taxpayer with disabilities

    • The site must contact the taxpayer with disabilities within 48 hours to arrange for the return completion

    • The TM or RM must contact the taxpayer if the site is unable to reach them within 48 hours

  3. SPEC watches this process to ensure taxpayers with disabilities receive service.

Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites

  1. SPEC partners must recruit and keep volunteers to deliver the free tax preparation program they support. SPEC needs volunteers complete training and become certified, using the IRS approved tests, prior to return preparation. Volunteers must adhere to SPEC’s VSC as outlined in Publication 1084, VITA/TCE IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator Handbook.

  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 approved for a Virtual VITA/TCE model. Having the taxpayer present to answer questions ensures that a complete and correct return is filed. Sites must use Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet for every return. SPEC needs sites give back all documents to the taxpayer with a request to return with the missing information needed to complete the return if the return requires more information to complete the return.

  3. VITA/TCE volunteers must not accept balance due payments. The taxpayer must schedule an electronic payment through the tax software or mail the payment with the return if they owe on the return. Taxpayers must visit www.irs.gov/payments for available payment options.

  4. Volunteers must refer taxpayers unable to make full payment to the following products below:

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

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

    • Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process (Spanish)

    • Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request (Spanish)

    • "Paying Your Taxes" tab on irs.gov

Return Preparation Criteria
  1. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns. All volunteers and site coordinators must certify in tax law at the Basic and/or Advanced level annually before they answer tax law questions, instruct tax law classes, prepare, or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns. Volunteers who practice before the IRS (i.e., Attorneys, Certified Public Accountants [CPA], and Enrolled Agents [EA], may certify in tax law by passing the Circular 230 Tax law Update Test.

Processing Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return
  1. Sites use Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal, for an IRS e-file Return to send supporting documents to the IRS.

  2. Sites must send Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return to the designated Submission Processing Center. Territory offices must supply address labels to sites for sending Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return, to the Submission Processing Center. Sites must use the labels.

  3. Sites can attach required PDF files with Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return, with the e-filed tax return. For more information refer to http://www.irs.gov, search for word Modernized e-file.

Prior Year and Amended Return Preparation
  1. Volunteer sites with the necessary software and reference materials may prepare prior year (PY) tax returns within three years of the current tax year. Sites may prepare older tax returns if the site has the older year software available. Sites must assign these returns to experienced volunteers.

  2. All sites must use a current year Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, to decide the scope and tax law certification level of the return.

  3. Volunteer preparers and quality reviewers must hold current certification(s) at the proper level(s) for the return.

  4. Reference materials include:

    • Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals, for the applicable year

    • Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide, and Volunteer Tax Alerts

  5. Prior year and amended returns must follow the current and/or prior year tax law requirements. This includes new or prior year legislative changes and updates for the applicable years. Refer to Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide, for more information.

State Return Preparation
  1. VITA and TCE preparers may prepare and electronically file state tax returns for taxpayers with a federal tax filing requirement.

  2. VITA/TCE sites may electronically file state tax returns together with a federal tax return for taxpayers without a federal tax filing requirement to get a credit or benefit from the state.

  3. VITA/TCE sites may electronically file state tax returns without filing a federal tax return for taxpayers seeking to get a credit or benefit from the state.

  4. VITA/TCE volunteers must not accept balance due payments. If there is a balance due, the taxpayer must schedule an electronic payment through the tax software or mail a payment with the return.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
  1. All U.S. federal tax returns filed after December 31,1996 must have a valid Tax Identification Number (TIN) for each person listed on the return. Valid TINs include a valid Social Security number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). IRS issues an ITIN (tax processing number) for certain resident and non-resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents. Individuals who have a filing requirement but who do not have, and do not meet eligibility requirements for, an SSN receive a nine-digit ITIN. ITIN recipients only use ITINs for federal income tax purposes.

  2. The issuance of an ITIN does not:

    • Entitle the recipient to Social Security benefits

    • Create an inference about the individual’s immigration status

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

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number/ Social Security Number (ITIN/SSN Mismatch)
  1. Although an ITIN does not authorize an 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 they provided to an employer. This creates an ITIN/SSN mismatch.

  2. IRS may contact employers to verify wages and withholding as part of its efforts to detect fraudulent returns. The ITIN/SSN mismatch alerts the IRS that the true owner of the SSN did not earn the wages and prevents issuing mistaken notices about unreported income to that taxpayer.

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 an SSN for return preparation, the volunteer can prepare the tax return with the documents supplied if the name on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, matches the ITIN holder.

    Note:

    Prior to completion of any tax return, the volunteer must request proof of identity. Sites require two forms of identification. One photo identification such as:

    • Passport

    • National identity card

    • Driver’s license (U.S.)

    • State identification card (U.S.)

    • Military identification card

    • School photo ID

    • VISA

  2. The second form of identification needed is the original or a copy of the ITIN card or letter.

  3. One or both forms of identification must reflect the taxpayer’s current mailing address. If the taxpayer cannot prove their identity, or if the volunteer is uncomfortable accepting items presented as proof of identity, the volunteer must refer the taxpayer to obtain/seek professional tax help.

  4. Sites can prepare and electronically file returns with an ITIN/SSN mismatch. Do not change any information on the Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. For ITIN returns, the site must disable tax preparation software features that auto-populate the TIN on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, based on the TIN entered on the return. The software must allow the preparer to list the SSN on the Form W-2.

  5. The taxpayer has no eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). If the taxpayer becomes a permanent resident of the United States and secures a valid SSN later, they may claim the EITC on returns due after receiving the valid SSN.

  6. SPEC employees, partners and volunteers may:

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

    2. Supply educational information to applicants about requirements in applying for an ITIN

    3. Review the required documentation including a federal tax return and accept the application for submission if a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) is taking part in the outreach sessions

    4. Direct applicants to or give Publication 1915, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), and the completed Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number if the CAA does not take part in outreach sessions. The applicant must either mail the application with the required documentation to the IRS Austin campus ITIN Unit, take the completed application and original identity documents to a local Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC), or apply through a CAA.

  7. Trained SPEC employees, partners and/or volunteers may offer return preparation in the outreach sessions.

    Note:

    Unless the SPEC employee, partner or volunteer identify as a CAA, they must not accept the Form W-7 for sending to the Austin campus ITIN Unit.

Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB)
  1. SPEC’s Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB) program supports partners who give taxpayers the information and knowledge needed to evaluate financial options and find those that best suit the taxpayer’s needs.

  2. SPEC’s overall objective helps taxpayers, through its partners, with outreach, education, and tax return preparation. Many partners see “tax time” as a gateway to connect individuals and families to financial education and asset building programs. FEAB, in conjunction with tax education outreach and tax preparation, forms the third prong of the SPEC business model.

SPEC Role in FEAB
  1. SPEC shares 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

    • Cancellation of Debt

    • Grant/Banking opportunities

    • FEAB Product development/use

    • Surveying the community needs with regards to financial education and asset building

    • Holding a one-time workshop on various financial education and asset building topics

    • Aiding taxpayers in opening bank accounts, buying U.S. Saving Bonds and credit counseling

    • Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and/or individual cash coaching programs

Administrative Requirements
  1. The SPEC RM must complete the Form 14099, SPEC Financial Education and Asset Building Partner Assessment Tool. This form guides the RM in deciding FEAB services offered by the partner/site.

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

  3. SPECTRM records partner involvement about financial education and asset building. RM must record partner/coalition involvement concerning financial education and asset building activities as well as prepare Form 13315, Partner Outreach Activities, to record all FEAB outreach. TMs must verify that all reporting of all financial education and asset building activities for partners and coalitions in SPECTRM.

Headquarters Responsibilities
  1. SPEC HQ responsibilities about FEAB:

    • Supplying guidance to SPEC territories about promoting of FEAB opportunities

    • Monitoring performance using SPECTRM reports

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

    • Collaborating with partners to provide taxpayers with the necessary information and knowledge to evaluate their financial options and find those financial options that best suit the taxpayers’ needs and circumstances

    • Updating SPECTRM as needed to capture partners FEAB activities.

National Partnerships
  1. National Partners incorporates FEAB programs into everyday partner relationship management by sharing information with internal and external stakeholders.

  2. NP must:

    • Maintain updated information on FEAB activities in territories

    • Review materials available from national and local partners

    • Work with SPEC Communication staff to update Financial Education and Asset Building Resource Center

    • Promote best practices

    • Publishes FEAB Partner Spotlights

Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) Responsibilities
  1. The FS&A office supplies oversight, analysis, and support of FEAB strategies.

  2. FS&A must:

    • Maintain updated information about FEAB activities in their territories

    • Supply monthly reports to ADs about the results of territory activities involving FEAB

  3. FS&A conducts conference calls as needed with Territory Staff and Managers to:

    • Monitor progress

    • Supply data as requested

    • Encourage and support territory participation

    • Obtain changes and anomalies of financial education and asset building (outreach)

    • Share best practices

    • Discuss roadblocks or resistance issues raised by partners, tax consultants with the HQ FEAB analyst

Territory Responsibilities
  1. TM communicate FEAB expectations to RM via territory meetings, monthly briefings, and conference calls. Each TM supports this effort by taking part in Area/HQ conference calls to promote and share successes and best practices. Each TM supports their staff by aiding them in the development of strategies for partners. TMs meet with external stakeholders at coalition and partner events/meetings to encourage participation and collaboration. This includes highly-successful financial education and asset building partners as well as, new partners or those in the initial stages of financial education and asset building.

  2. TM’s must:

    • Take ownership of FEAB efforts

    • Gather FEAB information from tax consultants about their partnerships

    • Address FEAB in briefings and territory conference calls

    • Promote best practices

    • Share FEAB Partner Spotlights

RM Responsibilities
  1. RM must familiarize themselves with internal FEAB resources. They must educate and share best practices with their partners in the arena of financial education and asset building.

  2. RM must:

    • Take ownership of FEAB

    • Analyze partners’ status about FEAB activities

    • Encourage partner growth in FEAB programs

    • Incorporate FEAB discussions in all partner planning meetings

    • Capture specific partner information in monthly briefing reports

    • Share FEAB Partner Spotlights

  3. RM must interact with the National RM to:

    • Supply data as requested

    • Communicate and develop best practices

    • Communicate anomalies and changes

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

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

    • Monitor FEAB activity of SPEC partners through field site visits

Identifying VITA and TCE Returns

  1. It is important to show returns as VITA and TCE prepared. The SIDN finds all VITA and TCE Returns. Volunteers must ensure the correct SIDN appears on each paper and electronic return.

  2. VITA and TCE returns feed into qualitative and quantitative reviews of the SPEC program. The Electronic Filing 1541 (ELF1541) extract and the I48061 Master File (IMF) 460-15 data extract capture the number and type of return prepared by the volunteer program.

Toll Free Assistance

  1. Toll-free help is available to VITA and TCE volunteers from January through April. The telephone number for all 50 states is 800-829-8482 (800-TAX-VITA). Volunteers must prove themselves as VITA and TCE volunteers when calling for technical help. Do "not" give this number to the public.

  2. Volunteers must use of this restricted toll-free number to seek answers to tax law questions within the scope of the VITA/TCE Program.

  3. For questions about form orders or account questions from callers, volunteers must refer them to irs.gov, under Where's my refund?

Quality Review Process

  1. SPEC developed the five (5) Core Principles of the Quality Process:

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

    • Support partners to ensure all volunteers receive proper training

    • Provide volunteers and partners with a set of required and recommended QSR

    • Ensure all participants in the volunteer preparation program understand their respective roles, and responsibilities to ensure preparation of returns

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

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

    • QSS Reviews (made up of a site review and three, or more in some situations, return reviews)

    • Field site visits (FSV)

    • Remote site reviews (RSR)

    • Internal/external referral reviews

    • SPEC shopping reviews

    • Grant financial reviews

    • Grant administrative visits

  3. All review plans consider the continuing operation of the site during the visit. SPEC conducts most site visits between February 1 and April 15. If possible, do not visit during the first scheduled week and last scheduled day of site operation. SPEC conducts the review with the site coordinator or alternate coordinator available in the absence of the site coordinator.

  4. Reviewers enter review results into the SPECTRM Site Quality module.

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

VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR)
  1. SPEC focuses on the confidence of taxpayers with the quality and accuracy of the return preparation and service received from the VITA/TCE program. SPEC developed the QSR to ensure quality and accuracy of return preparation and consistent operation of sites. All volunteers and partners must follow the 10 QSR to meet IRS and partner mutual goals.

  2. SPEC defines a correct return as a return with the tax law applied correctly with no errors found based on the taxpayer interview, their supporting documentation and the completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

  3. The QSR ensure VITA and TCE sites have consistent guidelines for the operation of each site. SPEC supplies site coordinators and volunteers with the tools and support necessary to follow each QSR.

  4. The 10 QSR listed below ensure taxpayers visiting VITA and TCE sites receive quality service and correct return preparation. For more information on each QSR, see Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements.

    • Quality Site Requirements
      1 Certification: New volunteers must complete the VITA/TCE Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training SPEC encourages returning volunteers to review the VSC Training as a refresher. All VITA/TCE volunteers must pass the VSC certification test. VITA/TCE volunteers include greeters, receptionists, equipment coordinators, etc.
      New IRS-certified volunteer preparers and coordinators must complete Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training, Publication 5101.. All IRS-certified volunteer preparers and coordinators must pass the Intake/Interview & Quality Review certification test.
      Volunteers preparing or quality reviewing tax returns, and volunteers addressing tax law questions or issues must pass either the Basic, Advanced, Qualified Experienced Volunteer, or Federal Tax Law Update Test for Circular 230 Professionals certifications. All coordinators and alternate coordinators must complete the Site Coordinator Training and certify by passing the new Site Coordinator Test with a passing score of 80 percent or higher prior to performing any site coordinator duties every year. The Site Coordinator Test is an annual requirement. Volunteers can find this certification test on LLT or Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor's Test/Retest.
      2 Intake/Interview and Quality Review 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.
      Quality Review Process: The reviewer must quality review all returns and discuss results with the taxpayer. Reviews conducted by a designated reviewer or a peer-to-peer review follow this requirement. The volunteer may not review a return they prepared.
      3 Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN): Coordinator’s must have a process in place to confirm taxpayer identities. This process must include using acceptable document to confirm taxpayer identities by reviewing:
      • Photo identification for primary and secondary taxpayers

      • Social Security Numbers (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) for everyone listed on the return.

      4 Reference Materials: All sites must have one copy (paper or electronic) of the following reference materials available for use by volunteers:
      • Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

      • Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

      • Pub 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust

      • Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA), at the site within five days of issuance

      5 Volunteer Agreement: All volunteers (coordinators, IRS tax law-certified preparers, designated or peer-to-peer quality reviewers, greeters, client facilitators, interpreters etc.) must annually complete the VSC certification. In addition, volunteers must certify to their adherence of the VSC by signing and dating Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs. By signing and dating the form, volunteers agree to follow the VSC requirement. The coordinator, sponsoring partner, instructor, or IRS contact, must certify (sign and date) the Form 13615 verifying the volunteer has completed the required VSC certification. This includes passing the test, confirming the volunteer’s identity using government-issued photo identification, and ensuring the volunteer has signed and dated Form 13615 before the volunteer can work at the site.
      6 Timely Filing: SPEC requires all sites have a process in place to ensure sites electronically file or deliver every return to the taxpayer in a timely manner. For e-filed returns, the taxpayer must sign Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization. This gives the site permission to e-file their tax return.
      7 Civil Rights: All VITA/TCE sites must make available to all taxpayers who request services at the site a current Publication 4053 (EN/SP), Publication 4053, Your Civil Rights are Protected, or a current AARP D143. These posters provide volunteers and taxpayers with contact information to report discriminatory treatment.
      8 Site Identification Number: SPEC requires all returns prepared by VITA/TCE sites include the correct SIDN.
      9 Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN): SPEC requires all return prepared by VITA/TCE sites include the correct EFIN.
      10 Security, Privacy and Confidentiality: Sites must follow all security, privacy and confidentiality guidelines outlined in Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust. Every site must have a copy (paper or electronic) of this publication when referring to security, privacy, and confidentiality.
      SPEC requires sites to follow guidance in Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust.
      • Prepare an annual security plan to safeguard taxpayer data. (Sites can use Form 15272, VITA/TCE Security Plan, or similar document that captures the same information)

      • Protect all computers with passwords

      • Use a hard-wired internet connection or password protecting all wireless internet connections

      • Secure computers, printers, and all equipment after site operating hours

      • Safeguard Personally Identifiable Information (PII) at the site by safely storing and/or properly disposing of the information

      • Secure IRC 7216 consent notices as needed

      • Limit volunteer access in the tax software outside of site operating hours

  5. Sites must pass a quality site review when they meet all QSR listed above. The measured questions in bold on Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, decide adherence to the QSR. Refer to the table and sections below for corrective actions:

    If ... Then ...
    SPEC finds a non-compliance issue at a site while conducting reviews and/or field site visits, SPEC works with the coordinator to help them become compliant as soon as possible. If possible, take corrective action(s) right away. Supply the support necessary to meet the QSR. This may involve discussions, counseling, and/or mentoring help with the coordinator within a reasonable period. SPEC considers withdrawing support and/or closing a site as the last resort.
    the reviews require follow-up actions, the RM must complete action(s) within seven calendar days after the first visit. The RM must notify the TM of any non-compliant QSR.
    the issues call for withdrawal of IRS support, the physical safety of all parties at the site must have the highest priority. If the environment becomes confrontational for the SPEC employee while removing government property from a site, the SPEC employee must at once leave the premises, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and their TM and wait for their help and/or guidance on how to proceed. The TM must notify the FS&A office who must notify the Chief, PS.

Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs:

    If... Then...
    Coordinators and alternate coordinators have not passed the Site Coordinator Test with a score of 80 percent or higher prior to the opening of the site, Partners may not allow coordinators and alternate coordinators who have not passed the Site Coordinator Test to serve as coordinators at the site. Once coordinators have certified by passing the Site Coordinator Test, they can fulfill the coordinator role at the site. Volunteers can find the Site Coordinator Test on LLT or IRS paper test, Form 6744, Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.
    All volunteers at the site have not completed VSC training or certified in necessary 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 any returns in process, but they cannot prepare any other returns. If certified at the correct level, the IRS reviewer at the site must quality review the returns prepared by the uncertified volunteers. Use care when informing the remaining taxpayers that the site must close for the day. Alternatives include the site asking for help of IRS certified volunteer preparers from other sites. If not possible, the remaining taxpayers must receive information about other local VITA/TCE site locations that may help them in their tax return preparation. The site cannot reopen until the volunteers certify in VSC and tax law at the correct level (s).
    The site needs verification of volunteer certification, The volunteer preparer may complete the return currently in process, and an IRS certified volunteer must review the return for accuracy. The volunteer preparer may not prepare or quality review any other returns until the partner’s RM receives certification verification of Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs.
    the complexity of the return exceeds the volunteer certification level,

    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 must complete the return in process and an IRS certified volunteer preparer with the correct 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 any volunteer preparer’s certification level, refer the taxpayer to another IRS certified volunteer preparer with the correct 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, All volunteer instructors, preparers, coordinators, and quality reviewers must certify in Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training by passing the associated certification test with a score of 80 percent or higher. Direct un-certified volunteers and their site coordinators to LLT located on www.irs.gov to help them with certification in Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training. Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest has the Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training. Publication 5101, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training has the training certification test. The volunteer preparer must supply the Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, to the partner or RM for certification verification before preparing or quality reviewing any other returns.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM verifies and ensures within seven calendar days all volunteers have certified in VSC and tax law if preparing or reviewing tax returns. The RM must set up a due date for receipt of written confirmation.

Intake and Interview Process Non-compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds the site not using a complete Intake and Interview Process including an interview with the taxpayer while reviewing Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet. The reviewer must 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 RM must begin follow-up actions at once, or within seven calendar days after the first review/visit to ensure the use of a complete Intake and Interview process when preparing returns.

Quality Review Process Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer identifies the site does not have a complete quality review in place which finds 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 must explain the requirement for a quality review process and notify the TM/RM at once.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM must begin follow-up actions at once, but within seven calendar days after the first review/visit to ensure that the use of a complete quality review process on all returns prepared.

Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds IRS tax law-certified volunteers not confirming taxpayer identities using acceptable documentation nor considering exceptions including:

    • Not confirming primary and secondary taxpayer’s identities using photo identification

    • Not confirming TIN for everyone listed on the tax return using acceptable documentation

  2. The SPEC RM must begin follow-up actions at once, or within seven calendar days after the first review/visit. To ensure that the site confirms taxpayers’ identities and TIN for everyone listed on the tax return refer to Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, for acceptable documentation and exceptions for taxpayers known to the site.

Reference Materials Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds any of the required reference materials not available at the site in paper or electronic form. Reviewers must provide the site coordinator with help downloading the reference materials from TaxSlayer, IRS.gov or ordering the paper products if asked.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM must make a phone call or site visit within seven calendar days to verify receipt of reference materials used by the volunteers. The RM must elevate to the TM for resolution if the volunteers cannot access the reference materials.

Volunteer Agreement Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds an incomplete Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, prior to the volunteer working at the site:

    • Volunteer did not sign and date Form 13615

    • Partner did not confirm the volunteer’s identity with government-issued identification

    • Partner did not sign and date the Form 13615

    Non-compliance occurs when a VITA/TCE site or volunteer engages in conduct or an activity that violates the VSC Agreement. For sites, or sponsoring organization, not following these standards, the consequences may include:
    • Terminating the partnership between the IRS and sponsoring organization

    • Discontinuing IRS support

    • Inclusion in the IRS Volunteer Registry and removal from volunteering in the VITA/TCE program indefinitely

    • Revoking or retrieving the sponsoring organization’s grant funds

    • Deactivating VITA/TCE EFIN

    • Removing all IRS products, supplies, and loaned equipment from the site

    • Removing all taxpayer information

    • Disallowing use of IRS-SPEC logos

    • Holding partner accountable for stolen refunds or other losses, due to fraudulent acts at the site

  2. The reviewer must inform the site coordinator that the volunteer cannot work at the site until the volunteer and coordinator complete Form 13615, The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs. The volunteer signs and dates the form and the partner coordinator certifies by signing and dating.

  3. If a violation occurs, the IRS reviewer must notify their manager and begin the Internal Referral Process at once.

  4. Anyone visiting the site may find and report violations to IRS by sending an email to www.voltax@irs.gov. Sites must display Publication 4836, VITA and TCE Free Tax Programs - English and Spanish, at the site or in a visible location to ease awareness of the opportunity to make a referral. Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, Publication 730, Important Tax Records Envelope (VITA/TCE), and AARP Foundation Tax-Aide D-143 list the email address and information.

  5. The RM and/or TM must address any violations with the site coordinator and/or partner. If the reviewer finds a potential VSC violation, the RM must contact the TM at once and begin the Internal Referral Process by completing Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. The TM must decide what actions to take at the site and/or partner level. The TM must notify their AD and send the completed Form 14511. If the AD concurs, they must notify the Chief of PS and sign and forward Form 14511 to SPEC HQ. In consultation with SPEC HQ, the AD decides whether to withdraw support from the site and/or refer the issue to TIGTA and/or Criminal Investigation. The SPEC Director decides whether to include the partner/site/volunteer on the Volunteer Registry. If necessary, the territory must follow the Discontinuance of IRS Support guidance.

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 return processing delays

  2. The reviewer must provide the site coordinator with the correct procedures depending on the situation. The reviewer must refer to the Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns, which explains the process to the site coordinator and notify the Territory/Relationship Manager.

  3. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM must start follow-up actions at once, or within seven calendar days, to confirm understanding and compliance of the processes for filing returns timeframes.

Civil Rights Non-Compliance
  1. A noncompliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds the unavailability of civil rights information for all taxpayers who request services at the site. The site must post the civil rights information for all taxpayers whether the site prepares the return or not. The reviewer must provide the site with one or more of the required civil rights products at once:

    • Poster, Publication 4053, Your Civil Rights are Protected

    • Publication 4454, Your Civil Rights are Protected

  2. The reviewer must contact the Territory/Relationship Manager, who helps the site with ordering any products needed using Form 2333V, Order for VITA/TCE Program, or the CAPS products ordering system.

  3. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM must begin follow-up actions at once, or within seven calendar days to verify the posting and availability of civil rights information for taxpayers visiting the site. If the site refuses to comply, the RM must elevate to the TM for resolution.

Site Identification Number (SIDN) Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds a missing or incorrect SIDN on tax returns prepared at the site after the reviewer completes a sample check of computers and/or paper returns. If the reviewer discovers an incorrect SIDN or no SIDN, the reviewer must look at all computers and returns. The reviewer must supply the correct SIDN and educate the site coordinator on the importance of using the SIDN on ALL returns prepared by the site. The reviewer must show the site coordinator and/or volunteers where to include the SIDN on the returns. If the site uses electronic tax preparation software, the reviewer must help the site coordinator in setting the defaults. The reviewer must notify the Territory/Relationship Manager at once.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Action: The RM reviews the weekly SIDN Cycle Report to verify sites use of the correct SIDN. If the site refuses to comply and does not use a correct SIDN, the relationship manager must elevate the situation to the TM for resolution.

Invalid Site Identification Numbers (SIDNs)
  1. SPEC finds site identification numbers (SIDN) that appear in the SIDN Workbook but not in SPECTRM. The information entered in the tax preparation software must match information in SPECTRM to ensure volunteer sites receive credit for the returns processed at their location. SPEC HQ’s staff sends the assigned FS&A analyst (s) the Invalid SIDN report at least seven (7) times during the year (Feb, Mar, Apr, May, July, Sep, Nov). The reports pull all invalid SIDNs’ with a minimum of 1 return. The assigned FS&A analyst shares this information with their territories to make corrections in the tax preparation software, if necessary. The analyst refers any unresolved or suspicious invalid SIDNs’ to the IRS Return Preparer Office (RPO) for further action.

  2. SPEC must find individuals or sites using an SIDN instead of a primary tax identification number (PTIN). An SIDN found by an "S" and a PTIN is identified by a "P." Any individual who prepares or helps 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 for a PTIN with the IRS Return Preparer Office (RPO).

EFIN Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the IRS reviewer performs a sample check of the software on the computers (Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization), and finds the site using an incorrect EFIN. If the reviewer finds an incorrect EFIN, then the reviewer must confirm and correct all computers. The reviewer supplies the correct EFIN and helps the coordinator in setting the correct defaults. The site coordinator must contact the designated software vendor at once for instructions on re-setting EFINs on returns prepared but not yet transmitted. The reviewer must notify the Territory/Relationship Manager at once to figure out the owner of the EFIN. The TM must notify the assigned FS&A analyst of the violation to decide how to notify the EFIN owner.

Non-Compliance With Security, Privacy and Confidentiality Guidelines
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the reviewer finds the site did not secure personally identifiable information (PII) shared by taxpayers, volunteers, and partners. The reviewer supplies Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust to the site coordinator if needed, and explains the correct procedures as outlined in Pub 4299.

  2. Recommended Follow-up Actions: The RM must begin follow-up actions at once, or within seven calendar days to ensure the site set up proper procedures and started using them. If violations continue, this RM must elevate to the TM for resolution.

Data Breaches - Reporting Breaches at VITA/TCE Sites
  1. SPEC developed procedures for reporting potential data breaches at VITA/TCE sites. To protect the taxpayers we serve, volunteers must follow this guidance when a potential data breach affects one or more taxpayers.

  2. A VITA/TCE data breach occurs when a employee sends a taxpayer’s Personally Identifiable Information (PII), whether physically or electronically, without taxpayer permission.

Headquarters Responsibility
  1. SPEC HQ must review all potential data breaches reported to SPEC.

  2. SPEC HQ must recommend the territory when to send the potential data breach to RICS data loss mailbox and any other actions needed based on the below chart:

    If Then
    A volunteer mistakenly shares a copy of another taxpayer’s return or tax documents The Territory must tell the partner to:
    • Contact the taxpayer(s), whose information was mistakenly shared, an offer an apology and supply a brief description of what happened. Also inform the taxpayer of actions taken to avoid future occurrences

    • Encourage the impacted taxpayer(s) to apply for an IP PIN since the IRS has expanded the program to all taxpayers

    • Check all files and downloads from the TaxSlayer software (or any other tax preparation software) prior to sharing regardless of the sharing platform

    The data loss is due to unauthorized access or theft Instruct the territory to follow IRM 22.30.1.8.12.1.12.2 (5), Territory Responsibility, to report the incident to the RICS mailbox.

  3. The assigned SPEC HQ analyst provides a brief overview of the data breach and the status to the Chief, PS for sharing with the SPEC Director.

  4. The assigned SPEC HQ analyst tracks the number of data breaches reported, including the overview and status.

Territory Responsibility
  1. The Territory office decides if a data breach reported by a taxpayer, partner, volunteer, or other source, meets the criteria of a potential data breach.

  2. The Territory office sends all VITA/TCE potential data breaches to the assigned SPEC HQ analyst in PS and FS&A analysts.

    Note:

    Do not send any information directly to the IRS Return Integrity and Compliance Services (RICS) data loss mailbox.

  3. The Territory office Includes the following when sending to SPEC HQ:

    • Date the incident occurred

    • Full name and telephone number of the point of contact who reported the breach

    • Partner name and address

    • Site name and address

    • Brief description of the incident and actions taken by the territory

  4. The Territory office instructs the partner not to send taxpayer information to SPEC.

  5. If instructed by SPEC HQ, the Territory office sends the above contact information at once via email to RICS using the dataloss@irs.gov mailbox.

  6. The Territory office explains to the partner that a member from IRS Return Integrity and Compliance Services (RICS) team may contact them to discuss the details of the data breach and obtain the partner client list, if needed and any other breached items. The information requested is based on the specifics of the data breach but could include SSN’s, EFINs, PTIN’s, etc.

  7. The Territory office informs the partner to follow the instructions in Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, for reporting data loss to IRS/States. Exception: SPEC partners should not report client data theft to the local stakeholder liaison. SPEC partners should instead report potential client data theft to the local SPEC Territory office.

    Note:

    For a complete checklist, see Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals.

  8. After making the referral to RICS, the Territory office follows normal procedures for:

    • Compromised EFINs - Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.8, Required Actions for a Compromised EFIN

    • Intentional VSC Violations - Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.12.9.25 Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Violations

    • TIGTA Referrals - In consultation with PS, the AD decides whether to remove support from the site, and/or refer the issue to TIGTA and/or Criminal Investigation

    Note:

    For a complete checklist, see Data Theft Information for Tax Professionals.

IRS Return Integrity and Compliance Services (RICS) Responsibility
  1. IRS Return Integrity and Compliance Services (RICS) must:

    • Check the dataloss@irs.govmailbox for new receipts

    • Review newly reported potential data breaches and contacting the partner

    • Evaluate the breach during the interview

    • Obtain the partner client list, if needed, and any other breached items. The information requested can include specifics of the data breach and SSNs, EFINs, PTINs, etc.

Discontinuance of IRS Support
  1. Partners who do not follow the Quality Site Requirements violate Volunteer Standards of Conduct 1, which may result in removal from the VITA/TCE Programs and adding the partner to the Volunteer Registry. SPEC removes IRS support if the site coordinator or sponsoring partner refuses to correct the unacceptable actions or violations.

  2. SPEC employees must notify PS at once if a site conducted unacceptable activities that may have a negative impact on the integrity of the IRS and the VITA/TCE program.

  3. TM must decide what IRS supplied support to stop at non-compliant sites. FS&A office must review and make a final decision to ensure all efforts to mediate the situation happens. FS&A must notify PS of the final decision. PS must agree with the decision prior to withdrawing support.

  4. In rare instances, SPEC HQ may decide to a determination to end the relationship with a national partner. In these instances, NP issues the guidance for discontinuance of support.

  5. The physical safety of all parties at the site is the highest priority. SPEC employees must leave the premises at once, contact TIGTA and the TM, and wait for instructions on how to proceed if in the process of discontinuing a relationship or removing government property from a site, the environment becomes confrontational. The TM must notify the FS&A office and the Chief, PS.

Discontinuance of IRS Support Required Actions
  1. If the TM decides to stop IRS support of a partner, the partner or site coordinator must take the following actions:

    1. Validate the transmission of all tax returns and acknowledgement by the IRS. If the return rejected, take necessary actions to correct the error or provide the taxpayer with a paper return for sending to the IRS

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

    3. After backing up the data, remove all taxpayer data from every IRS-loaned or non-IRS computers for desktop users only Contact the IRS SPEC Territory office for instructions on removing 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 726 (with taxpayer signatures) to the local IRS SPEC Territory office

    7. Return IRS products (including training materials) to the local IRS SPEC Territory office

    8. Stop using IRS or SPEC logos

  2. Territories must take the following actions to ensure taxpayer safety when stopping IRS support at a VITA or TCE site:

    1. Validate the site coordinator transmitted all tax returns to the IRS and received acknowledgement for the returns and the IRS accepted the returns or the volunteer gave the taxpayer their return for sending to the IRS. Refer taxpayers with incomplete returns to another volunteer site nearby

    2. Remove the partner and/or site from SPECTRM

    3. Notify the GPO if a grant recipient runs the site

    4. Deactivate the EFIN. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.9 Deactivating VITA and TCE EFIN

    5. For sites using an alternative electronic return preparation and transmission software, the site coordinator must back up all taxpayer data and give the disk to the TM or RM

    6. Send all Form 8453, U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return, to the correct processing center per Publication 1345, IRS e-file Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns

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

    8. Destroy all publicity posters and training materials received from the site coordinator or partner

    9. Ensure the partner or site coordinator returns all loaned computers to the Computer Depot

    10. Ensure the partner or site coordinator returns all loaned printers to the territory

    11. Provide the site with procedures for removing taxpayer data, if applicable

Review Types
  1. SPEC’s quality process relies on multi-tiered reviews including site reviews, return reviews, and referral reviews in a complete quality review process that includes all the following:

    • 100 percent Quality review

    • 100 percent VITA and TCE Grant Partner review

    • Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) reviews

    • Field Site visits/Remote Site reviews

Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews
  1. The QPO promotes and measures compliance with the QSR with the goal of supplying top quality service and correct tax returns for VITA/TCE taxpayers.

  2. The Chief, QPO, reports to the Chief, PS. Tax analysts assigned to QPO conduct QSS reviews.

  3. A QSS review consists of a site review and return reviews. The review process confirms the accuracy of tax returns and compliance with QSR and VSC. These reviews find problems, training needs and best practices third-party.

  4. QPO works with Statistics of Income (SOI) to properly weight the reviews and ensure a valid accuracy measure for the entire VITA/TCE population. The Chief QPO, decides the number of required return reviews with guidance from SOI, before the start of the filing season.

Selecting Sites for Review
  1. Statistics of Income (SOI) decides the sample size and randomly selects the sites for review based on criteria set by SPEC. To promote an unbiased appearance, a selects the sites for review.

  2. Selected sites for QSS reviews come from a prior year site listing provided to SOI pulled from SPECTRM by PS.

  3. QSS reviewers do not announce in person QSS reviews and do not notify the TM, RM, and FS&A analyst prior to the actual site review.

Validation of Quality Program Office (QPO) Statistics of Income (SOI) Site Sample Data
  1. The Chief, Quality Program Office (QPO) assigns the Statistics of Income (SOI) selected sites to QSS reviewers based on geographic locations of the QSS reviewers to increase cost savings to the government.

  2. Because SOI selects sites based on prior year filing season data, QSS reviewers must use the following process to confirm their assigned sites’ status and schedule for the current filing season prior to traveling to the sites:

    1. Search by SIDN - If the reviewer finds the selected site listed and open for the current year in SPECTRM with the same name and same SIDN, review the site

    2. Search by SIDN - If the reviewer finds the selected site is present and open in the current year in SPECTRM with the same SIDN but a different name the name and/or address, review the site. The reviewer bases the review on the SIDN listed on the SOI list and the updated information in SPECTRM

    3. Search by Site Name - If the reviewer finds the selected QSS site listed and open in the current year in SPECTRM with the same name but the SIDN has changed, review the site. The reviewer bases the review on the site name if the SIDN does not exist in SPECTRM

    4. If the reviewer finds the selected QSS site is not listed by SIDN or site name in SPECTRM, do not review the site. The QSS reviewer must notify the Chief, QPO. The QSS reviewer marks these sites as closed on the QSS review schedule on the quality shared drive

Chief, Quality Program Office (QPO) Responsibilities
  1. The Chief of QPO approves requests for travel, travel vouchers, travel compensatory time, regular compensatory time, and credit hours, as required by QSS reviewers to complete review assignments.

  2. Conducts at least one field performance review for each employee. The Chief, QPO notifies the QSS reviewer of the site selected to conduct the performance review. The review consists of watching the employee's adherence to QSS policy and guidance, tax law determinations, and site review file documentation.

  3. The Chief, QPO shares verbal feedback after completion of an employee’s field performance reviews, and after the QSS reviewer uploads the site review file. The Chief, QPO, documents the employee’s performance on Form 15083, Employee Performance Record for QSS Reviews and QPO Activities, and keeps the signed documents in the employee’s EPF.

  4. The Chief, QPO may assign a designee to complete these responsibilities. The Chief, QPO must approve all performance reviews before issuance to QSS reviewers.

Requirements for QSS Reviewers
  1. QSS reviewers must complete the following training and certification tests with scores of 80 percent or higher:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training and complete the FSR Knowledge Check

    • Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) test

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review test

    • Tax law certification at the Advanced and Military level

    • Site Coordinator Training

    • Site Coordinator Test

    • QSS Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

    • Tax preparation software training

  2. This list may change based on tax law changes and/or updated SPEC requirements.

Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
  1. The QPO conducts Continuing Professional Education (CPE) as needed. QPO develops QSS CPE to serve as a critical part of preparing to conduct reviews in a consistent manner. QSS requires all QSS reviewers to complete the CPE. It encompasses changes to policy, procedures, and products that affect QSS reviews. QSS reviewers present and discuss SPEC expectations and tax law updates for the current filling season during CPE.

Site Data Research
  1. Once QSS reviewers receive their review assignments, they must conduct extensive preliminary research. The QSS reviewer researches the status of the site for the current year, site operational information, and contact information. The QSS reviewer records the data in Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet, to plan for the reviews. Resources include:

    • SPECTRM – to verify the SIDN, EFIN, days/hours of operation, the primary contact person at site (site/local coordinator), site coordinator training, and find the TM and RM contact information

    • AARP Tax-Aide Locator- to find AARP sites

    • NPO-ELF 1541 Report - to verify site production information

    • SERP/IRS.gov - to verify that data on SERP and IRS.gov match SPECTRM

    • Third Party Data Store (TPDS) - to verify EFIN status and ensure the system lists at least one responsible official

    • TaxSlayer production reports

Planning for Reviews
  1. Based on data in SPECTRM, the QSS reviewer decides on the status of assigned sites for the upcoming filing season. If research reveals a QSS selected site listed as closed for the upcoming filing season, notify the Chief, QPO.

  2. If research reveals a selected site listed as a FSA standalone site, notify Chief QPO. QSS reviewers do not review FSA standalone sites, as taxpayers prepare their own tax returns at these sites. QSS reviews focus only on returns prepared by volunteers.

  3. QSS reviewers schedule all site visits and enter their schedules on the Quality Share Point in the Filing Season library - under QSS Review Schedule. Due to unforeseen circumstances, QSS reviewers may reschedule assigned reviews (i.e., inclement weather, unscheduled site closure, etc.). QSS reviewers must keep the review schedule updated on a weekly basis.

  4. To secure funding for the scheduled site visits, QSS reviewers must post their travel requests using an Excel worksheet on the Quality Share Point under Quality Reviewer Travel Requests. Once QSS reviewers receive approval for their travel, they must complete authorizations in Concur.

Initial Site Contact
  1. QSS reviewers must conduct reviews in a courteous and professional manner. Upon arrival reviewers watch the general atmosphere and activity at the site. The reviewer introduces themselves to the site coordinator and shows their IRS identification, and hands the coordinator their business card, and a copy of Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return.

  2. The QSS reviewer explains Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return to ensure the site coordinator understands the QSS review process. The reviewer asks the coordinator to the site’s return preparation process from start to finish. The reviewer must request a workstation with access to an electrical outlet and with two chairs if possible. Reviewers must ensure the security of their computer which could mean taking it as they walk around the site. After setting up a workstation, the reviewer randomly selects the first return to review.

  3. In disruption occurs events such as a software outage, loss of internet, or lack of qualified quality reviewers, the site coordinator may implement a contingency plan to keep the site operating. If this occurs during a QSS visit, the reviewer must assess the process and decide if QSS return reviews can take place. If the QSS reviewer cannot complete the QSS review, the reviewer must contact the Chief, QPO. These contingency plans do not apply to all sites.

Selecting Returns for Review
  1. The QSS reviewer randomly select a return, including amended and/or prior year returns to complete the review. The site coordinator must not decide which returns to review.

  2. Since the site must have a quality review process, select a return for review from the quality reviewer. However, if a site does not use a quality review process, the QSS reviewer must select a return for QSS review prior to the taxpayer’s signature.

  3. When selecting returns for review, the QSS reviewer must present their IRS identification to the taxpayer and ask permission to review their tax return.

  4. To ensure the taxpayer understands the QSS review process, supply and explain Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Tax Return, to the taxpayer. The Pub 4675 must include the taxpayer’s tax return in case the taxpayer raises questions about the QSS review after the fact. The Pub 4675 must include the QSS reviewer’s name (full name, first name and last initial, or first initial and last name) or IRS Smart Card ID number. This allows management to prove that the QSS reviewer performed a valid review with no ID theft concerns based on these reviews.

  5. Pub 4675 emphasizes the QSS reviewer does not keep Personally Identifiable Information (PII) as part of the quality return review. Taxpayers may refuse to take part in the QSS review process. If they refuse to take part, the QSS reviewer must randomly select another return for review.

  6. The random selection policy requires selecting from a pool of every tax return available. This includes returns that do not meet either WHO MUST FILE or WHO SHOULD FILE, scope requirements for VITA/TCE and AARP, and returns taxpayers want to e-file or mail to the IRS. If a selected return meets the criteria, the QSS reviewer must add and review more returns for the sample. Thus, the QSS reviewer may need to review more than three tax returns.

  7. Refer to Publication 5171, Return Review Job Aid, for more specific information about selecting and conducting the return review.

Reviewing Returns Using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model
  1. Statistics of Income (SOI) may select sites using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model for QSS reviews. Prior to performing the review, research SPECTRM. If SPECTRM shows the site uses the Virtual VITA/TCE Model, or if the reviewer decides the site uses a virtual process not noted in SPECTRM, follow these procedures to conduct return reviews:

    • QSS reviewers select a return prepared, and quality reviewed using the virtual process for review. When visiting a site that uses both traditional and virtual processes of tax preparation, QSS reviewers must try to select virtually prepared returns before selecting returns prepared using traditional VITA/TCE method

    • Ask the site coordinator to share virtual returns with the taxpayer

    • Randomly select a tax return from these tax returns

    • Verify the taxpayer agreed to allow the review of their tax return by examining Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Taxpayer Consent, to figure out if the taxpayer checked the applicable "Yes" box

    • If the taxpayer checked the "Yes" box, include the return in the review

    • If the taxpayer checked the "No" box, or didn’t check either box, randomly select another tax return prepared virtually, or select a traditionally prepared tax return (face-to-face), continue until the reviewer finds a return with the taxpayer consent to the QSS review box checked "Yes"

    • Review the accuracy of the tax return using the same procedures as a traditional VITA/TCE site with the taxpayer, preparer, and quality reviewer in person

    • If the QSS reviewer needs to clarify the information then the site coordinator contacts the taxpayer, preparer, or quality reviewer to verify the questionable information

    • If the QSS reviewer cannot clarify the information while at the site, explain the issue to the site coordinator to resolve it before filing the return. The reviewer must then randomly select another tax return for review

    • During the Virtual VITA/TCE return review, supply Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return, to the site coordinator to give to the taxpayer when the taxpayer picks up the return

Conducting Return Reviews
  1. QSS reviewers must not review returns out-of-scope tax returns for the VITA/TCE programs. Reviewers must understand scope differences between VITA and AARP. For a complete list of in-scope tax law topics, refer to the fact sheet, Document 13170, Quality Site Requirements Applicable to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Sites. Reviewers must ensure volunteers only prepare and quality reviewing returns within their certification level.

  2. The reviewer must secure the following information necessary to conduct a thorough return review.

    • Primary and secondary taxpayer’s photo ID

    • Social security cards/ITIN letters for everyone listed on the return

    • Bank account and routing information for a direct deposit

      Note:

      Preferably, the QSS reviewers look over the above documents in the presence of the taxpayers to confirm the information on their return. Once confirmed, the QSS reviewer must return the information to the taxpayer at once.

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

    • Tax return, schedules, and worksheets

    • ACA worksheet and applicable Forms 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions or Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC)

    • Tax statements such as Forms W-2, 1099-MISC, 1095-A (Heath Insurance Marketplace Statement), 1095-B (Heath Coverage), and/or 1095-C, Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage etc.

    • Other supporting documents such as expense statements, receipts, etc.

    • If applicable, signed consent forms required by IRC 7216 (secured prior to input of the PIN - See Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust

  3. After securing the above information, the QSS reviewer verifies the completeness of Form 13614-C. The QSS reviewer compares the tax return to a completed and corrected Form 13614-C Form 13614-C and the taxpayers’ statements as the basis for a correct tax return. If the QSS reviewer finds missing information or needs clarification, the reviewer keeps the tax return and requests the necessary information for a correct assessment.

  4. The QSS reviewer must have all the questions answered on Form 13614-C for an effective return review. If Form 13614-C requires correction(s), the QSS reviewer marks "QSS" on Form 13614-C and adds or corrects the information.

  5. The QSS reviewer uses Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, to figure out the accuracy of the selected return. If necessary, the QSS reviewer must use the related job aid to clarify how to respond to each question.

  6. If the QSS reviewer finds an error on the tax return, the reviewer keeps the original return, and the site must make the correction (s). The site coordinator must give copies of the corrected return to the taxpayer and the QSS reviewer.

  7. The IRS defines a correct return as a return with the tax law applied correctly with no errors found based on current tax law, the completed Form 13614-C, and taxpayer’s supporting documents.

  8. SPEC considers a correct return for purposes of the QSS or return review when the return has the tax law applied correctly, all income reported on the correct Form 1040 line, and any error does not exceed tolerance criteria and cause a change of:

    • More than $50 to "Total Income" or "AGI"

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

  9. Tolerance does not apply to the Label section of the return with the name(s), address, and TIN(s). An error in a name, TIN or address makes the return incorrect.

  10. In the case of an error within tolerance, the QSS reviewer must require the site to correct the return so the taxpayer receives an error free return.

  11. The e-filing of $1 as unearned income to allow e-filing of a state return for the benefit of the taxpayer meets tolerance criteria if it does not generate a credit.

  12. Refer to Publication 5171, Return Review Job Aid, for more specific information about selecting and conducting the return review.

Scanning and Redacting the Return
  1. When resources allow, the return review process includes scanning of the documents used to prepare each return reviewed. However, do not scan SSN cards, ITIN letters, photo ID or bank information. Prior to leaving the site, the QSS reviewer must redact (remove) the names, Social Security numbers, bar codes, phone numbers, EIN, addresses, local business names, and any other identified Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from the scanned returns and supporting documents. However, the QSS reviewer must keep the date of birth (DOB) for all persons listed on the return.

  2. If the QSS reviewer cannot remove the PII from the return and supporting documents due to time limits, the reviewer must secure un-redacted returns in a Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) folder on their computer prior to leaving the site. The QSS reviewer must redact PII prior to sending the site review file to SPEC HQ or uploading to the SPEC Quality Shared Drive.

  3. The Management Assistant (MA) in QPO keeps the scanner inventory. The MA creates and keeps a spreadsheet that describes the scanner inventory in QPO. The spreadsheet, at a minimum, includes the bar code, any other identifying information, the assigned reviewer, date assigned, condition of the scanner, and date returned. In addition, the spreadsheet states whether the scanner works and if all parts missing, etc.

    • When a new or detailed reviewer joins QPO for QSS reviews, the MA selects a scanner, updates the spreadsheet to list the assigned scanner information, and releases or mails the scanner to the reviewer. At the end of the QSS reviewer detail, the MA retrieves the scanner at the end of the filing season and notes the date the QSS reviewer returned the scanner on the spreadsheet. The MA ensures employees detailed to QPO return the scanners no later than May 1

    • The MA reconciles the spreadsheet annually to ensure accuracy

Conducting the Site Review
  1. QSS reviewers conduct site reviews to figure out site adherence to QSR and VSC, and to find areas of improvement. QSS reviewers use Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, for this purpose. Usually, the reviewer conducts the return reviews first; however, the reviewer may address the site review questions if waiting for a return review.

  2. QSS reviewers complete Form 6729 is based on seeing site operations, interviewing the coordinator, and reviewing required documents. The reviewer must rely more on observation rather than oral testimony. The QSS reviewer must use their judgement in deciding if the site meets the QSR. The QSS reviewer considers the seriousness of any identified issues or a systemic violation of a QSR when figuring out if the site complied with a QSR.

  3. Although Form 6729 asks more than one question for many of the QSR, each QSR section has only one measurement question. The QPO bolded the measurement questions and valued each question at 10 percent. If the site meets all ten QSR, the QSS reviewer rates the site with 100 percent. By underlining an answer, the reviewer must include an explanation in the comment section.

  4. Refer to Publication 5141, QSS Site Review Job Aid. QSS reviewers must use Publication 5141 with Form 6729, for more specific information about completing the form.

  5. If a QSS reviewer finds any violations any VSC, the reviewer must notify the Chief, QPO at once notified using Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report.

Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator and Volunteers
  1. The QSS reviewer must have feedback discussions with the coordinator prior to leaving the site. The discussion must include expressing appreciation, offering constructive feedback, naming any corrective actions, and addressing coordinator’s questions and concerns. Explain the reviewer sends the final results email to the Territory office and the RM shares the final results with the site.

  2. The QSS reviewers must thank available volunteers and acknowledge their valuable service to their communities.

Errors Found After Leaving the Site
  1. After leaving the site, if the QSS sample reviewer finds an error that changes the result of a tax return review, the QSS reviewer must contact the coordinator to explain the identified error and tell the coordinator to contact the taxpayer. The QSS reviewer must notate the corrective action taken on the history sheet and revise Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet.

Post Review Notification - QSS Review
  1. Within 24 hours after conducting a QSS review, the reviewer must notify the TM of the QSS review via a Post Review Courtesy email or a Post Review Information Request E-mail, using the template developed for this purpose.

  2. The Post Review Information Request email may ask for:

    • Validation that volunteer(s) completed the necessary certification (s)

    • Confirmation that volunteer and approving official signed and dated Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement VITA/TCE Programs

    • Validation of SPECTRM information

  3. The TM has two business days to respond to the Post Review Information Request email. If the TM does not send a response, it impacts the final results of the review.

  4. These emails do not include the final results of the review. However, if the QSS reviewer has completed all review work and can issue the final results including copies of Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet and 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet (discussed below) within 24 hours, the reviewer may issue Final Results email in lieu of the above notification emails.

Completing the Site Quality Module (SQM) Database
  1. By Tuesday following the week of a review, the QSS reviewer must correctly enter Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, and 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, into the Site Quality Module (SQM) in SPECTRM. The Quality Database User Guide supplies instructions on how to access and input results into SQM.

  2. Prior to entering Form 6729 and Form 6729-R into SQM database, the SPECTRM Help Desk must add a profile indicator of "QSS" to the SPECTRM Site Module after each QSS site review. QSS reviewers must not request the QSS indicator before the actual visitation dates as it could compromise the validity of unannounced reviews. To request the indicator, the reviewer must send an email to *W&I SPECTRM Help and add "SPECTRM QSS Indicator" to the Subject Line. The request must include the SIDN and site name.

  3. Once the QSS indicator posts, the reviewer enters Form 6729 and Form 6729-R to the SQM database.

    Note:

    SQM needs the reviewer to enter and save Form 6729 first because it becomes the “parent” form to associate the Form 6729-R when entered.

Final Results Email
  1. QSS reviewers must send the Final Results email no later than ten business days after the review. The reviewers must attach copies of Forms 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, and Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, to the email. To ensure consistency, reviewers must use the template developed for this purpose. The reviewers must not send the email using secured messaging to ensure external national and/or local partners receive it.

  2. Send the final results to:

    • Territory Manager

    • Chief, FS&A

    • Quality Analyst, FS&A

    • Chief, QPO

    • AARP National Relationship Manager (for AARP sites)

    • GPO (for Grant Sites)

  3. The final feedback consists of the results of the site and return reviews and any identified activities that include, but not limited to:

    • QSR noncompliance

    • VSC violations

    • Areas of weaknesses

    • Corrective actions provided to the site coordinator

    • Best practices

    • Recommended follow-up action for the territory

Territory Follow-up Actions
  1. As soon as possible, but no later than five business days after receiving the Final Results email, the TM and RM must review the information and send the results and forms to:

    • Site coordinator

    • Responsible Partner

    • AARP State Coordinator, if applicable

  2. The QSS reviewer must include non-compliance to the QSR and VSC violations in the final results email to the Territory office. In response to the reviewer’s recommended corrective and/or follow-up actions, the TM must contact the RM to begin follow-up actions as soon as possible.

  3. The RM must document follow-up actions at the bottom of the email and send it to the QSS reviewer and FS&A quality analyst within seven business days. If the RM and TM do not respond about recommended corrective and/or follow-up actions, the reviewer must note the reasons and send within seven business days in the same manner listed above. If the RM or TM do not respond, the QSS reviewer closes the case and documents the reviewer did not receive a prompt response on the history sheet. The territory and/or FS&A quality analysts must keep on top of these responses.

Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Case Files
  1. As QSS reviewers complete a planned review, they prepare a case file with the results of the site review and, three return reviews.

  2. The QSS reviewer records the accuracy of returns and the results of the site review in the Final-Results email.

  3. The QSS reviewer uploads the redacted site review files to the Quality Shared Drive within fifteen days after the review. The electronic files include:

    • Post Review Courtesy, Information Request, and Final Results emails

    • Relationship Managers (RM) corrective/follow-up actions response

    • Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet, updated for review result

    • Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet

    • Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet

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

    • Tax returns, schedules, and worksheets

    • Corrected tax returns, if applicable

    • All documents used to prepare the returns

  4. The QSS reviewer keeps the electronic files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30th.

  5. If the QSS reviewer cannot scan and upload paper site review files, the reviewer must mail the hard copy of the redacted case file no later than fifteen business days after the review to the following address:

    Internal Revenue Service

    Attn: SPEC - Quality Program Office

    401 W. Peachtree St. NW, Stop 54-WI

    Atlanta, GA 30308

Secondary Reviews
  1. Secondary reviews supply a second review of the QSS return reviews used to establish the official SPEC accuracy measure. Secondary reviews confirm that QSS return reviewers prepared return reviews correctly and ensure the case files have adequate documentation to make a correct assessment. The case file review includes both the site review and at least one return review.

  2. The secondary reviewer must:

    • Check that the case file includes the correct Forms 6729, Site Review Sheet, and 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, entered in the Site Quality Module (SQM) database

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

    • Review at least one tax return and confirm the QSS reviewer correctly determined the accuracy of the tax return reviewed

    • Compare the QSS reviewer’s final-results email to the case file to ensure accuracy and consistency

    • Search for un-redacted Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

    • Review the case files for accuracy, completeness, clarity, and timeliness

    • Confirm the order of the case file based on the QPO case file assembly guide

  3. The Chief, QPO may keep results of these reviews in the QSS reviewer’s Employee Performance Files (EPF) as an official document. The Chief, QPO (or actor) must approve and sign the secondary reviews before issuing the results to the QSS reviewer.

Secondary Review Procedures
  1. The Chief, QPO may conduct or delegate a SPEC HQ analyst to conduct secondary reviews of QSS case files. The secondary review includes a review of the completed case file, including the site review and at least one return review. The Chief, QPO may use these reviews to evaluate the performance of the QSS reviewer.

  2. The Chief, QPO uses the QSS reviews results to decide if SPEC conducted its official accuracy measure consistently and to ensure all QSS reviewers adhere to all established procedures for these reviews. SPEC uses the QSS return review results to figure out the official SPEC accuracy measure.

  3. Secondary case file reviews confirm QSS return reviewers prepared QSS return reviews case files correctly and ensure the case files have adequate documentation to verify the return accuracy determination. The secondary reviewer reviews Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet to ensure the QSS reviewer made the correct determination based on the contents of the case file.

  4. Secondary reviews may highlight opportunities to correct trending problems or shared best practices.

  5. Secondary reviewers must complete secondary case file reviews within thirty (30) days of the date case files posts to the Quality Shared Drive.

Secondary Reviewer Training
  1. Analysts conducting secondary reviews must complete the following annual training and certification:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training

    • Intake/Interview & Quality Review Process Training

    • Quality statistical sample (QSS) training - all sessions

    • Minimum of tax law certification at the Advance and Military levels

    • TaxSlayer training

Certification of ALL Secondary Reviews
  1. All secondary reviewers must certify at the Advanced and Military certification levels prior to reviewing QSS case files and making tax law determinations.

  2. Secondary reviewers complete training on the procedures used to conduct a secondary review on a completed case file. Secondary reviewers report to the Chief, QPO.

Selecting Case Files for Review
  1. The Chief, QPO, or designee, selects case files for secondary review from all planned QSS return reviews provided by Statistics of Income (SOI) annually. The secondary reviewer must complete at least one secondary review on each QSS reviewer.

  2. The Chief, QPO must review at least one case file for each analyst conducting secondary reviews.

Case Files for Secondary Reviews
  1. As the QSS reviewers complete a planned review, they must prepare a case file with the results of the site review and three return reviews.

  2. The QSS reviewer must record the accuracy of returns and the results of the site review in the final-results email.

  3. The QSS reviewer must place an electronic version of the case file on the Quality Shared Drive.

  4. The secondary reviewer must complete each secondary case file reviews within fourteen (14) days of receipt of the completed QSS case file.

Assigning Reviews
  1. The Chief, QPO distributes cases to each secondary reviewer based on their availability.

  2. The secondary reviewer must review the site review, at least one return review, and the final-results email.

Conducting the Secondary Case File Reviews
  1. The secondary reviewer must verify that the correct Site Quality Module (SQM) Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, and Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, and included in the case file. The reviewer must verify the four-digit identification numbers at the bottom of all forms in the case file match the respective numbers in the SQM database. The SPECTRM system assigns the four-digit number after the employee enters the review into SQM.

  2. The secondary reviewer must confirm that the QSS reviewer issued the correct Form 6729 and Form 6729-R with the final-results email, and that the QSS reviewer included forms in the completed case file.

    1. If the forms match, the secondary reviewer can continue their review

    2. If the forms do not match or the file has more than one Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, or more Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, than returns reviewed, the secondary reviewer must inform the Chief, QPO of the discrepancy

  3. The secondary reviewer must ensure the case file has all required documents in the proper order based on instructions in the Case File Assembly Job Aid, found on the Quality SharePoint site.

  4. If the case file has any missing or incomplete documents, the secondary reviewer must try to find them on the Quality shared drive.

    1. This by itself, does not result in an inaccurate review because the secondary reviewer may make an accuracy assessment without it

    2. If the secondary reviewer cannot find the missing information (incomplete return, pertinent forms or supporting documents) on the shared drive, and the secondary reviewer cannot make an accurate assessment without them, the secondary reviewer must call the QSS reviewer to ask about the documents

    3. If the QSS reviewer cannot supply the documents, the secondary reviewer must obtain concurrence from the Chief, QPO that the case file must have the missing forms. The secondary reviewer must case file documents in the correct order if needed

  5. The secondary reviewer must check the tax return and source documents for any un-redacted Personally Identifiable Information (PII). If the cased file has un-redacted PII, the secondary reviewer must redact the PII and notate these findings in their secondary review results.

  6. Ensure the file has correct footers and headers, as needed.

  7. Compare Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, the tax return, and all source documents to ensure all information matches. The case file needs only page 1 and 2.

  8. Ensure Form 13614-C does not have any unanswered questions and the QSS reviewer checked all “Unsure” answers changed to "Yes" or "No" . The QSS reviewer considers missed or any "Unsure" responses on Form 13614-C, as an incomplete form.

  9. Check Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet and/or Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet, for any clarification of any tax law issues on the tax return.

  10. To figure out if the QSS reviewer made the correct return accuracy determination, the secondary reviewer must use their tax law knowledge and available job aids to compare Form 13614-C, and all supporting documents, to the tax return and Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet.

  11. The case file should have enough information to decide if the QSS reviewer made the correct return accuracy determination.

    1. If the file has enough information, complete the secondary review

    2. If the file does not have enough information, the secondary reviewer must contact the QSS reviewer for clarification and document any information provided by the QSS reviewer in the case file

    3. If the QSS reviewer supplies more information, include it in the secondary review results

    4. If the QSS reviewer has no more information, the secondary reviewer must decide if the QSS reviewer made the wrong accuracy determination or if the QSS reviewer supplied an inconclusive case file

  12. The secondary reviewer must review Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, Form 14512, and the final-results email to ensure all match.

  13. If the QSS reviewer incorrectly found the return as in-scope of the VITA/TCE program, the QSS reviewer must do the following:

    • Review the return

    • Keep the Form 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet in the SQM database

    • Submit the case to the Chief, QPO for reassignment if the secondary reviewer does not have the tax law certification level for the return

    • Note the return was "out-of-scope" and the reason in the secondary review results

    • The secondary reviewer must update Form 6729, Form Site Review Sheet changed in the SQM database with a comment explaining the site is prepared out-of-scope returns and included the tax law topic that was out-of-scope

    Note:

    The preparer’s certification level does not decide scope of returns. The VITA/TCE Program based on out-of-scope returns on the Scope of Service chart in Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide.

Correcting the Site Quality Module (SQM)
  1. If the secondary reviewer finds an error on either Form 6729, Site Review Sheet or Form 6729-R, the secondary reviewer must work with the QSS reviewer and SPECTRM Help Desk to correct the Site Quality Module (SQM) database.

Providing Written Feedback
  1. The secondary reviewer must give feedback to the QSS reviewer at the completion of the secondary review. The Chief, QPO must approve the secondary review before issuance to the QSS reviewer.

  2. The secondary reviewer may include results of the secondary review on Form 15083, Employee Performance Record for QSS Reviews and QPO Activities.

  3. The Chief, QPO may include the results of the secondary review in the QSS reviewer’s Employee Performance File (EPF).

  4. If the secondary reviewer finds errors made in the QSS reviewer’s case file that do not change the QSS reviewer’s determinations, the reviewer must refrain from sending a notice of change outside of the QPO. Once the QSS reviewer and the Chief, QPO, concur, the Chief, QPO must send the results of the secondary review to only the:

    • Assigned QSS Reviewer

    • Chief, QPO

  5. If the secondary reviewer wants to change the outcome of a QSS reviewer’s determination due to insufficient case file documentation resulting in an inconclusive outcome, the secondary reviewer must work with the QSS reviewer to obtain the necessary documentation. If the secondary reviewer cannot get the documentation, the secondary reviewer must work with the QSS reviewer and the Chief, QPO, to make a final determination. The reviewer must refrain from issuing a notice of change outside of the QPO. In this case, the secondary reviewer must make the change(s) to these forms in the Site Quality Module (SQM). The secondary reviewer must send a feedback email to:

    • The assigned QSS reviewer

    • The Chief, QPO

  6. However, if the secondary reviewer finds the QSS reviewer made an incorrect tax law determination, the secondary reviewer must work with the QSS reviewer and the Chief, QPO to make a final determination. The secondary reviewer must make change(s) to the forms entered in the SQM database. In addition, the QSS reviewer must issue a "notice of change to the final-results" by email to the Territory office. The QSS must send this email unsecured with the corrected forms to the:

    • Territory Manager

    • Relationship Manager

    • Quality FS&A Analyst

    • Chief, QPO

    • AARP National Relationship Manger, if applicable

    • GPO, if applicable

  7. The RM must send the notice of change and corrected forms to their site coordinator and partner.

Keeping the Secondary Review Case Files
  1. Once a secondary reviewer has completed a review of all sampled returns in a case file and has given feedback, the secondary reviewer must supply the results of the secondary review to the Chief, QPO for approval and issuance.

  2. SPEC HQ must keep both the QSS and secondary case files for three years.

Closing the Case File
  1. Reviewers must upload site review files to the QPO shared drive within seven business days from the last date the reviewer can edit forms in the Site Quality Module (SQM) database. The reviewer must enter the QSS review in the SQM by the Wednesday following the date of the review. The secondary review closes the case file after uploading the site review files to the Quality shared drive. The QSS reviewer must keep the case files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30th of the year of the review.

  2. If the secondary reviewer must create paper site review files due to scanner or other technical issues, the QSS reviewer must mail the paper case file to Chief, QPO within seven business days from the last date the reviewer can edit the forms in the SQM database, to the following address:
     

    Internal Revenue Service
    Attn: SPEC - Quality Program Office
    401 W. Peachtree St. NW, Stop WI-54
    Atlanta, GA 30308

Field Site Visits
  1. FSV measures adherence to the QSR and VSC.

  2. FSV consist of one return review and one site review.

  3. SPEC Territory offices must visit a minimum number of the total sites within territory boundaries. This promotes the IRS relationship with site coordinators and volunteers and supports Headquarters’ requirements.

  4. SPEC Territory offices review QSS reviews, SPEC shopping reviews, and FSV/RSR to figure out the sites not visited within the past 5-years.

  5. SPEC Territory offices must Include one day, ad hoc, roving, and mobile sites when planning field site visits.

  6. SPEC Territory offices conduct supplemental ad-hoc field visits as decided by the TM.

  7. SPEC Territory offices must coordinate RSR in advance with partners. The Territory office cannot announce the FSV.

  8. SPEC territory offices must not complete reviews within the site’s first week in operation.

  9. SPEC Territory offices conduct FSV/RSR on the traditional VITA/TCE part of FSA fusion sites, but TCs must review the FSA process. If the site does not adhere to the QSR in the FSA process, the reviewer must rate the site as not met for that QSR on the site review.

  10. When a tax consultant cannot conduct FSV on the intake, tax preparation, and quality review stages for virtual VITA/TCE sites, tax consultants must review the agreement or Memorandum of Understanding for virtual sites to decide whether to use FSV or a RSR to complete the review.

  11. Each FSV includes a site review and one return review. Report the FSV results on Site Review Sheet, and the return review results on Form 6729-C, Return Review Sheet.

  12. SPEC HQ supplies the SETR Code and Internal Order Code.

Selection of Sites
  1. SPEC Territory offices must review at least one site affiliated with each of the VITA and TCE grant partners in their territory. SPEC Territory office must include VITA and TCE grant partners in FS&A and territory comprehensive field site visit plan requirements. SPEC Territory offices may complete reviews at more than one site from each grant partner.

  2. When selecting sites for FSV/RSR, partners often have sites in proximity. These sites often use the same coordinator and volunteers. If possible, do not select multiple sites led by the same coordinator/volunteers for review in the same year.

  3. FSV criteria:

    • New sites during their first year of operation

    • Problem sites - complaints or negative feedback on operation and/or volunteers (current or prior year), deficient performance based on prior year site review, etc.

    • Established sites with new site coordinators

    • Sites not reviewed in the last five years

    • E-file sites with high reject rates

    • FSA fusion sites (FSA and traditional VITA/TCE services provided)

    • Virtual VITA/TCE sites

    • VITA and TCE grant sponsor sites

    • Sites taking part in the CAA program

    • Territory Manager’s discretion

  4. SPEC Territory offices must not include FSA-only and remote FSA sites in the criteria for selecting sites for FSV.

  5. SPEC Territory offices most FSV during the filing season (January through April 15th). However, SPEC Territory offices must conduct FSV at sites open after April 15th to ensure adequate oversight throughout the year.

Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site Visits
  1. SPEC Territory offices must not announce FSV with return reviews. SPEC Territory offices pre-plan a minimum number of FSV to ensure a minimum number of territory sites receive an FSV. SPEC Territory offices complete Ad-hoc visits as decided by the TM. Anyone in the SPEC Territory office may conduct an FSV. The SPEC Territory office must consider employee experience level as no grade restriction exists.

  2. SPEC Territory offices consider previous year QSS reviews, SPEC shopping reviews, Field Site visits, and Remote Site reviews when selecting a site for a Field site visit. The SPEC Territory office makes efforts to include one-day, ad hoc, roving, and mobile sites when planning field site visits.

  3. SPEC HQ supplies the percentage of the minimum number of reviews required each year.

Assigning Sites
  1. The TM assigns all FSV/RSR. RM complete the FSV/RSR.

Preliminary Research
  1. The tax consultant (TC) must conduct extensive preliminary research when they receive their assignments.

  2. The TC must use Form 14512, History Sheet, to capture the results from preliminary research and the site/return reviews. TC must include Form 14512 in the FSV/RSR case file.

  3. The TC must complete pre-work before going on the field visit. The TC conducting the visit must obtain the following information to verify its accuracy when applicable:

    1. Verify site information through SPEC/SERP reports. During field site visits, the TC must verify the information entered in SPECTRM with the actual data for accuracy. Verify the address, dates/hours of operations, contact information, and available services

    2. Validate volunteer information with Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, or partner developed list with the same information. Validate the site coordinator completed Site Coordinator Training and certified with Site Coordinator Test. Ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects site coordinator test information

    3. Review e-file activity from the E-file reports page (1541) and the total returns filed (e-file and paper) from the Individual Master File (IMF) report (SIDN). The E-file reports update daily to report the number of e-filed returns for the current year and the prior year during the same cycle. The 1541 report shows the current e-file reject rate. The IMF SIDN information updates weekly and supplies the number of returns filed using the SIDN broken out by e-filed and paper returns. Review available TaxSlayer reports and verify the e-services information on Third Party Data Store (TPDS)

    4. Review the partners and volunteers listed on Form 13533, Sponsor Agreements, and Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or partner developed list with the same information, to compare the list of any partners or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry. If a partner or volunteer appears on both the Volunteer Registry and Form 13206 or Form 13533, the SPEC Territory office must notify the partner or volunteer, add their name to the Volunteer Registry and remove them from volunteering in the VITA/TCE program indefinitely. If the partner or volunteer tries to volunteer after this notification, the Territory office must notify TIGTA

Planning the Review
  1. Based on SPECTRM data, (TC) cuts closed sites from the plan. TCs must not complete reviews within site’s first week in operation.

  2. Visits must maximize available travel resources. This may include scheduling more than one file site visit on the same day in a specific area.

Unannounced Field Site Visits (FSV) versus Announced Remote Site Reviews (RSR)
  1. Tax consultants do not announce FSV because they must include a return review. TC must an upcoming FSV if needed. For example, if the TC needs to access a military base.

    Note:

    Ensure the TC brings their SmartID when visiting a military base.

  2. TCs do announce RSR so the TC can schedule the review at the coordinator’s convenience.

  3. TCs must not complete reviews within the site's first week in operation.

Conducting Field Site Visits
  1. Visits must maximize available travel resources (e.g., more than one site visits in a particular area in one day).

    Note:

    SPEC uses both the terms reviewer and tax consultant throughout this section.

  2. Tax consultants must consider the continuing operation of the site during the visit. TCs conduct most field site visits between February 1st and April 15th. However, TCs conduct visits throughout the course of the year for sites open after April 15th.

  3. Tax consultants use Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, and Form 6729-C, Field Site Visit Return Review Sheet, to capture the results of the field site visits. TCs must enter the results from these reviews in the Site Quality Module (SQM) of SPECTRM by Tuesday of the week following the visit.

  4. Discuss the results of the visit with the site coordinator prior to leaving the site and send a follow-up by email to the site coordinator (and state coordinator, if AARP) within 7 business days of the visit. The TM may allow more time based on the TC’s workload.

  5. If a TC cannot meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM at once. SPEC has published deadlines for:

    • Entering the results in the SQM

    • Issuing the final results email

    • Completing the case file

  6. The TC must generate a copy of Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, from the SQM and attach it to the results email. SPEC provides email templates to help with reporting the results of the visit.

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

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights - A Public Trust

    • Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements

  8. Tax consultants may ask the site coordinator or their representative for clarification on site processes while conducting the field visit

  9. In all cases, tax consultants must take the opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to the site coordinator and volunteers at the site.

  10. Where a field visit review requires a change in site operations, the tax consultant must resolve the issue with the site coordinator prior to leaving the site and report it to the RM assigned to the site, if different than the TC.

  11. The assigned TC typically conducts the FSV but the TM may assign otherwise. The reviewer must share immediate verbal feedback with the primary TC for the site if not the reviewer, including positive comments, problem areas and recommended actions.

  12. TM must perform at least one field performance review on each tax consultant conducting field site visits.

  13. The quality FS&A analyst must work with each territory during the planning stages to ensure territories follow all procedures. FS&A must implement a process to ensure territories adhere to adequate oversight of all volunteer sites.

  14. Territory offices keep files from FSV.

Conducting the Review
  1. The TC must begin the review by thanking the coordinator for their participation in the VITA/TCE program. The TC tells the coordinator that the review includes a site review and a return review for an FSV.

  2. The TC must explain:

    • For the site review, the TC must ensure the site’s adherence to all QSR and ethical standards shown on the volunteer agreement

    • For the return review, the TC must confirm return accuracy. The TC shares a copy of Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return, when selecting a return for review

    • The TC shares preliminary results answers questions after completing the reviews

  3. The TC selects the return to review. When possible, the TC conducts the return review first, so the TC has a true and unbiased snapshot of the site’s return preparation process. The TC begins the site review first, if waiting for a reviewer to complete the return review. If the site does not have a return available when the TC enters the site, the TC begins the site review.

  4. The TC cannot answer any tax law questions until after completing the return review.

Field Site Visit (FSV) Return Reviews
  1. A return review includes:

    • Verification of the taxpayer’s identity using photo identification

    • Verification of the social security numbers (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) using acceptable documentation (see Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust)

    • A review of a complete Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet

    • Comparison of the information on the return, including supporting forms and schedules, to the information on Form 13614-C, and all source documents (such as Forms W-2, 1099-MISC, receipts, etc.)

  2. The TC captures the return review results on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet.

  3. When possible conduct the return review first to obtain a true and unbiased snapshot of the site’s return preparation process. If the site does not have a return available when the TC enters the site, the TC begins the site review.

  4. If the TC cannot review a return while at the site, the TC must tell the TM the site still needs a return review. The reviewer for the second visit must not announce the review in advance. The TC must note in the case file the TC did not complete a return review and must explain the reason and the results of the discussion with the TM.

  5. Prior to beginning the review, ensure the site supplied the documents used to prepare the return. The TC must review for missing documents or an incomplete Form 13614-C and request the missing information while keeping the return. The TC cannot begin the review until they receive all necessary documents.

  6. The TC cannot answer any questions until after completing the return review.

  7. Only the TC conducting the FSV selects the return for review. Coordinators, volunteer preparers, and quality reviewers cannot select the tax returns for review.

    1. Select the first return through the site’s quality review process. Reviewers can review prior year returns

    2. Select the return after it has gone through the quality review process, but before the taxpayer has signed Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization

  8. If the site does not have a quality review process, randomly select a return for review considered by the site as ready for the taxpayer’s signature.

  9. The TC finds themselves and asks the taxpayer for permission to review the return. The TC gives the taxpayer a copy of Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Tax Return, and explains the return review process. The TC gives the coordinator a copy of Publication 4675.

  10. Only the taxpayer has the right to refuse a review. The coordinator, partner, or certified volunteer must not influence the taxpayer’s decision to allow you to review the return.

  11. Inform the taxpayer that they must remain at the site until the reviewer completes the return review process to answer any questions that may arise during the review.

  12. If the TC finds an incorrect return entry, the TC must include a comment on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet. Then, the TC must share the results with the partner and coordinator to improve their training or operational process.

Conducting the Return Review for Field Site Visits
  1. Once the tax consultant (TC) has the taxpayer’s permission to review a return:

    1. Confirm the taxpayer’s identity using photo identification

    2. Verify all SSN or ITIN for everyone listed on the return

    3. Ask to see the direct deposit account information

    4. Confirm the certification level of both the volunteer preparer and quality reviewer of the return

    5. Review for completeness of Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet. Conduct the return review once the reviewer receives a complete Form 13614-C

    6. If the volunteer did not use Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, or used an unapproved intake/interview sheet or an incomplete Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, the reviewer keeps the tax return and if the reviewer returns the incomplete Form 13614-C to the volunteer:

    • Circle all incomplete items and ask the volunteer to complete the form with the taxpayer

    • Notate incomplete/missing information in Comments on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet

    • Repeat the process if the volunteers return with a still incomplete Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet

    • If the site did not use or used an unapproved intake/interview sheet, supply a Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet to complete

  2. If the site did not use an intake/interview sheet or used or an unapproved intake/ interview form:

    1. Give the coordinator a copy of Form 13614-C Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, and ask a volunteer to complete the form with the taxpayer

    2. Notate in Comments on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet, the site did not use a Form 13614-C or used an unapproved form

  3. If the TC finds discrepancies or conflicting information between the tax return, source documents, and Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet:

    1. Ask the coordinator to clarify the discrepancies with the taxpayer

    2. Keep the tax return until the coordinator answers the questions

    3. Clearly explain the discrepancies on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet

  4. If the TC cannot decide accuracy based on supporting documentation:

    1. Return Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, to the coordinator and ask for clarification for the item(s) in question

    2. Keep the tax return until the coordinator answers the questions

  5. Show corrections to Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, by writing "SPEC" near the correction.

  6. Complete Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet, after reviewing the tax return.

  7. The TC must compare the completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, to the tax return and supporting documents.

  8. Review the tax return line-by-line against the information provided on Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, and source documents.

  9. Report all errors on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet, (tax law application, computation, and return entry) regardless of their impact on total tax liability, refund, or amount owed.

  10. Answer all questions on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet, based on the results of the return review.

Out-of-Scope Returns
  1. The TC must not review out-of-scope returns for the volunteer VITA/TCE program, including added topics for AARP sites. The TC cannot review returns with extra topics considered in-scope for AARP sites unless the TC certified in tax law for these topics.

  2. The TC must ensure volunteers only prepare returns within their certification level. If the TC reviews a return beyond the certification level of the volunteer preparer but still within scope of the VITA/TCE program, the TC must:

    1. Note the topics beyond the certification level of the volunteer on Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet

    2. Explain to the coordinator that all IRS tax law-certified volunteers must prepare returns within their certification level

    3. Tell the coordinator the Volunteer Protection Act does not protect volunteers preparing returns outside their certification level

  3. If the TC finds an out-of-scope return for the VITA/TCE program, the TC must:

    1. Tell the coordinator about the out-of-scope return and the taxpayer needs help of a professional return preparer

    2. Have the coordinator destroy or remove the return from the software

    3. Return all supporting documents to the taxpayer

    4. Tell the coordinator/partner to implement a process for finding out‑of-scope returns early in the return preparation process

  4. Include the out-of-scope issue in "Comments" on Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet. If the TC decides the preparer completed an incorrect return and when corrected, the return has out-of-scope topics, the TC can still use the return to complete the review. The site coordinator must inform the taxpayer that we cannot prepare their return. The site coordinator then must recommend they seek a professional return preparer.

The Site Review
  1. A site review decides site adherence to the QSR and VSC. Site reviews enable the TC to help the coordinator and improve site efficiencies.

  2. The TC tries to conduct a return review prior to the site review. However, the TC may begin a site review at once wen the TC has to wait for a quality reviewed return.

  3. The TC completes Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, based on observations and a review of documents. The TC can accept oral testimony from coordinator if the TC cannot review documentation or observe a specific operation. The TC asks more questions to ensure a complete understanding of the coordinator’s process.

  4. When the TC finds an issue during a field site visit/remote site review (FSV/RSR), the TC must help the coordinator with finding and taking the steps necessary to resolve the issue.

    Note:

    Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, supplies more detailed information on each QSR and corrective or follow-up actions.

Conducting the Site Review
  1. The TC tries to begin the site review after completing the return review.

  2. The TC sees the site’s processes as soon as they arrive at the site. The TC must see Civil Rights and VolTax information when entering the site. The TC checks for the latest revision dates on posters and/or publications.

  3. The TC asks the coordinator to:

    • List the names of all volunteers at the site

    • Confirm the certifications for each volunteer

      Note:

      The TC confirms the certification levels at once to help with the return review.

  4. The TC asks the coordinator to explain the return preparation process from the taxpayer’s perspective from the time the taxpayer walks in the door to the point when they leave with a completed tax return.

    1. Use open-ended questions

    2. Ask follow-up questions if the coordinator does not address all aspects of each QSR

  5. The TC asks about reference materials.

  6. The TC asks the coordinator how they provide VolTax and Civil Rights information if the TC did not see the posters when entering the site or the site has outdated posters.

  7. The TC asks the coordinator to describe security measures taken to protect taxpayers’ privacy.

  8. The TC asks how volunteers verify:

    • The taxpayer and spouse’s identity through photo identification

    • Taxpayer identification numbers (TIN) for everyone named on the return using documentation

  9. The TC confirms the site has the required reference materials. The TC checks that the site has:

    • At least one copy (paper or electronic) of Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

    • At least one copy (paper or electronic) of Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust

    • At least one copy (paper or electronic) of Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (For Individuals)

    • All current‑year Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA) and Quality Site Requirement Alerts (QSRA)

  10. The coordinator must have a process to confirm all Forms 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement-VITA/TCE Programs, have signatures and dates from both the volunteer and partner/partner-designee.

  11. The TC ensures the site has VolTax information including Publication 4836, VITA and TCE Free Tax Programs, or Poster D143, AARP Foundation Tax Aide, (for AARP sites). The TC verifies the site displays the poster in a visible location.

  12. The TC asks the coordinator to explain the site’s e-file process. The coordinator must take reasonable steps to:

    • Transmit the tax returns within 3 days

    • Retrieve acknowledgements within 2 days

    • Notify a taxpayer if the site cannot correct a reject within 24 hours

    • Handle Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization

    • Handle Form 8453, Individual Income Tax Transmittal, when the taxpayer has supporting documents not sent to the IRS in the electronic records

  13. The TC confirms the site displays the latest revision of Civil Rights poster(s). In addition to the English/Spanish Publication 4053, Your Civil Rights are Protected, and the AARP Tax Aide D143, Civil Rights posters, all VITA/TCE sites serving Limited English Proficient (LEP) taxpayers must post Publication 4053 in applicable languages.

  14. The TC confirms the SIDN and EFIN by having the coordinator state or show the SIDN and EFIN used at the site.

  15. The TC asks the coordinator to explain the process used to ensure each volunteer wears/displays, at a minimum, their first name and the first letter of their last name to the taxpayers they serve.

  16. The TC figures out every volunteer involved with the submission of a return from the preparation stage through e-file acceptance. The coordinator must show limits for volunteers’ permissions in the software to those needed for their duties at the site.

  17. The TC asks the site coordinator to dispose sensitive material at the site. The TC asks the site coordinator about measures during the filing season and after the filing season. The TC asks the coordinator about all electronic equipment.

  18. The TC asks the site coordinator about adherence to IRC 7216 requirements. Sites with a relational EFIN must use consent notices. See Pub 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, for more information on IRC 7216. The consent notices in Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, has more detailed information on each QSR and corrective or follow‑up actions.

Follow-Up Site Reviews
  1. If necessary, conduct a follow-up visit of a site to ensure adherence to a requested change in operations. These follow-up visits help site coordinators improve site operations and incorporate other helpful best practices. The reviewer must conduct a follow-up visit within 7 days of the first visit.

  2. The reviewer must consider the timing of a follow up visit. For instance, a site needs to make changes in its electronic filing transmission process, but the site transmits only once a week. The reviewer needs to visit when the site transmits next. If a FSV reveals a site not following the QSR or other requirements, the reviewer instructs the coordinator on how to follow with the QSR. The reviewer must plan a follow up visit to ensure the site has corrected the concerns. If the site did not correct the identified concerns, the TC must consult with the TM to decide further actions. As a last resort, the TC must follow procedures for closing a site. SPEC lists these procedures in the VITA and TCE Site Requirements and Inappropriate Activities.

  3. The TC and the TM decide how to conduct the follow-up (phone, RSR, or FSV). The TC must conduct the follow-up within seven days of the first review. If the site has not corrected the identified issues, the TC consults with the TM to decide the next action. The TC must elevate all VSC violations through the TM.

    Note:

    See Publication 5166, VITA/TCE Quality Site Requirements, for more guidelines on conducting follow up visits.

Virtual VITA/TCE Sites
  1. SPEC conducts reviews at Virtual VITA/TCE sites.

  2. The review includes all stages of the virtual process. If the TC cannot visit the intake, return preparation, and quality review locations for the virtual process, the TC must call the coordinator or volunteer at the other location(s) to complete the site review. The TC obtains concurrence from the TM on which sites(s) to visit in person and which to contact virtually.

  3. At times, the TC cannot conduct a FSV at both the intake and tax preparation sites. The TC decides which sites need a FSV and which site needs a remote site review (RSR) after reviewing the approved program plan. The TC must request guidance from the TM when uncertain how to conduct the FSV/RSR for a Virtual VITA/TCE site. The TC must ensure the site adheres to the pre-approved agreement.

  4. The TC selects a return for review after the return has gone through the quality review process.

  5. The TC must confirm the site follows all QSR and any exceptions need approval from the SPEC Director.

  6. The TC completes only one Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, for Virtual VITA/TC sites based on data obtained from both locations.

  7. The TC ensures the site follows all security guidelines detailed in Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust.

Reviewing a VITA/TCE Grant Site
  1. The review of a VITA/TCE grant site focuses on the site’s quality operations and return accuracy only. The TC must elevate any findings unrelated to the to the QSR or VSC to the GPO. Do not discuss any findings relating to the GPO with the coordinator during the review. In addition, the TC must not include grant program related findings on the final results email or enter in SPECTRM.

Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Sites
  1. The TC must conduct the field site visit or remote site review on the traditional VITA/TCE part of FSA fusion sites. However, tax consultants must include the FSA process in their review.

Preliminary Feedback Discussion
  1. Prior to leaving the site or ending the virtual contact, the reviewer must discuss the review results with the coordinator.

    • The reviewer must express appreciation to the coordinator and volunteers for volunteering and for their time during the review

    • Discuss best practices and supply constructive feedback

    • State any issues and corrective actions

    • Verify the coordinator’s email address

    • State the TC must send the final written results within 14 calendar days

    • Ask if the coordinator has any questions or concerns

  2. The reviewer must not leave a copy of the Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, with review results with the coordinator on the day of the visit.

Site Review Results
  1. Throughout the filing season, the Territory offices may analyze data collected is available for Territory office analysis. The analysis helps SPEC, and its partners assess the sites’ current and future performance and confirms the consistency of operation as compared to the Quality Site Requirements. This allows SPEC, and its partners to predict the continued success of the volunteer site. The IRS Territory office analyzes the data for trends or patterns and compares the performance of a process or activity before and after the implementation of a solution.

  2. SPECTRM keeps the data from site review results for the territory, area and national levels for analysis and sharing with partners. SPEC may access reports for specific weeks of activity or cumulatively for the filing season. On a national level, SPEC uses the data collected to calculate accuracy measures, inform policy, or process changes and update publications, forms, and volunteer training for the upcoming filing season.

Errors Found After Leaving the Site
  1. If the TC finds errors that affect the results of the return review after leaving the site, the TC must contact the coordinator to explain the errors and tell the coordinator to contact the taxpayer.

  2. The TC must update the review results in the SPECTRM Site Quality Module (SQM). If the SPECTRM input deadline has passed, the TC must request help from the FS&A quality analyst. See the Enter and Edit dates for Data Entry into SPECTRM handout.

Post-Review Notification
  1. When possible, the tax consultant (TC) completes the FSV while at the site.

  2. Occasionally, the TC must request more information to complete Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet. The TC uses the Post Review Information Request template when requesting information.

  3. The TC allows the partner/coordinator two business days to supply the extra information.

Completing the Database
  1. The tax TC records the results of the field site visit or remote site review in the Site Quality Module (SQM) no later than the Tuesday following the review week and emails the results to the partner/coordinator.

    Note:

    The TC must enter Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, and to properly associate the SQM before Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet, and to properly associate the return review with the correct site review.

  2. The TC uses the SPECTRM SQM Database Job Aid for instructions on how to access and enter review results.

Rating the Site Review
  1. SPEC uses Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, to measure the site’s adherence to the QSR and show areas needing improvement. SPEC rates sites based on the percentage of QSR met. Although Form 6729-D asks more than one question for some of the QSR, each section has only one measurement question.

  2. The TC shares the overall QSR adherence rate with the partner. The partner can find the rating at the top of the SPECTRM-generated Form 6729-D.

Final Written Results
  1. The TC must send the Final Results email within seven days, but no later than fourteen calendar days after the review.

  2. The Final Results email must include:

    • Form 6729-D (FSV/RSR)

    • Form 6729-C (FSV only)

    • The percentage of met

      Note:

      The TC does not send the Final Results email using secured messaging to include external national and local partners.

  3. The TC accesses the Business Objects system to obtain the computer-generated Form 6729-D and Form 6729-C.

  4. The TC sends the Final Results email to:

    • Partner/coordinator (State, district, and local coordinators for AARP)

    • Territory Manager (TM)

    • Relationship Manager (RM), different than the reviewer

  5. The written feedback must include:

    • The results of the site and return review

    • A statement of appreciation to the coordinator and volunteers for their commitment to the VITA/TCE program

    • Highlights of the positive QSR met

    • Recap of help given

    • Named best practices

    • Areas of awareness

    • Specifics on QSR not met

    • Specifics on VSC violations

    • Corrective actions shared with to the coordinator

    • Recommended follow-up actions for the territory

Issues Arising from Field Site Visits
  1. The TC must resolve any findings related to any of the QSR by using the QSR corrective actions guidance. The TC must refer findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those found in the Internal Referral Process, to SPEC HQ.

Noncompliance and Corrective/Follow-up Actions
  1. When a TC decides a site did not follow a QSR, the TC has a primary goal to help the site become compliant at once. The TC supplies corrective action(s) necessary to meet the QSR and helps the coordinator, partner, and volunteer, in completing the corrective action(s). The TC must list all areas of non-compliance in the Final Results email.

  2. The TC refer to the IRM or Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements, for a detailed explanation of the QSR, non-compliance issues, and corrective and/or follow-up actions.

  3. If the TC finds the site not following the QSR, they must elevate their findings to their TM for resolution. As a last resort, the TC must begin procedures for closing a site. The TC can find these procedures in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.23, Discontinuance of IRS Support.

Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Violations
  1. If the tax consultant (TC) finds a VSC violation, they must notify their TM at once using Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report. The TC and TM must elevate all VSC violations found during a review to the FS&A analyst.

  2. If the situation becomes confrontational, the TC must leave the premises at once. The TC must notify their TM at once and document their findings on Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet.

  3. Remember, a site’s non-compliance with a QSR does not automatically result in an automatic VSC violation. If the TC finds QSR non-compliance during a review the TC must explain the QSR requirement and help with implementing corrective actions. If the volunteer(s) agrees and begins to follow the QSR, they did not violate the VSC. If the volunteer refuses to adhere to any or the QSR, they have violated VSC 1 Follow the ten QSR.

Case File Assembly
  1. The tax consultant assembles a case file for each site, including all documents related to the visit. The case file must not include any Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

  2. Case files must include:

    • Form 14512, Oversight Review History Sheet

    • Form 6729-D (from Business Objects)

    • Form 6729-C (from Business Objects)

    • Any unapproved intake/interview and quality review sheets, if applicable

      Note:

      The TC sends any unapproved intake/interview and quality review sheets to the QPO.

    • Feedback shared with the coordinator

    • Post-Review Information Request email, including the response from the partner, if applicable

    • The Final Results email

  3. The TC must complete FSV/RSR case files, in either electronic or paper format, within five business days of issuing the Final Results email. The Territory office keeps these files.

Keeping Field Site Visit Case Files
  1. If the TC cannot meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM at once. SPEC publishes deadlines for:

    • Entering results in the Site Quality Module (SQM)

    • Completing the case file

  2. The notification to the TM must include:

    • The reason for the delay

    • An estimated date of completion/submission

    • A request for help with preparing the documentation for submission, if needed

  3. Territory offices keep FSV/RSR case files for three years.

Roles and Responsibilities
  1. Territory Managers (TM) must:

    • Assign FSV/RSR to the TC

    • Complete at least one employee performance review on each TC as they conduct their FSV/RSR. The TM notifies the TC of the FSV/RSR selected for the performance review. The review consists of watching the TC figure out adherence to QSS policy, tax law determinations (FSV only), and case file documentation

    • Share verbal feedback once the TM prepares the performance review. When the TM completes the case file, the TM documents the findings on Form 14526, FSV/RSR Employee Performance Review Sheet

    • Decide if a TC needs to return to a site to complete a return review

    • Help the TC decide which Virtual VITA/TCE site(s) to visit in person and which to contact virtually

    • Help the TC decide the best way for following-up

    • Send Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report, to the FS&A office

  2. Territory offices must:

    • Name a minimum number of sites for FSV/RSR per guidance provided by SPEC HQ.

      Note:

      Territory offices may conduct supplemental FSV/RSR as needed.

      Note:

      For filing season 2017, HQ said territories must visit every site, every five years with 10 percent of field reviews conducted as FSV and 10 percent as RSR.

    • Keep the FSV/RSR reports updated with changes and tracking progress towards established goals. The Territory office must ensure TC do not visit sites multiple times, unless needed. Whenever possible, Territory offices must not visit multiple sites with the same coordinator/volunteers in the same filing season. If the Territory office schedules multiple sites with the same coordinator, the territory makes the first visit an FSV. If needed, the Territory office may complete RSRs for the other sites with the same coordinator.

  3. The FS&A office must:

    • Work with the territories when planning FSV/RSR and use SPECTRM and Business Objects Reports to list sites available for FSV/RSR.

  4. SPEC HQ must:

    • Supply policy and procedures for the FSV/RSR programs. In addition, HQ shares timekeeping (SETR) and travel (Internal Order) codes

    • Make final determinations for all elevated Internal/External Referrals, including the decision of whether to add a volunteer to the Volunteer Registry.

Remote Site Reviews
  1. SPEC Territory offices must visit a minimum number of the total sites within their territory boundaries to promote the IRS relationship with site coordinators and volunteers and deter any wrongdoing. SPEC’s limited ability to travel requires the Territory office to balance efficiency and the highest level of service to partners and taxpayers.

  2. Tax consultants conduct Remote Site reviews via phone, email, and correspondence as an alternative way to meet the goal of ensuring quality service to all taxpayers when unable to travel for face-to-face visits. Remote Site Reviews (RSR) supply oversight of site operations and assess site adherence to the QSR.

  3. Results from these visits supply valuable information about oversight of the VITA/TCE program and consistent site operation procedures, including the preparation of correct returns.

  4. SPEC designed oversight visits to ensure taxpayers receive top quality service at VITA/TCE sites and ensure volunteers follow the VSC.

  5. RM must use Form 6729-D, Remote Site Review Sheet, during the review. RM must collaborate with partners to accommodate partner needs and reduce burden on the partner.

  6. Remote site reviews do not include a return review.

  7. RM must not conduct reviews during the site’s first week.

  8. SPEC HQ supplies the time (SETR) and travel codes (Internal Order).

Expected Goals
  1. Expected goals from Remote Site Reviews (RSR) include:

    • Increasing IRS presence

    • Improving site efficiency

    • Improving partner communications and customer satisfaction

    • Monitoring implementation of the QSR and other policies

Remote Site Review Benefits
  1. The benefits of RSR include:

    • Offering an alternative way to ensure quality service to all taxpayers when tax consultants (TC) cannot visit in person

    • Supplying oversight opportunities to sites which would not otherwise receive a FSV

    • Ensuring SPEC can continue to focus on meeting quality standards with the highest level of quality customer service within a limited travel budget

    • Promoting quality improvement opportunities through education and awareness

    • Reducing partner burden by accommodating coordinators by scheduling the RSR outside of site hours of operation

    • Screening sites to decide if a site needs an FSV

Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Remote Site Reviews
  1. Tax consultants must coordinate Remote Site reviews in advance with partners. The territory plans a minimum number of field site visits and Remote Site reviews per guidance issued from SPEC HQ. In addition, the territory may conduct supplemental or ad-hoc FSV or RSR as needed as decided by the TM. TCs other than the primary RM may conduct RSR. SPEC does not have a grade restriction on who may conduct a review; however, the TM must consider the level of employee experience.

  2. The Territory office considers QSS reviews, FSV and RSR when listing which sites SPEC visited during the last five-year period.

Selection of Remote Review Sites
  1. Territories must select sites for Remote Site Reviews using the following criteria:

    • Established sites with experienced site coordinators

    • Multiple sites operate with the same site coordinator who has had a field site visit - (with no issues) at another location

    • Sites previously reviewed with no issues found

    • E-file sites with low reject rates

    • FSA fusion sites (FSA and traditional VITA/TCE services)

    • Virtual VITA/TCE sites

    • Sites which have not previously had a RSR in the last five years

    • Sites SPEC did not review in the last five years

    • Sites found a distance from the Territory office

    • Territory Manager's discretion

      Note:

      SPEC does not include FSA-standalone and FSA remote sites in the criteria for RSR.

Conducting the RSR - Key Points
  1. The TC conducts the RSR using the most effective available virtual option.

  2. When conducting the RSR, the TC asks extra open-ended and follow-up questions for clarification or if the coordinator did not explain a key point for a QSR. Sometimes, the TC must talk to the partner, e-file administrator, or another volunteer to complete the review.

  3. The TC completes Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, based on the results of preliminary research and the RSR.

    Note:

    For more information, refer to Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements, and Document 13172, Fact Sheet for SPEC Employees - Updates Field Site Visits and Return Site Reviews, for more information.

  4. The TC must not conduct reviews during the site’s first week.

Conducting Remote Site Reviews
  1. To conduct a remote site review (RSR) a designee, not necessarily the assigned RM, SPEC office contacts, usually by phone, the coordinators for VITA/TCE sites. Once SPEC’s designee introduces themselves and explains the review process, the reviewer then asks a series of questions about the site and the operation of the site.

    Note:

    SPEC refers to the terms reviewer and (RM) interchangeably throughout this section.

  2. Reviewers must consider conducting reviews before the site opens or after the site closes to avoid interrupting the site operation. SPEC conducts most RSR between February 1 and April 15. However, may conduct reviews throughout the course of the year for sites open after April 15.

  3. The tax consultant (TC) must complete preliminary research before conducting the RSR. The TC must use Form 14512, History Sheet, to record the results of preliminary research and record notes during the review.

  4. When the reviewer assigns a site review to a reviewer other than the RM of the site, the reviewer must notify the RM of the upcoming review.

  5. The reviewer must complete some pre-work before conducting before conducting the RSR. The TC conducting the review needs to obtain the following information to verify its accuracy when applicable:

    • The reviewer must verify site information through SPEC/SERP reports. The reviewer needs to compare the information in SPECTRM with the actual data for accuracy. The reviewer must verify the address, dates/hours of operations, contact information, and services provided at the site

    • The reviewer confirms volunteer information using Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, or partner developed list holding the same information. The reviewer must confirm the site coordinator reviewed the site coordinator training if needed and passed the site coordinator certification. The reviewer needs to check SPECTRM correctly reflects the coordinator information

    • The reviewer must compare activity reports for the site. The reports include the E-file activity as reported on the E-file reports page (1541) and the total returns filed (e-file and paper) as reported on the Individual Master file (IMF) report (SIDN). The E-file reports generate daily and report the number of e-filed returns in the current year and the prior year during the same cycle. In addition, the 1541 report shows the current e-file reject rate. SPEC pulls the IMF SIDN information report every month during the filing season and supplies the number of returns filed using the SIDN broken out by e-filed and paper returns. The reviewer must look at TaxSlayer reports as available and verify the e-Services information on Third Party Data Store (TPDS)

    • The reviewer must analyze the partners and volunteers listed on Form 13533, Sponsor Agreements, and Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or partner developed list with the same information, to compare names of partners and volunteers with the names listed on the Volunteer Registry. If a partner or volunteer appears on both the Volunteer Registry and Form 13206 or Form 13533, SPEC must notify the partner or volunteer they can never take part in the VITA/TCE program. If the partner or volunteers try to take part after this notification, the Territory office must notify TIGTA

  6. Reviewers document their findings on Form 6729-D, Remote Site Review Sheet.

  7. The reviewer discusses the results of the review with the site coordinator. The feedback discussion has the same elements as the feedback discussion for FSV.

  8. Send the Final Review email to the partner and site coordinator (and state coordinator, if AARP) within seven business days. The TM may allow extra business days based on the reviewer’s workload.

  9. The reviewer enters the Form 6729-D into the SPECTRM Site Quality Module (SQM) after completing the review. The reviewer enters the Form 6729-D into SPECTRM no later than Tuesday of the week following the review.

  10. If the TC cannot meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM at once. SPEC supplies published deadlines for:

    • Entering results in the SQM

    • Issuing the Final Results email

    • Completing the case file

  11. Use the following references to help with RSRs of VITA and TCE operations:

    • Publication 1084, VITA/TCE Volunteer Site Coordinator Handbook

    • Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust

    • Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet

    • Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements

    • Interactive Tax Assistance (ITA)

  12. Reviewers must discuss the site’s activities, processes, and procedures while conducting the review. The reviewer asks the site coordinator for clarification/proof of site processes.

  13. In all cases, reviewers must take the opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to the coordinator and volunteers at the site.

  14. The TM decides who conducts the RSR. The RM or the designated remote site reviewer for the territory conducts the RSR.

  15. When a remote site review reveals an issue with site operations, the reviewer must discuss the issue and its resolution with the site coordinator prior to concluding the review.

  16. If the TM assigns the remote site review to a reviewer other than the assigned RM, the reviewer shares immediate verbal feedback to the assigned RM. Feedback includes positive comments and/or reporting any identified problem areas and recommended corrective actions.

  17. The assigned FS&A analyst must work with each territory during the planning stages to ensure the territory follows all procedures. Territories must implement and adhere to a process that ensures adequate oversight of all volunteer sites.

  18. Territories keep RSR case files.

Follow-Up to Remote Site Reviews
  1. When a remote site review reveals a potential issue in how the site runs, the reviewer discusses the issue and its resolution with the site coordinator prior to concluding the review. This may require a follow-up site visit to ensure adherence to a requested change in operations. These follow-up visits help site coordinators to improve site operations or adopt other best practices to alleviate pitfalls. The RM must complete a follow-up visit as soon as possible after the first remote site review.

  2. The RM may need to schedule a follow up visit based on the identified issues. For instance, a site needs to make changes in its electronic filing transmission process, but the site only transmits once a week. The reviewer needs to visit the site when they send. If the review reveals a site not following the QSR or any other requirements, the RM must instruct the coordinator on how to bring the site into compliance.

  3. The RM must complete a follow up visit to ensure the site has corrected the concerns. If the site has not made the necessary corrections, the reviewer must consult with the TM to decide further actions. As a last resort, the territory must follow the procedures for closing a site. The RM and TM must refer any findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those found in the Internal Referral Process, to SPEC HQ.

    Note:

    Refer to Publication 5166, IRS Volunteer Quality Site Requirements, for guidance on conducting follow up visits and QSR corrective actions.

Remote Site Review Results
  1. SPEC collects data throughout the filing season for Territory office analysis. The analysis provides SPEC and its partners an ability to assess sites’ current and future performance and confirm site operation consistency with the Quality Site Requirements. It allows SPEC and its partners an ability to effectively predict the continued success of the volunteer site. The IRS Territory office analyzes the data for trends or patterns and compares how the site performs before and after changing a process or activity.

  2. SPEC employees enter data in SPECTRM at the territory, area, and national levels for analysis and for sharing with partners. SPECTRM supplies data available in reports based on either specified weeks of activity or cumulatively for the filing season. On a national level, SPEC uses the data collected to calculate accuracy measures; change policy or process guidance; and update publications, forms, and training for the upcoming filing season.

Issues Arising from Remote Site Reviews
  1. The reviewer must report findings related to a violation of the VSC on Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report. The reviewer sends the form to SPEC HQ through the Internal Referral Process.

  2. The reviewer must resolve findings related to any of the QSR using the QSR corrective actions guidance. Reviewers must refer findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those found in the Internal Referral Process, to the Chief, PS.

Internal Referral Process
  1. VITA and TCE sites must follow the fundamental foundation of the SPEC VITA and TCE program to ensure continued growth and instill taxpayer trust. Employees must quickly find and remove from the program any partner or volunteer who reduces taxpayer trust. Employees use guidance in the internal referral process to refer an external stakeholder (SPEC partner or individual volunteer) who shows behavior which could jeopardize the integrity of the VITA and TCE program.

High Risk Attributes
  1. Employees must report partners or volunteers who show any of the high-risk attributes below to SPEC HQ for further review of the allegations:

    • Willfully violating the VSC

    • Partner or volunteer that continues not to adhere to SPEC’s QSR

    • Site operations lack of oversight

    • Poor or no communication with the SPEC Territory office

    • IRS electronic filing rules and requirements violated as defined in Publication 3112, IRS e-file Application and Participation and/or Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns

    • Frequent complaints from taxpayers after visiting a site

Making an Internal Referral
  1. To make an internal referral, SPEC employees must notify their manager at once of the allegations and decide whether to refer the incident to SPEC HQ. If employees discover any of the high attributes, they must take the following actions:

    1. RM must complete Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Report. The employee needs to include enough information to show the "high-risk" behavior the partner or volunteer exhibits which prompts the referral and any actions taken by the Territory office and the partner to deter this behavior. For example, the employee deactivates the partner’s EFIN on the date the incident was reported. The employee must prepare the volunteer registry letter. Refer to The Point for template

    2. TM must review Form 14511 and the volunteer letter for accuracy. TM must sign Form 14511 if in agreement and decide what immediate actions to take at the site and partner level. They must send both documents to the assigned AD for review and signature if in agreement

    3. TM must send the referral via email to the FS&A assigned analyst for review. FS&A sends the complete and correct referrals to the Chief, PS. FS&A returns incomplete referrals to the territory for correction

    4. If the referral occurs at the HQ level, the assigned analyst must prepare Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Report. The HQ manager must review and sign the referral form then send the referral via email to the Chief, PS

    5. The Chief, PS reviews the referral and decides the next course of action. Chief, PS must notify the SPEC Director of the referral. SPEC Director makes the final determination to add a partner or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry

    6. The PS assigned analyst must notify the HQ manager or FS&A analyst of the final determination who in turn notifies the assigned employee and TM. If the Director approves adding a partner or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry, the AD must sign and date the volunteer registry letter and mail to the applicable partner or volunteer. HQ analyst must add the partner’s or volunteer’s name to the registry in SPECTRM once approved by the SPEC Director

    7. The PS assigned HQ analyst must add the partner’s or volunteer’s name to the registry in SPECTRM once approved by the SPEC Director

VolTax Referrals
  1. SPEC has processes in place to deter opportunities for fraudulent behavior through increased IRS visibility at VITA and TCE sites. SPEC employees must ensure that volunteers and site coordinators understand the process of posting proper signage to alert taxpayers of the process to report improper activity they see or experience at sites. These processes supply reasonable assurance that intentionally unethical or illegal acts do not occur at sites.

  2. The VolTax referral process supplies an email address where volunteers and taxpayers can contact the IRS if they want to report site operating issues or inappropriate behavior seen at sites. Volunteers and taxpayers can send an email to: wi.voltax@irs.gov.

  3. The sites must post Publication 4836, VITA/TCE Free Tax Programs, in a visible location to promote awareness of the opportunity to make a referral. Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, and Publication 730, Important Tax Records Envelope, include the address.

  4. For inquiries related to volunteer/site ethics, including illegal activity, act as soon as possible. The analyst advises the Chief, PS of the allegation. If the allegation calls for a visit to the site/partner location, the way the visit is taken is proper and to the allegation. For instance, if the allegation calls for shopping the location, the SPEC HQ analyst makes the necessary arrangements within seven business days. The SPEC HQ analyst may also contact the AD and Chief of Staff to investigate the inquiry further and/or contact the taxpayer, if needed.

Headquarters Responsibility for VolTax
  1. The assigned PS analyst decides if fraudulent or inappropriate behavior exist by reviewing referrals received through the wi.voltax@irs.gov mailbox in SPEC HQ. The assigned PS analyst addresses the emails within seven business days of receipt by the SPEC HQ analyst.

  2. For Inquiries related to tax law or tax account issues, refer the taxpayer to IRS.gov or 800-829-1040. For inquiries related to refund issues, refer the taxpayer to Where’s My Refund on IRS.gov or 800-829-1954.

  3. For inquiries related to rude or unprofessional behavior by volunteers, or specific site issues such as long wait times, incorrect returns, site closed. SPEC HQ sends information to the FS&A analyst with a carbon copy to the Chief of Staff and AD as feedback for the TM to share and discuss with the site within seven business days of the notification. For these type issues, employees do not need to send a response to SPEC HQ.

  4. For inquiries related to volunteer/site ethics, including illegal activity, take actions as soon as possible. The analyst advises the Chief, PS of the allegation. If the allegation calls for a visit to the site or partner location, the way the visit is handled is proper to the allegation. For instance, if the allegation calls for shopping the location, the SPEC HQ analyst must make the necessary arrangements within seven business days. The SPEC HQ analyst may also contact the AD and Chief of Staff to investigate the inquiry further and/or contact the taxpayer, if needed.

  5. The Chief, PS notifies the Director of SPEC, the AD and TM of the review. The Chief, PS consults with the Chief, QPO and the SPEC Director, to decide if SPEC dissolves the relationship with the partner and then sends the matter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The Chief, PS and the PS analyst must receive a close out report of all actions taken to correct the alleged issue within 30 business days unless more time is needed. Use the procedures for addressing non-compliance in SPEC’s QSR to decide the proper corrective actions.

Territory Responsibility for VolTax
  1. When necessary, the PS analyst refers the inquiry to the correct Area and Territory for a response. The receiving office must take corrective actions or conduct a field site visit if needed within seven business days of receipt of the notification. The PS Analyst must send a copy of the corrective actions taken to correct the issue to the Chief of PS within ten business days of completion. The receiving office supplies the proper resolution to the inquirer.

Volunteer Return Preparation Program Preparer Misconduct
  1. Return preparer misconduct involves the preparation and filing of false income tax returns (in either paper or electronic form), including Form 1040-X, Amended US Individual Tax Return, by unscrupulous preparers who change direct deposit information or claim, for example:

    • Inflated personal or business expenses

    • False deductions

    • Excessive exemptions

    • Fraudulent tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

      Note:

      Taxpayers have no knowledge of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on their tax returns or deposit of their refund to another account without their consent.

Headquarters Responsibility
  1. PS must review claims of Return Preparer Misconduct (RPM) received from the Identity Theft Victims Assistance (IDTVA) function.

  2. PS must send the RPM Referral Form to FS&A for sharing with the proper Territory office.

  3. FS&A must return the completed RPM Form to PS within 7 business days.

  4. PS must send the completed RPM Referral Form to IDTVA within 10 business days.

Territory Responsibility
  1. When a VITA/TCE partner alerts a SPEC employee of potential Return Preparer Misconduct (RPM) at a VITA/TCE site, the territory must decide if the error was:

    1. Unintentional (a mistake) - refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.3.3, Partner Responsibility Procedures

    2. Intentional (without the taxpayer’s knowledge or consent) - refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.3.5, Taxpayer Responsibility Procedures

  2. When SPEC HQ alerts the territory of potential RPM at a VITA/TCE site, the territory must contact the partner to help in completing the RPM Referral Form and decide the following:

    1. Is the partner aware of the incident?

    2. Did the taxpayer receive the expected refund amount? If not, did the partner issue the correct refund to the taxpayer?

  3. The territory must return the completed RPM Referral Form to FS&A within seven (7) business days.

  4. The territory must follow the procedures in IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.1 Internal Referrals Process High Risk Attributes, to report incidents of partner, site, or volunteer misconduct, when applicable. To make an internal referral, SPEC employees must notify their manager and complete Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. SPEC employees must send Form 14511 to the assigned PS analyst for the SPEC Director to make a final decision.

Partner Procedures
  1. If a volunteer mistakenly enters the incorrect bank account number on the taxpayer’s account, the partner must tell the taxpayer the following:

    1. The IRS assumes no responsibility for tax preparer or taxpayer error. Taxpayers must verify their account and routing numbers with their financial institution and double check the accuracy of the numbers prior to signing and sending it

    2. If the return has not posted, the taxpayer can ask the IRS to stop the direct deposit by calling 800-829-1040, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

    3. If the financial institution listed on the return has accepted the deposit, the taxpayer must work directly with the financial institution to recover their funds

    4. If the financial institution recovers the funds and returns them to the IRS, the IRS sends a paper refund check to the taxpayer’s last known address on file with the IRS

    5. If the taxpayer has contacted the financial institution and two weeks has passed with no results, the taxpayer must file Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund. This allows the IRS to contact the bank on the taxpayer’s behalf to start a trace and try to recover the refund

  2. If the taxpayer is unable to recover the refund or the financial institution does not return the refund to the IRS, encourage SPEC VITA and TCE partners to supply relief to a taxpayer when a volunteer mistakenly enters the incorrect bank account number on a taxpayer’s return that causes a deposit of a refund into the wrong account resulting in a taxpayer not receiving their refund. This action does not result in return preparer misconduct.

IRS Procedures
  1. IRS may grant relief to taxpayers when, without the taxpayer’s knowledge or consent, the volunteer return preparer intentionally alters a taxpayer’s tax return data and/or misdirects a part or the entire refund.

  2. The following examples could result in the IRS granting relief to a taxpayer:

    1. The VITA/TCE volunteer income tax preparer files a correct return but the preparer intentionally misdirects the refund by placing the volunteer’s bank account on the tax return without the taxpayer’s knowledge or consent

    2. The VITA/TCE volunteer income tax preparer inflates the items on the tax return after the taxpayer signs Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, and the taxpayer receives their refund but later becomes aware of inflated items and did not receive the inflated amount of the refund

Taxpayer Procedures
  1. If a taxpayers experiences return preparer misconduct at a VITA/TCE site, they must complete the following forms by sending a complaint to the IRS to request relief:

    1. Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit - For filing status Married Filing Joint, the form must have at least one taxpayer signature. Refer taxpayers to page 3 of Form 14157-A for instructions and documentation needed

    2. Form 14157, Return Preparer Complaint - Instruct taxpayers to send the completed form to the Return Preparer Office. RPO shares the information with SPEC

  2. Place the completed Form 14157-A, Form Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit, on top of the other required documentation and mail as follows:

    1. Mail the completed forms, documentation, and a copy of the notice or letter the taxpayer received from the IRS to the address contained in that notice or letter if the taxpayer is sending information in response to the notice or letter received

    2. For taxpayers who did not receive a notice from the IRS, mail the completed forms and other documentation to the IRS address where the taxpayer mails their Form 1040, US Individual Income Tax Return. To find the correct mailing address on, irs.gov, key word search "Where to File Addresses" and link to "Taxpayers and Professionals- Where to File Individual Tax Returns."

  3. For more information on Return Preparer Misconduct Victim’s Assistance Program, refer to IRM 25.24.

Post Filing Season Reviews
  1. The QPO conducts post filing season QSS reviews. QPO base these reviews on Statistics of Income (SOI) selected sites and can run until the end of the fiscal year.

  2. SPEC Shopping may continue as a part of post filing season oversight.

Partner Reviews
  1. SPEC encourages all partners to conduct site and return reviews at their volunteer sites to ensure consistency in site operations and affirmation of correct return preparation. The partner organization must schedule visits to sites in their areas, using a standardized approach including a frequency of review, a method in conducting reviews and performing follow-up reviews.

  2. The partner decides the review process and who conducts the reviews. Before reviewers conduct partner reviews, they certify in tax law to the level of certification needed for returns prepared at the site.

  3. To help partners with these reviews, QPO developed Form 6729-P Partner Return Review Sheet, to capture results of return reviews, and Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, to capture the results of the site review. Publication 5140, Job Aid: Partner Site and Return Reviews, to guide the partner through evaluating QSR compliance, figuring return accuracy and completing the forms. Partners may use other forms they have developed for this purpose.

  4. During pre-filing season meetings and discussions RM must encourage partners to conduct site and return reviews. The RM must help with setting up a review schedule, discuss the components of a site review, and promote the available resources.

SPEC Shopping Reviews
  1. SPEC designed shopping reviews to evaluate the volunteer’s understanding of the taxpayer’s experience, tax law accuracy, and adherence to the VSC and QSR.

  2. SPEC HQ and FS&A analysts pose as taxpayers using predefined scenarios to have their federal tax return prepared by a certified volunteer preparer. SPEC includes the following factors to create the scenarios:

    • Characteristics of returns prepared

    • New legislation

    • Prior TIGTA findings

    • SPEC organization findings

  3. The QPO supplies oversight of the SPEC shopping review program. Shopping reviewers must plan and conduct all reviews.

Purpose
  1. SPEC designed SPEC shopping reviews to gauge the taxpayer experience at VITA)/TCE sites. SPEC conducts unannounced shopping reviews on an as needed basis during the filing season; however, some reviews may occur during the post filing season.

  2. The SPEC shopping review consists of the following:

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

    • Certified volunteer preparer conducting an interview

    • Certified volunteer preparer verifying Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet answers and preparing the tax return

    • Designated/peer-to-peer quality review of tax return

  3. The shopping reviewer must have a pre-defined taxpayer scenario and must assume the role of the taxpayer in requesting services from a VITA or TCE site. Shopping reviewers must remain anonymous to the volunteers and site coordinators until the site completes the quality review and/or the volunteer preparer asks to sign Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, or enter a Self-Select PIN.

  4. The shopping reviewer must conduct a post shopping site review at once after the shopping return review. The post site review measures the site’s adherence to the VSC and QSR.

  5. SPEC only uses QSS reviews as the measure of accuracy for the VITA/TCE program. SPEC does not consider shopping reviews as a statistically valid sample.

Unannounced Review – Manager Responsibilities
  1. The SPEC shopping reviewer must not notify the TM or RM of shopping reviews.

  2. The Chief, QPO selects shopping reviewers. The Chief, QPO ensures the shopping reviewer adheres to SPEC shopping review policy and guidance, tax law determinations, and case file documentation. The Chief, QPO approves all travel requests.

Training and Certification
  1. Shopping reviewers must complete the following training/certifications:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training and Knowledge Check

    • VSC certification

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review certification

    • Site Coordinator certification

    • SPEC shopping review CPE – all sessions

    • Tax law certification (at a minimum) at the Basic level

Selecting Sites for Review
  1. SPEC conducts shopping reviews on an as needed basis. Statistics of Income (SOI) Office figures out the number of shopping reviews and names selected sites based on criteria set by SPEC. The QPO supplies SOI with the prior year site listing and prior year return information from SPECTRM. Management may assign shopping reviews based on referrals about non-compliance to the Quality Site Requirements or violations of the Volunteer Standards of Conduct.

VITA/TCE Site Selection
  1. The shopping reviewer researches the SIDN in SPECTRM for their assigned reviews. If the SIDN or site name does not match the Statistics of Income (SOI) list, follow these instructions:

    • First (search by SIDN): If the selected site shows as open in SPECTRM with the same name and same SIDN, review the site

    • Second (search by SIDN): If the selected site shows as open in SPECTRM with the same SIDN but the name and/or address differs, review the site. The reviewer must base the review on the SIDN listed on the SOI list and the updated information in SPECTRM

    • Third (search by Site Name): If the selected site shows as open in SPECTRM with the same name but the SIDN has changed, review the site. The reviewer must base the review on the site name if the SIDN does not exist in SPECTRM

    • Last: If the selected site does not exist by SIDN or site name in SPECTRM, do not review the site and notify the Chief, QPO. The reviewer must mark these sites as open on the SPEC Shopping Review Scheduling Worksheet posted on the quality shared drive

Assigning Sites
  1. The Chief, QPO must distribute and assign the Statistics of Income (SOI) selected sites to each shopping reviewer. The Chief, QPO assigns sites based on geographic location of both the site and the shopping reviewer to perfect the most effective cost savings to the government.

Assigned Scenario
  1. The shopping reviewer must receive a briefing paper describing their assigned scenario; a completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, describing how to complete the intake sheet; and required source documents to fit their scenarios.

Pre-Research
  1. The research includes accessing site and production information tools such as:

    • Third Party Data Store

    • SPECTRM

    • SERP

    • AARP Site Locator

    • NPO-ELF 1541 report

    • TaxSlayer Production report

    • SIDN Workbook Web Based report

Planning for the Review
  1. Based on data in SPECTRM, the shopping reviewer must review and decide on the status of assigned sites for the upcoming filing season. If research reveals a closed site, notify the Chief, QPO. Reviewers must prepare to visit both primary and back-up sites and complete three shopping reviews during the selected week. The reviewer must make appointments for any appointment only site early. The reviewer must document all primary and back-up sites on the quality shared drive after scheduling. Shopping reviewers must make changes in their schedules and must keep the shared drive updated on a weekly basis.

  2. QPO must issue income statements and supply a fictitious employer identification numbers (EIN) for the income statements. Reviewers must safe-guard identification numbers. Upon completion of shopping reviews, reviewers must dispose of the remaining source documents and any information having Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Statements must remain the same throughout the filing season even if visiting multiple states. The QPO must mail original documents however, if reviewers need more documents, shoppers must make copies from the electronic documents. These documents must look professional and cut to size using a paper cutter to portray a realistic appearance.

Arriving at the Site
  1. Upon entering the site, the shopping reviewer must follow all site instructions for return preparation. Shopping reviewers must have all documents necessary for the certified volunteer preparer to complete a tax return. This includes:

    • Photo ID

    • Social Security card(s) or copies for all persons listed on tax return

    • Income statements

    • Receipts, if any

  2. The shopping reviewer watches site operations while waiting to begin site’s return preparation process.

Intake Interview
  1. Shopping reviewers must follow the site’s direction on completing the intake/interview sheet. Shopping reviewers must review and remember the scenario Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, prior to the shopping review. The shopping reviewer must share documents when requested by the greeter, volunteer preparer, or quality reviewer. The reviewer completes Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet or the intake/interview sheet given, using the assigned scenario.

Denial of Service
  1. If denied service, the SPEC shopping reviewer must not reveal their identity at that site. Instead, select a backup site to review in the area.

Preparing/ Quality Reviewing and Signing the Return
  1. After the site prepared, quality reviewed, and asked the shopper to sign the return, the SPEC shopper must reveal their identity and present their IRS Smart Card.

    Note:

    If the site prepared the return, and the volunteer at the sites asks the shopper to sign the return prior to the quality review, the shopper must ask the volunteer if the volunteer completes the return after the shopper signs the return. If yes, the shopping reviewer considers the process complete, and the shopper must identify themselves. However, if the volunteer states, the return must go through a quality review process, the shopper must allow the return to go through the quality review process. In most cases, the quality review happens before the shopper signs the return. The shoppers must allow the return to go through the quality review process before revealing their identity.

  2. Signing the return can include signing Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, (either by using a self-select or practitioners’ PIN) or paper Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

  3. The shopping reviewer must secure a copy of the completed tax return including all schedules, complete/incomplete Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, and all supporting documents. Shopping reviewers must ensure the site coordinator removes the return from the electronic preparation software. Follow the provided instruction to ensure the site coordinator removes and erases the return from the software. This ensures the site coordinator cannot retrieve the return after the shopper leaves the site.

Conducting the Post Shopping Site Review
  1. After verifying the site coordinator removed the tax return, the shopping reviewer conducts a SPEC post shopping site review using Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, and job aid. The SPEC shopping reviewer conducts a post shopping site review to figure out the site adherence to the QSR and VSC. The shopping reviewer must add a completed copy of Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, (database copy from the SPECTRM Reports manager) to the shopping case file.

Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator
  1. After the post shopping site review, the shopping reviewer must explain that the RM sends the final results email within two weeks. The shopping reviewer must share recommended corrective actions for any identified non-compliance to the QSR and/or VSC to the site coordinator prior to leaving the site. The shopping reviewer must include recommendations in the written feedback to the TM.

Post Review Notification - SPEC Shopping Reviews
  1. Within 24 hours after leaving the site, the shopping reviewer must send a feedback email to the TM informing them of the shopping review. The shopping reviewer may delay this email if the shopping reviewer decides notification may compromise other shopping reviews in the area.

Feedback to the Site Coordinator and/or Partner
  1. The TM and/or RM must share the final results email of the shopping review with the partner/site coordinator within seven business days from the date the shopping reviewer issues the final results email. The territory must keep a copy of the results in the partner file and must include all listed corrective actions and/or follow-up actions conducted and/or planned for the site. In addition, the email may request the territory supply information, such as verification of volunteer certification or to complete follow-up actions for non-compliance of the Quality Site Requirements. This email must not share any results from the shopping review. It only serves as notification of the shopping review. The territory sends the final results email later.

Completing Form 6729-B, Shopping Return Review Sheet
  1. Shopping reviewers must complete Form 6729-B, Shopping Return Review Sheet, after completing each shopping review. SPEC designed this form to document the shopping review. SPEC developed a job aid to give guidance on how to answer the questions in a consistent manner. The shopping reviewer must complete the Form 6729-B Shopping Return Review Sheet after leaving the volunteer site. The shopping reviewer must not complete this form during the shopping review or at any time while at the site.

Return Accuracy
  1. Shopping reviewers must review the tax return for accuracy. The shopping reviewer considers a return correct after the volunteers applied the tax law correctly and the volunteers ensured the completed return is error free based on the taxpayer interview, their supporting documentation, and the completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

Scanning and Redacting the Return
  1. When resources allow, the return review process must include scanning of all the documents used to prepare each return reviewed. Shopping reviewers scan all required documents. Shopping reviewers must redact (remove) Names, Social Security numbers, bar codes, phone numbers, EIN, addresses, local business names, and any other identified Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from the scanned return and supporting documents. Do not redact date of birth. Do not scan Social Security cards or taxpayer photo identification. If the reviewer cannot scan and/or redact the PII from the return and supporting documents due to time limits, the reviewer must secure the un-redacted returns in a Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) folder on their computer. The reviewer must redact the PII prior to sending the case file to SPEC HQ.

Entering Form 6729 into SPECTRM
  1. The shopping reviewer must enter the post shopping site review results, using Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, in the SPECTRM Quality Database (SQM) the following Tuesday after the week of the shopping review. Prior to entering Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, in the SQM, the shopping reviewer must request from the SPECTRM Help Desk the addition of a profile item of “QSH” designation to the SPECTRM Site Module for the site.

Entering Form 6729-B into SQM
  1. After entering the Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, in the SPECTRM Quality Module (SQM), the shopping reviewer must enter the completed Form 6729-B, Shopping Return Review Sheet, in the SQM.

Final Results Email
  1. The SPEC shopping reviewer must send the final results email to the TM and designated officials no later than 24 hours after edit date of SPECTRM Quality Database, (Wednesday) and within 2 weeks of completing the review. Use the final results email template to send results. The reviewer must download and send the SQM copy of all Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, Form 6729-B, Shopping Return Review Sheet, downloaded from SPECTRM Reports, with the final results email. The reviewer must not send the email using secured messaging to allow for sharing with national and/or local partners.

  2. This written feedback consists of the review results and any identified activities that includes:

    • Best practices

    • Areas of weaknesses

    • QSR non-compliant issues

    • VSC violations

    • Corrective actions provided to the site coordinator

    • Recommended follow-up actions for the territory

Electronic Case Files
  1. SPEC HQ must keep shopping review case files electronically. After the reviewer enters the information into the Site Quality Module (SQM), the reviewer assembles an electronic case file for each site.

Uploading Electronic Files
  1. Shopping reviewers must upload electronic case files to a designated site folder on the Quality shared drive. Shopping reviewers must upload the electronic case files no later than Thursday following the week of the review.

Closing the Case File
  1. Once the SPEC shopping reviewer uploads the case file to the Quality shared drive, SPEC considers the case closed. The shopping reviewer keeps the redacted electronic files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30.

Closing the Paper Case Files
  1. If unable to scan the case file documents, the shopping reviewer must mail a redacted hard copy of the case file to the Chief, (QPO no later than seven business days from the reviewer’s last day to edit forms (Wednesday after the review) in the quality database.

  2. QPO staff must scan and add these redacted case files to the Quality shared drive.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Shopping Review
  1. TIGTA may choose to conduct Shopping Reviews at a sample of volunteer sites during the filing season. A cadre of TIGTA Auditors (Shopper) conducts the reviews. The TIGTA Shopper uses a pre-defined taxpayer scenario and assumes the role of a taxpayer requesting services from a VITA or TCE site.

  2. TIGTA Shoppers must remain anonymous to the site during the review.

  3. SPEC uses the overall results from TIGTA Shopping Reviews to implement changes to products and volunteer training.

Volunteer Registry
  1. The volunteer registry supplies a listing of all partners and volunteers that SPEC removes from the VITA and TCE Programs due to egregious actions. The registry includes partner or volunteer names and locations.

  2. Partners and volunteers who commit certain unethical actions face indefinite removal from the VITA/TCE Program. The Chief, PS oversees The Chief, PS reviews all requests to add a partner or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry and informs the SPEC Director. The SPEC Director or designee must approve all requests for inclusion in the registry. Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, and Publication 4961, VITA/TCE Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Ethics Training give notification of this registry. Volunteers or partners have no appeal rights for removal from the Volunteer Registry.

  3. Violations resulting in inclusion in the Volunteer Registry include the following:

    • Causing harm to taxpayers, volunteers, or IRS employees

    • Requesting/Accepting payments from taxpayers for VITA/TCE return preparation

    • Using taxpayer personal information for personal gain

    • Knowingly preparing false returns

    • Engaging in criminal, infamous, dishonest, notorious, disgraceful conduct

    • Other conduct considered to cause a negative impact on the VITA/TCE Program

  4. TM must send requests to add a volunteer and/or partner to the registry to the assigned FS&A analyst for review and send to the Chief, PS. Follow the guidance in IRM 22.30.1.8.12.6.1.1 Making an Internal Referral, for instructions on the required actions needed to make a referral.

  5. SPEC employees can find the Volunteer Registry in the Reports module of SPECTRM. Once the SPEC Director approves a request for addition to the Volunteer Registry, the designated SPEC HQ analyst must add the partner’s or volunteer’s name to SPECTRM if needed. The analyst must change the territory field to Volunteer Registry and add the violation committed in the comments field.

  6. RM must review the volunteer registry reports as the territory receives Form 13533, VITA/TCE Sponsor Agreement, Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or comparable listings holding the same information. If a partner or volunteer appears on both the Volunteer Registry and Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreements, the RM must inform the partner or volunteer that they can never take part in the VITA/TCE program. The Territory office must notify TIGTA when a partner or volunteer is banned from the program and then tries to take part in the VITA/TCE program.

Performance Reviews
  1. IRM 1.4.1.7, Performance Management, provides that managers must continuously check employees’ progress against performance expectations, find deficiencies, and initiate corrective actions. They must supply written feedback on identified weaknesses. If SPEC uses the feedback for evaluative purposes, the manager must supply feedback in writing and share with the employee within the timeframes set up by the negotiated agreement. It is important for management to give feedback and discuss the progress of employee commitments and to hold prompt, documented mid-year and annual progress reviews. Mid-year progress reviews and annual appraisals have the same due dates as in previous years.

  2. TM’s provide written feedback on each performance aspect Critical Job Element (CJE) and discuss all reviews listed below with the employee. Review frequency and scope depend on the employee’s skill level and experience. TM perform the following eight (8) reviews:

    • Field Site Visit (FSV)

    • Remote Site Reviews (RSRs)

    • Partner/Coalition Interaction

    • SPECTRM/Workload

    • SETR Reports

    • Travel

    • Employee Satisfaction/Employee Contribution

    • Security

  3. The Manager must share the documentation as soon as possible, but no later than 15 workdays after the date of the review.

  4. The TM may conduct these types of Optional Reviews at their discretion:

    • Written communication to partners (emails)

    • Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, and SPECTRM review (stored accurately in SPECTRM)

    • Meetings with potential partners

    • More meetings with partners

    • Timely submission of information

    • Security Review (during the day)

      Note:

      More information is in the TM Managers Review Fact Sheet found on The Point.

Volunteer Tax and Quality Site Requirement Alerts
  1. IRS supports VITA/TCE tax preparation sites by conducting oversight reviews and sharing current /updated information through Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA) and Quality Site Requirement Alerts (QSRA). VTA and QSRA messages serve as a useful educational tool when delivered promptly to their intended audience: SPEC VITA and TCE partners and their certified volunteers. SPEC HQ must distribute VTAs as quickly as possible to sites and volunteers.

    • SPEC defines VTAs as SPEC messages sent to VITA/TCE sites during the filing season that address tax law changes and trends found during QSS, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or SPEC reviews

    • SPEC defines QSRAs as SPEC messages sent to VITA/TCE sites during the filing season that update, correct, and clarify operational procedures and processes related to the Quality Site Requirements

Distribution of Alerts
  1. SPEC HQ PSA office prepares and sends the "Alerts" (VTA and QSRA) to SPEC SPM.

  2. SPEC SPM OFFICE inputs the Alerts into GovDelivery email system.

  3. SPEC SPM posts Alerts on the following platforms:

    • GovDelivery - via emails to employees and partners

    • Site Coordinator Corner on IRS.gov

    • SPEC intranet site

  4. The following products supply guidance about Alerts and how to access them:

    • Publication 4396-A, Partner Resource Guide

    • Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4012, VITA and TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 4491, VITA and TCE Training Guide

    • LLT (online Training Module)

Foreign Student and Scholar Program

  1. International students and scholars are temporary visitors to the United States under an F, J, M, or Q on-line. These visitors must file at least one tax form with the IRS if they still are nonresident aliens for federal income tax purposes.

  2. SPEC encourages universities and colleges to set up self-sufficient VITA sites specializing in preparing Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return, and/or Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals and Individuals with a Medical Condition.

Responsibilities for Foreign Student/Scholar Program
  1. The SPEC Territory office must:

    1. Develop relationships with partners willing to aid foreign students and scholars

    2. Encourage established VITA sites to expand their service to include help to foreign students and scholars

    3. Supply statistical information relating to activities performed in relation to this program

    4. Supply partner self-sufficiency

    5. Order necessary supplies for the VITA sites

    6. Promote the use of the Foreign Student and Scholar module on LLT for site and volunteer training needs. The Territory office must direct training questions to the FS&A analyst

    7. Use the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters at Frequently Asked Questions About International Individual Tax Matters to answer ordinary questions

    8. Conduct periodic visits to VITA sites

    9. Other activities for the foreign student/scholar population are the discretion of the TM

  2. The SPEC FS&A office must:

    1. Develop, coordinate, and check all activities related to foreign students/scholars on a national level as they relate to the VITA program

    2. Act as a point of contact on questions, concerns and/or problems

    3. Establish and keep reporting requirements

    4. Request reports, i.e., statistical, as needed from the Territory offices

    5. Supply reports on a national level to interested functions

    6. Conduct periodic visits to VITA/TCE sites

Technical Inquiries
  1. Volunteers must not use the "VITA Hotline" to obtain aid about topics related to the preparation of the returns/forms. To answer general international federal tax questions, visit the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters at Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters.

Electronic IRS - Overview

  1. Electronic IRS supplies a central source for all online transactions the IRS carries out electronically. The Electronic IRS offers many electronic options to individual and business taxpayers, tax professionals, software companies, and tax-exempt organizations. Electronic IRS includes electronic filing options, electronic signature methods, electronic payment options, IRS (online application) and Direct Deposit, to name a few.

SPEC and Electronic IRS
  1. SPEC’s Electronic IRS components include:

    • Electronic Filing (e-file)

    • Federal/State E-File

  2. IRS e-file process sends tax returns to the IRS through data communications and electronic front-end edits. The tax return data transmits over telephone lines in the form of electronic records to a designated Submission Processing Center. Returns filed include both individual and business income tax returns.

  3. Electronic filing options include the following:

    • Filing through an authorized IRS e-file provider

    • Filing using a personal computer (On-Line Filing)

    • E-filing through File Options using the Free File and low-cost provider (Partners Page) options

  4. Refer to IRM 3.42.10, Authorized IRS e-file Providers for more information about available e-file options.

  5. Federal/state e-file allows the electronic filing of both federal and state income tax returns at the same time. Refer to IRM 3.42.5.9, Federal/State Electronic Filing, for more information.

Electronic Signature Options
  1. Electronic Return Originators (EROs) (including volunteers) must use either the Self-Select PIN or Practitioner PIN method to electronically sign an individual tax return.

  2. The Self-Select PIN method uses a five-digit PIN and taxpayers must use it to sign the tax return. For the Practitioner PIN method, taxpayers authorize the ERO to enter their five-digit PIN in the electronic record by completing Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

  3. Refer to IRM 3.42.5.7, General Information and Overview of Signatures for IRS e-file Returns for more information on electronic signature options.

IRS e-file Application
  1. The applicant must complete the IRS e-file Application online. The applicant sends or revises the form through e-Services. For details on the IRS e-file program, see IRM 3.42.10, Authorized IRS e-file Providers and Publication 3112, IRS e-file Application and Participation.

  2. To create a new application, update an existing application, add new location, or remove a location, users must create an IRS e-services account and then send the IRS e-file application electronically. Users can register for e-services on-line by following the guidance on the e-services page. To successfully register and access e-services, users must pass Secure Access Authentication. Once the user passes Secure Access Authentication, they create a profile by selecting a username, password, site phrase, and site image they need to log in. Users must pass the Secure Access Authentication online to register and send the IRS e-file application. The applicant can save the application in progress and made changes without restarting the process. The system assigns a tracking number to the application once saved.

  3. The delegation of authority feature allows responsible officials of the firm/organization, to delegate e-services to their employees. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) not for profit sites do not have Principals; therefore, a Responsible Official sends the application. Each application must have at least two (2) Responsible Officials. The Responsible Official has authority over the provider’s IRS e-file operation at a location. Providers use the RO as the first point of contact with the IRS. The RO signs revised IRS e-file applications.

  4. The Responsible Official has the authority to update an application on behalf of their listed firm, may change the firm/organization information, add another Responsible Official and revise the application.

  5. SPEC RM must review all e-file applications and currently using the ESAM EUP system. RM must alert the Responsible Officials if the system needs updating and work together to get the application updated.

Direct Deposit
  1. Taxpayers have the choice of receiving their refund through the Direct Deposit method. If a taxpayer wants IRS to deposit their refund into one account, they can use the direct deposit line on their tax form. A taxpayer can choose to split their refund among two or three checking or savings accounts using Form 8888, Direct Deposit or Refund to More than One Account. Visit irs.gov for more information on the available Electronic IRS options.

E-file Technical Publications
  1. Several publications support the IRS e-file Program, and they include:

    • Revenue Procedure 2007-40 (Informs Authorized IRS e-file Providers of their obligations to the IRS, taxpayers, and other participants in the IRS e-file Program)

    • Publication 3112, IRS e-file Application and Participation

    • Publication 1345 Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns

    Note:

    Users can download both documents from irs.gov using the key search words "e-file publications."

e-Help Desk
  1. The e-Help Desk has assistors ready to respond to Enrolled Agents, Reporting Agents, EROs, CPA, Software Developers, and Transmitters with non-account related questions and issues concerning electronic services and products.

  2. SPEC personnel have the authority to contact the e-Help Desk when SPEC "represents" VITA/TCE partners. SPEC personnel must work with their assigned FS&A analyst before contacting the e-Help Desk. The FS&A SME must be rained, can review applications and/or issue a new EFIN in an emergency.

  3. The toll-free number for the e-Help Desk is 866-255-0654.

Third Party Data Store
  1. The Third-Party Data Store (TPDS) database stores and updates all IRS e-file application information for generating EFIN, Electronic Transmitted Identification Numbers (ETIN), letters and reports. The database also stores information for other e-Services products.

  2. Internal users access the data stored in TPDS through External Services Authorization Management (ESAM) Employee User Portal (EUP) - a web hosting infrastructure.

  3. Users must follow the steps below to gain access to TPDS:

    1. Register for ESAM EUP access using User Registration

    2. Register for Product access using BEARS

  4. An employee must complete both processes and obtain managerial approval before they can access the system.

  5. Partners can access the information through ESAM Registered User Portal (RUP) which gives users the ability to electronically file certain returns and create or revise certain applications via the internet after registering as an e-Services user.

Online Resources
  1. Below is a list of several on-line tools available for researching information that helps employees with marketing/promotion of electronic products and services.

    1. IRS Source -Visit irs.gov for all tax related information

    2. E-File for Tax Professionals - Visit E-file for Tax Professionals to find out about all available electronic products and services. These links supply the latest information on Individual and Business e-file, e-services, e-file for Tax Professionals, electronic payment options, electronic signatures, research and demographics, and e-file technical publications. Both employees and the public use this tool

    3. Quick Alerts Messaging - a web-based solution with the ability to send mass messages within seconds to all subscribers. The system uses a "push" technology (pro-active) to communicate messages to Authorized IRS e-file Providers (EROs, Software Developers and Transmitters). Subscribers receive communications about processing delays, e-file program updates, early notification of upcoming seminars/conferences and other relative e-file changes 24/7 via email. See Publication 4003, Quick Alerts Messaging and/or Quick Alerts “More” e-file benefits for Tax Professionals to learn more about subscribing

    4. Quick Alerts Messaging for IRS Employees - Available to employees for receiving messages. Visit Quick Alerts “More” e-file benefits for Tax Professionals to learn more about subscribing

    5. Filing for Individuals- Visit 1040 Central A one-stop online shop for employees and the public looking for "Hot" topics, key forms, what is new in the tax code, helpful tools, resources, and FAQs

    6. 1040 Central for Employees - Visit 1040 Central for Employees. This page includes content found on the 1040 Central page of irs.gov. The page also includes items of special interest to IRS employees. For example, the Filing Season Quick Reference guide lists helpful reminders and highlights new, important topics, and tax law changes that affect the taxpaying public. The guide has important telephone numbers and key filing season messages

    7. IRS Source - Visit IRS Source for a list of media/communications products

SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM)

  1. SPECTRM is the management information system (MIS) for SPEC. It exists in a network environment with SPEC employees in each Territory office having access to the application.

  2. The SPEC Territory offices must check the system to ensure it accurately reflects current data in all modules. A multitude of reporting activities depend on these data.

  3. SPEC Territory offices integrate several different modules to supply an overall management information system. See the list below:

    • Partners Module -The partners information module includes contact information for the organization, contacts of the organization (people), and the partner profile supplying a view of partner’s abilities to meet SPEC goals in areas such as language skills, international issues, and financial literacy

    • Contacts Module - The contacts module links to other modules in the SPECTRM database. It holds all contacts for partners, sites, equipment, software orders, and production

    • Sites Module -The sites module includes information specific to both VITA and TCE sites, including, but not limited to days/hours of operation, types of service provided, special language services, and appointment phone number

    • Site Quality Module -The Site Quality Module (SQM) holds data from QPO, and the SPEC territory employee completed QSS reviews and site quality reviews. The Territory office must input Forms 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet into the Site Quality module

    • Equipment Module - The equipment module supplies inventory tracking for equipment used in the VITA and TCE programs

    • Production Module -The production module must be used to input volunteer counts (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), and outreach activities/contacts (SPECTRM Production Module 13315)

    • Tax Software Orders Module - The software orders module allows SPEC to track the number and location of software orders. It allows linking from the sites and contacts modules in SPECTRM to end the need to keep a separate system with similar data

  4. SPECTRM has web-based reports to pull information from SPECTRM modules. Access pre-designed web-based reports from the “Reports” hyper-link in any SPECTRM module detail record.

  5. For the most current information on access and use of the SPECTRM system, refer to the SPECTRM and User Guides found on The Point.

SPECTRM Partners Module
  1. All partners (including coalitions) delivering leveraged production require partner information input into SPECTRM. Without linking activity to a partner for tax preparation production, it is a "direct" activity.

  2. A partner is any intermediary (individual, organization, or coalition of organizations) that shares common goals and resources to ease and/or deliver SPEC Programs. The intermediary must contribute or supply support to sites that contribute quantitative business results for SPEC.

  3. The Territory office TC must link all sites to a partner.

  4. The annual Partner Satisfaction Survey uses partner information captured in the partners module. Information in the module ensures the statistical validity of the sample and contains the information necessary for our partners. SPEC HQ’s must link each contact with the Partner Survey to each partner in SPECTRM and send it to the designated contact. To receive the survey, the partner information must store a link to the designated contact.

  5. Always select the SPEC programs a partner supports when creating a partner record. Update this information as the relationship develops and matures.

  6. It serves to capture whether the partner receives federal financial aid and certify that discrimination against potential recipients of the help does not occur.

  7. The partners module captures local affiliation with national organizations. Through linking local partners to national partners, NP provides their national partners with the impact of their involvement with SPEC.

  8. Link partners involved in tax return preparation activities to equipment loans to supply a comprehensive list of the IRS resources used to support their activities and to the sites they sponsor. Creating the correct linkages throughout the SPECTRM modules supply valuable information of partner performance.

Documenting Potential Partners in SPECTRM
  1. RM inputs potential new partners into the SPECTRM Partner Module.

  2. Select “Active-NO” to leave a potential partner inactive.

  3. Input any activity, meetings, and results into the comments section.

  4. After the partner and SPEC finish an agreement, update the record to "Active-Yes" in SPECTRM.

  5. The partner report, "Partner Listing for Export" , lists inactive partners and any comments made.

SPECTRM Contacts Module
  1. The contact module includes all volunteer information. Employees must input in SPECTRM information for those volunteers serving serve in a position requiring interaction with SPEC, such as site coordinator, primary partner contact, software and equipment contact, or outreach contact.

  2. Information captured includes street and email addresses, phone number, and roles the contact performs. These roles include primary contact, information provider or volunteer.

  3. Contact information in this module can include identification, contact skills, training certification date and site assignment data. For volunteers serving in the role of site coordinator, the system must reflect the date the coordinator passed the site coordinator test and the delivery method.

  4. All other modules and some reports – partners, sites, equipment, tax software orders, and production- use information from the contact module. It is important to use proper capitalization especially for generating Property Loan Agreements (PLA). Entering someone as "Mary Maltese" results in a loan agreement with "Mary Maltese" For a professional product, enter the name as "Mary Maltese."

  5. Employees may remove contacts from SPECTRM when the person does not have control of IRS resources (e.g., printers and computers).

SPECTRM Site Module
  1. The sites module allows the user to input into SPECTRM the number, type, and location of sites offering free tax preparation.

  2. Information kept in the database appears on the IRS wide Electronic Research Program (SERP). IRS toll-free assistors use this system to inform the public of available locations, times, and special help offered at sites open to the public. Sites un-open to the public, do not appear on SERP. The VITA Site Locator, accessible from IRS.gov, supplies an internet accessible, searchable list of non-AARP volunteer tax preparation sites open to the public. The sites on the VITA Site Locator come from the SPECTRM Site module. Only complete site records meeting the SPEC criteria for listing on SERP or the VITA Site Locator posting appear. Missing or incomplete information prevents a site from displaying on SERP or the VITA Site Locator.

  3. As a result of the module linkages in SPECTRM, users have the capability of viewing all related information concerning the tax preparation site. The tabs sections displayed in the Site module include General Information, Address, Schedule, Days and Hours, Services (various), SERP Information, Site Profiles, Contacts, Partners, Tax Software Orders, Equipment, and Comments. Employees must input any special services provided at a site.

  4. Link all leveraged sites to the Primary partner running those sites. Sites not linked to a partner sites in SPECTRM and not counted as leveraged activity in the production reports. Link Grant related sites to the correct Supporting Partner and the Grant partner for the site.

  5. The territory must input all VITA and TCE non-AARP sites into SPECTRM, even if the site is un-open to the public. Sites un-open to the public, may include sites on military bases limited to base personnel or sites open to residents of a housing complex.

  6. National AARP Tax-Aide supplies basic AARP site information for import to SPECTRM. For AARP sites, the Territory office RM must input key information such as the EFIN, Site Profile items such as software used, languages supported, etc., along with linking the Primary Contact, Site Coordinator, and the partner (if applicable) to the site in SPECTRM.

  7. If a site is open in separate locations, then enter each location into SPECTRM with the different address, phone number, dates, and hours of operation.

    Note:

    If a site changes its name and/or address, update the name and address in SPECTRM. Do not generate a new SIDN by inputting a new site.

  8. Sites active for the current year once employees check the box “open for XXXX” as “Yes.” XXXX is the current year, e.g., 2011, 2012, etc. Do not check the “open for XXXX” box until the employee receives confirmation.

    Note:

    Un-check the “open for XXXX” box if the site does un-open. You do not need to update the Open and Close dates.

  9. Input the schedule section for all non-AARP sites, if the site schedule is not by appointment only. Separately enter in the Days, Time, E-file, and Other fields. If a site is open three days, then make three entries showing each individual day of the week. The Time fields input format is HH:MM. Designate AM or PM. If you input, "Yes" to e-file, then shows each day the site offers.

  10. Once input and saved in SPECTRM, the data populates the “gray box SERP Information” section with a continuous “string” of the days, hours, and other operation information. This information displays in SERP.

  11. "Appointment Only" sites do not require days and hours information but does require a phone number and appointment URL.

  12. Update the VITA and TCE site information once the partner supplies the information. Enter new non-AARP sites into SPECTRM.

  13. For all sites opening in the upcoming filing season, input all required fields by January 15th. SPEC HQ uses the confirmed site information to project the number of software licenses needed.

  14. Review site information for accuracy for:

    • Zip code

    • Open and closed dates

    • Appointment number and/or appointment URL for appointment only sites

    • Languages offered at the site in the Site Profile Section

    • Open for XXXX (Year) marked “Yes”

Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet
  1. Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, supplies a consistent method for securing correct site information for input in SPECTRM.

  2. SPEC staff must place site information from transfers to SERP on IRS.gov. Customer Account Services (CAS) and Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) employees use the data to provide taxpayers with volunteer site locations in local communities. Because taxpayers can search for a free tax preparation site, it is imperative all site information is placed accurately input into SPECTRM.

  3. VITA and TCE non-AARP sites must use Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, or alternative document to notify SPEC of their site information.

    Note:

    If not using Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, the alternative must include all information on the current version of the form. The TM or designee must approve and sign the document.

  4. RM must secure Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, or alternative and input correct site information into SPECTRM. The RM carry out this action via:

    • Mail

    • E-mail

    • Fax

    • Hand Delivery

    • Phone Call (the RM can complete Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, through contact with the partner)

      Note:

      Partners must know available site and appointment information on IRS.gov. If the site coordinator’s information includes a personal residence, due to security risks, partners must follow established security guidelines to safeguard personally identifiable information (PII).

  5. When using Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, or alternative document, a partner, site coordinator, or SPEC employee must act based on the site. If a new site:

    1. Complete a new form or alternative document

    2. Input the latest information into SPECTRM

    3. Supply the document to the TM or designee for approval

    4. Check the box Open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM

    5. Maintain a copy of the input document in a territory file (paper or electronic)

  6. For an existing site:

    1. Using Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet or alternative document confirms existing site information with the partner or site coordinator

    2. Make necessary changes to site information in SPECTRM if needed

    3. Send the input document to the TM or designee for approval

    4. Check the box Open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM

    5. Maintain a copy of the input document (paper or electronic) in territory file

  7. For site information updates/changes during the filing season:

    1. Update the input document with latest information and date

    2. Input the latest information into SPECTRM

    3. Send the corrected input document to the TM or designee for approval

    4. Maintain a copy of all input document changes in the territory file (paper or electronic)

      Note:

      If a site marked open for [applicable year] does not open, un-check the box open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM to signify the site active for the current filing season. If a site marked open for [applicable year] closes early/unexpectedly, do not un-check the box in SPECTRM. Change the Close Date to match the date the site closed.

  8. Employees must update SPECTRM as they receive Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, or alternative documents. For sites that open on or before February 1 of the current year, input documents and mark open for [the applicable year] in SPECTRM, no later than January 15.

  9. Secure site information to finish the data for any site days, hours, and location of operation unknown by January 15.

  10. Territories must make all updates/corrections to site information at once, but no later than three (3) business days after receipt.

  11. TM must confirm the accuracy of the information in SPECTRM by signing (approving) the bottom of Form 13715 or alternative document and checking the box open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM to signify the site as active for the current filing season.

  12. SPEC Territory offices must keep all input documents and any attachments (such as SPECTRM site information prints) until December 31st of the relevant tax year. After December 31st, follow procedures for proper disposal of sensitive information.

  13. AARP does not use Form 13715. SPEC receives AARP Tax Aide site information directly from the AARP Tax Aide National Office and transfers it into SPECTRM.

  14. AARP has responsibility for the accuracy of its site information. If AARP sites require corrections, the RM must notify the correct local AARP representative. Territories must elevate continuous discrepancies with AARP site information through the FS&A office to the SPEC HQ AARP National Relationship Manager for resolution.

SPECTRM Site Module Validation
  1. SPEC uses the information in SPECTRM for many purposes, such as measures, site statistics, populating SERP for toll-free research, IRS.gov, volunteer tax preparation software and equipment ordering. Correct and accurate information is important for these uses. Employees must confirm the following areas after October 1st, and no later than January 15th, for the filing season.

  2. Sites open to the public only appear on the SERP VITA/TCE/AARP Site Search page if accurately reflected in SPECTRM. The Site Search page only displays sites currently open or opening in the following three (3) weeks of executing a search. Near the beginning of the fiscal year, un-check all non-AARP sites marked Open for the prior tax year to say, “Open for (current tax year)” is “No.” AARP updates its sites with a data extract.

  3. For sites opened to the public after September 30th, SPECTRM updates to reflect the site as still open. Indicate “Yes” “Open for 20XX” (XX equals the upcoming filling season) in SPECTRM, so the site information populates to the SERP Site Search webpage, and the VITA Site Locator.” Complete this action by October 25 of the current year.

  4. Only the TM or their designee may mark a site as open. If the site has already closed, no action is necessary. This action impacts sites open to the public between October 1st and December 31st, so information is readily available for the SERP Site Search webpage, and the VITA Site Locator. Sites must post correct information to the VITA Site Locator on IRS.gov.

  5. Verify site operation data before changing the “Open for 20XX” (XX equals the upcoming filing season) box to “Yes.” Ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects all non-AARP site information in SPECTRM no later than February 15th for inclusion in the official site count.

  6. Record all sites in SPECTRM to show service available during the year. Territories must secure site information from partners for recordation in SPECTRM. If a site is an appointment-only site, it must include the phone number and/or appointment URL.

  7. SPEC staff must use SIDNs unique identifiers to recognize the volunteer tax preparation site. They appear in the paid preparer’s Social Security number field on paper returns and in the PTIN field on e-filed returns prepared at the volunteer sites. The SIDN must appear on all paper and e-filed returns.

  8. SPEC measures depend on correct site/partner linkages. Sites not linked to a partner site are direct sites.

  9. Once the Grant Program Office announces its new VITA Grant partners, territories must update the sites to reflect the proper VITA Grant designation and VITA Grant’s partner. Territories must review their site designations and remove any reference to the VITA grant if the partner/site is not part of the current grant period.

  10. It is important that the program type is correct. When adding a new site to SPECTRM, the SIDN is determined based on the program selected. However, some sites move between programs and elect to keep their SIDN. By changing the program only, the site can keep the same SIDN throughout their relationship with IRS. SPEC reports the number and location of VITA, VITA Military, VITA Grant, AARP, TCE Non-AARP, or co-located sites by program. SPECTRM must show the correct information for the following program fields: SPEC production results, software orders and equipment orders, etc. See the SPECTRM training manual for a description of each program type.

  11. The license agreement between IRS and the software vendor is a site license agreement. SPEC defines a site as a physical location. As the volunteer e-file program continues to grow, SPEC finds itself needing more funding. To support funding requests, SPEC needs correct data. To accurately project product needs and license requirements, SPEC needs an exact count of all the products it provides. SPEC uses this field to capture that information.

  12. Enter the civil rights indicator for each SPECTRM partner in the partner profile section in SPECTRM by January 15th. Complete the following two fields to complete the Title VI information section in SPECTRM for each partner:

    • Yes - partner has a civil rights requirement (receives federal funding) or No - partner does not have a civil rights requirement (does not receive federal funding)

    • The effective date of the Title VI

  13. Form 14099, SPEC Partner/Site FEAB Assessment Tool, aids the RM in finding the FEAB services offered, and to assess the Engagement Activity of the partner/site locations. Employees must assess all non-AARP partners and sites listed in the partner and site module and capture the information in SPECTRM. Link each partner to the correct national partner and sites to their Primary and Secondary partner (if a grant related site).

SPECTRM Annual Review
  1. FS&A analysts perform a sample review on the data of one (1) percent of the active sites in SPECTRM. This sample review confirms dates the accuracy of the information posted to the VITA Locator and SERP.

  2. FS&A analysts randomly select the sites for the review. Sites selected in proportion to the number of walk-in and appointment only sites in the area. For example, if an area reviews 115 sites and 55 percent of the sites in the area listed as appointment only sites, then the analyst must review 63 of the site reviews by appointment only and 52 sites conducted by walk-in.

    Note:

    The prior year site counts decide the number of sites reviewed. For example, the reviewer must use the number of sites counts from the prior filing season to decide the number of sites counts for the current filing season.

  3. FS&A analysts review Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, for each non-AARP site included in the review.

  4. FS&A analysts compare the site information from AARP website to the information in SPECTRM. The analyst documents their findings/actions in a Word document (including a screen shot of the site information from AARP’s website), pulls a copy of the Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, from SPECTRM, and keep this documentation (in paper or electronically), per the current Form 13715, Volunteer Site Information Sheet, guidelines (until the end of the year).

  5. The review includes test calls to appointment only sites.

  6. FS&A performs this review annually, by March 15th.

  7. For required corrections to SPECTRM information:

    • VITA/TCE Non-AARP- The FS&A analyst must inform the correct Territory Office of the necessary changes. Territory offices must correct the data in SPECTRM at once

    • AARP- The FS&A analyst must send the Territory office of the discrepancies. The Territory office must work with the AARP site’s primary contact to correct the information. If the territory confirms AARP has corrected the site information in the AARP database system, and it has not updated in SPECTRM, sends the discrepancies to the SPECTRM Help Desk for resolution

  8. Report all SPECTRM and SERP VITA/TCE/AARP Site Search problems to PSA through the SPECTRM Help Desk.

  9. The FS&A analyst must send results of the reviews to the PS SPECTRM analyst by April 1st.

  10. PS prepares an accuracy report of the review by May 1st.

SPECTRM Equipment Module
  1. The Equipment Module in SPECTRM supplies inventory information for tracking equipment used in the VITA and TCE programs. Employees place orders for laptops from the VITA and TCE Depot.

  2. Link all equipment on loan to a contact and partner. Employees may link equipment to a site also. This information flows to information shared with End User Equipment and Services for update of KISAM (Knowledge, Incident/Problem Service, and Asset Management).

  3. The equipment module allows SPEC to meet the required annual inventory certification for KISAM.

  4. Control all computers and printers used to support the VITA and TCE volunteer return preparation effort in SPECTRM.

  5. The system allows for linking equipment to the contact information recorded in SPECTRM ending the need to keep separate systems with similar data. While equipment is on loan, it must reflect the correct contact and partner information allowing SPEC to easily find the equipment if needed. Users may link the equipment to a site. Although not needed, linking equipment to a site allows an employee to assess the site’s productivity in relationship to the equipment.

  6. The system supports for electronic generation of the Property Loan Agreement (PLA). When the user receives the assigned equipment, the user may print the PLA for that session. Subsequent loans of other equipment generate a different loan agreement.

  7. The system allows the reprint of a PLA.

Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and Return Preparation Service
  1. Federal agencies and recipients of federal financial aid must provide meaningful access to services to LEP persons, per Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). For more information about EO 13166 and the IRS definition of LEP, see IRM 22.31, Multilingual Initiatives.

  2. The IRS commits to supply top-quality service to each taxpayer, including those who lack a full command of the English language. SPEC leverages existing partners to fully use available resources and expand services to LEP taxpayers.

  3. SPEC supplies services to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) taxpayers, who represent a cross-section of lower-income and underserved taxpayers.

  4. Partnerships sets-up with LEP-based community organizations offer significant growth opportunities for SPEC to meet LEP taxpayer needs.

  5. The SPEC Territory offices must confirm and monitor SPECTRM data to ensure accuracy within all modules. See IRM 22.30.1.8.15, SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM) and Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet for more information.

  6. SPEC shares information in SPECTRM with the Servicewide Electronic Research Program (SERP), using IRS toll-free assistors to inform the public of available locations, times, and special aid available at sites open to the public.

  7. If a partner site offers services in languages other than English, enter the languages offered into the site module.

  8. Resources:

    • LEP.gov

    • IRM 22.31.1, Multilingual Initiative, IRS Language Services

    • IRM 22.31.1.1.2, Authority

    • Civil Rights Advisory 14-16 Providing language access to taxpayers with limited English proficiency

    • LEP Commonly Asked Questions

    • LEP Policy Guidance for Treasury Recipients

    • IRS “I Speak" language identification card

SPECTRM Production Module
  1. The Production Module holds two forms:

    1. Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report - Used to input volunteer counts

    2. Form 13315, Outreach and Event Reporting - SPECTRM input form

SPECTRM Tax Software Orders Module
  1. The tax software orders module supports electronic generation of a "real-time" inventory of software by territory and by area.

  2. The module builds from the information contained in the Sites and Contacts Modules. Before placing an order, the Territory or Area must add the site in the site’s module and listed as an e-file site. The site name, address, program type, SIDN, EFIN and transmitting EFIN populates from the site’s module.

  3. Any changes to site information requires deletion of the existing software order and creation of a new software order.

  4. The contacts module populates the shipping address, shipping name, phone number, and email address. The requestor must supply a correct email address for the software order. The software vendor loads this email address into its group code to supply shipping and update information to the site. Do not use the IRS SPEC RM’s email address unless the individual is the Site Manager.

  5. The Territory offices must ensure the accuracy of all orders input into SPECTRM.

SPECTRM Change Request
  1. SPECTRM users must send an Employee Suggestion Program (ESP) to find and request potential improvements to SPECTRM functionality and/or Reports.

  2. The ESP must:

    • Clearly name the SPECTRM module or report change

    • Describe the change requested

    • Describe how the change improves the accuracy of SPECTRM

    • Describe how the change impacts SPEC’s ability to meet its goals

    • Describe how the suggestion affects employees’ ability to perform their job and if approved

    • Describe how the suggestion affects employees’ ability to perform their job or if NOT approved

  3. The suggestion originator must complete the ESP.

  4. The assigned SPEC HQ analyst contacts the originating Area office with the status of its suggestion within 60 days of submission.

Volunteer Programs: Security, Equipment, Software and Products

  1. In support of return preparation activities, SPEC may supply equipment (computers and printers), tax return preparation software and products to partners for electronic filing of returns. By supplying these resources, SPEC is supporting the IRS goals concerning electronic filing and supplying tools for our partners that improve the quality of the returns filed. This service helps customers served by the program by making refunds available sooner. Due to limited resources, SPEC must make wise business decisions on where they place these resources. Because the use of this technology concentrates a large amount of sensitive information into electronic records, it adds responsibilities to our partners and volunteers to ensure both the physical and electronic protection of this data.

Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights – A Public Trust

  1. Publication 4299 Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, serves as the central guidance covering privacy, confidentiality and security of all information received at VITA and TCE sites. To ensure program integrity and supply reasonable protection of information provided by the taxpayers serviced through the VITA and TCE program. Partners and volunteers adhere to the strictest standards of ethical conduct and follow the key principles listed below:

    • Partners and volunteers must keep confidential the information obtained 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 sharing taxpayer data for purposes other than current, prior, or later year tax return preparation must secure the taxpayer’s consent to use or show their data

    • Partners and volunteers must remove taxpayer information stored on computers (both IRS loaned, and partner owned) after completing all filing season tax return preparation activities

    • Partners and site coordinators must keep confidential all personal volunteer information

  2. Form 13533, VITA/TCE Sponsor Agreement, reiterates the key principles of privacy and confidentiality found in the Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust. By signing this agreement, the sponsor agrees to the standards of conduct and privacy and confidentiality key principles. The local SPEC Territory office keeps the signed form. The IRS may end this agreement, at once, for disreputable conduct that could affect taxpayers’ confidence in any VITA and TCE program run by the partner or the partner’s coalition members.

  3. Other SPEC products that address privacy, confidentiality, and security include:

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program

    • Publication 4491, VITA/TCE Training Guide

    • Publication 4671, Helping you Help Others VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions

    • LLT

    • Publication 4473, Computer Loan Program - Welcome Package

  4. More IRS resources supply help for ensuring privacy, confidentiality and security include:

    • Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns

    • Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data- A Guide for Your Business

Territory Responsibilities
  1. When finding new partners, Territories must discuss the privacy, confidentiality, civil rights, and security requirements of the program to ensure new partners understand their responsibilities. Using Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights- A Public Trust, as the basis for this discussion, the territory must walk partners through the key principles. SPEC gives general guidelines and does not specify how to carry out each aspect to allow maximum flexibility for the partner in designing their site operations and security processes.

  2. Once the partner agrees to the expectations in Pub 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights- A Public Trust, the RM must ask for and keep a Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, for each new partner. Partners must complete new sponsor agreements annually.

  3. AARP must sign Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, at their national level. The AARP RM in NP keeps the agreement.

  4. The Armed Forces Tax Council (AFTC) must sign the Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, for all military branches. The Military Relationship Manager in NP keeps the agreement.

  5. National partners must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) with SPEC. NP communicates this requirement and secures all MOUs. Some MOUs state that NP must secure Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, at the national level. If required, NP informs FS&A and the territory that NP keeps the sponsor agreement

Helping Partners Assess Risk and Develop a Security Plan to Protect Information
  1. Territories must inform all partners of the requirement that all VITA/TCE sites, except FSA remote sites, prepare and annual security plan to safeguard taxpayer data. Sites can use Form 15272, VITA/TCE Security Plan or similar document which capture the same information to meet this requirement. The security plan has two sections:
    Section I - Security Requirement
    Section II - Virtual VITA/TCE Process

    • All sites must complete Section I (Security Requirements) which supplies information on the procedures the site uses to help ensure the security of taxpayer information

    • Any site using a virtual process must also complete Section II (Virtual VITA/TCE Process) which must outline the entire virtual model the site uses to aid taxpayers. For more information on the virtual models see Publication 5450, VITA/TCE Site Operations

  2. All partners must approve the security plan. The site coordinator must sign the form and send the form to their SPEC TM (or local SPEC designee) prior to opening of the site but no later than December 31st.

  3. The Electronic Tax Administration developed Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business, to help businesses understand their responsibilities around the protection of taxpayer data. Although this publication supplies information for businesses, many of the aspects discussed aid the volunteer partner in ensuring they address security.

  4. Territories must become familiar with Publication 4299, Confidentiality, Security, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, and Pub 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business, to help partners if questions arise about certain practices. Security controls needed include:

    1. Locking doors to restrict access to paper or electronic files

    2. Requiring passwords to restrict access to computer files

    3. Encrypting electronically stored taxpayer data

    4. Keeping a backup of electronic data for recovery purposes

    5. Shredding paper with taxpayer information before throwing it in the trash

    In addition, Pub 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business, contains a complete list of items, references, and best practices to safeguard taxpayer data.

Privacy Act Requirements
  1. SPEC employees must adhere to the Privacy Act of 1974. Privacy Act - 5 USC 552a safeguards against invasion of personal privacy through misuse of records by federal agencies. The Act balances the individual’s personal privacy interest against the government’s need to collect and keep information about individuals.

  2. Territories must issue a Privacy Act notice to everyone who is asked to supply information, on the form used to collect the information or on a separate form kept by the individual. This notice is a statutory requirement, whether the individual supplying the information is an employee or a potential volunteer. It applies to any request for such information, either in writing, verbal, in an electronic questionnaire, or in a formatted email solicitation. Any forms, publications, or documents with a primary or secondary purpose of collecting data on individuals must include the privacy statement.

  3. The Privacy Act applies to all records kept by TIGTA that hold information about an individual and stored in a system of records, i.e., records retrieved by some finding characteristic of the individual, e.g., name, Social Security number, type of coding, etc.)

  4. Terms and definitions that relate to the Privacy Act:

    Definitions

    Term Definition
    Record Any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that the agency keeps and that holds that individual's] name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifier assigned to the individual, such as a finger or voice print or a photograph. Privacy Act- 5 USC 552a (a) (4).
    Individual A citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Privacy Act - 5 USC 552a (a) (2). The Privacy Act does not apply to information about entities (i.e., corporations or partnerships) and does not safeguard the privacy of deceased individuals. Corporations, partnerships, estates, organizations, and other entities, not "individuals," for Privacy Act purposes. However, court opinion decides that an individual acting in an entrepreneurial ability (such as a sole proprietor) is an "individual" for purposes of the Act.
    Maintain Includes the retention, collection, use, and dissemination of a record. Privacy Act - 5 USC 552a (a) (3).
    Routine Use An established use and authority for disclosure of information from a Privacy Act system of record without prior written consent of the record subject previously published in the Federal Register.
    System of Records A group of records under the control of any agency from which the agency retrieves by the name of the individual or by some finding number, symbol, or other identifier assigned to the individual. Privacy Act - 5 USC 552a (a) (5).
    System of Records Notices A notice published in the Federal Register for each system of records kept by the agency.
     

  5. See IRM 10.5.6.2, Privacy Act General Provisions (formerly in RM 11.3.14) for more information.

SPEC Privacy Policy
  1. The policy defines requirements for application of Privacy Act notices during information collection relating to volunteer income tax preparation and outreach programs.

  2. The policy applies to all SPEC employees, including detailed, temporary employees, and interns performing work for SPEC (hereafter called employees), whether the employee works in a government designated office, travels, or works from home on behalf of SPEC in volunteer income tax help or outreach programs.

  3. Many SPEC outreach and volunteer income tax aid programs collect personal information from individuals (contacts, volunteers, and partners) for use other than tax return preparation and processing.

  4. If an employee asks for any information from an individual for a use other than tax return preparation and processing, and the information stays in a system of records from which the agency retrieves based on any unique identifier of that individual (name, SSN, location, code, etc.), the requirements of 5 USC 552a (e) (3) apply and the individual must receive a written statement, known as a Privacy Act Notice, which incorporates the following elements:

    • The agency authority to ask for the information and whether the furnishing of the information is voluntary or mandatory

    • The principal purpose and use of the information

    • The routine uses of such information

    • The effects on the individual, if any, of not supplying the information. However, if an employee collects an individual’s information for tax return preparation and processing, refer to IRM 10.5.6.4.4, The Umbrella Approach for Tax Returns T, for more information

  5. The SPECTRM database, individual information recorded on paper files and cards filed alphabetically by individual’s names all qualify as a system of records. To learn which systems qualify as a system of record, refer to System of Records Notices (SORNs).

  6. SPEC employees must refer to information technology security issues found in IRM 10.8.1, Information Technology (IT) Security, Policy and Guidance, as well as any other IRS privacy concerns related to the safeguarding of sensitive information.

Equipment and Tax Preparation Software for Volunteers

  1. SPEC encourages partners self-sufficiency; however, some partners cannot supply the technology resources needed for electronic preparation and transmission of tax returns. SPEC has a core group of printers and computers (laptops) it loans in support of the VITA and TCE program. SPEC places equipment where it supplies the most value. Territory offices must consider past performance, hours of access, and availability of volunteers when making equipment allocation decisions. SPEC encourages new partners to supply their own equipment resources; however, some hard-to-reach customer segments need equipment upon start up.

  2. Territory offices must account for all equipment on loan. Territory offices use the SPECTRM database to supply effective and consistent controls of computers and printers. The Brookhaven Equipment Depot (the Depot) controls and ships the equipment. At the end of each filing season, partners and volunteers must return laptops to the Depot by May 15th. Territory offices store printers in their inventory at the Territory office; partners can keep printers in their possession.

    Note:

    IRS employees must not use printer equipment.

  3. End User and Equipment Services (EUES) - Modernization and Information Technology Services (MITS) controls IRS assets and supports the Depot. The Depot manages equipment used in the VITA and TCE program. The table below outlines the responsibilities of the Depot:

    The Depot which involves...
    sets-up the laptops loading the operating system, tax preparation software (current year available), drivers, security protocol, etc. and supplying components (power and network cables, etc.,)
    packages and ships the laptops packaging and shipping the laptops from the Depot to the needed locations.
    stores the laptops providing storage while not in use and for new replacement laptops.
    inventories the laptops controlling laptops in their possession.
    refreshes the laptops establishing a continuous cycle of higher end laptops from refreshment to replace lower end laptops.
    quality reviews the laptops establishing a process to review laptops for adherence to data deletion and software use provisions.
    provides customer support and "break/fix" for loaned computers establishing a technical support group to answer questions and replace broken computers. The Depot uses Knowledge Incident /Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM) to control laptops and printers. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.2, Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM) for more information on KISAM.

Headquarters Responsibilities
  1. The assigned PS analyst must:

    • Work with the Depot to share SPEC needs, ask for agreement to proposed measures and respond to questions related to equipment

    • Provide guidance for equipment orders, return of equipment and SPECTRM equipment maintenance with the FS&A office

    • Approve all equipment orders placed with the Depot

    • Supply information to the assigned FS&A analysts about the Depot, equipment, annual inventory actions, orders, problems, etc.

    • Communicate changes or corrections needed in SPECTRM to the FS&A office

    • Make any changes to SPECTRM for equipment at the Depot

    • Make the national purchase of printers and printer cartridges annually

    • Update equipment for volunteer’s program publications, forms and documents as needed

Field Support & Analysis (FS&A) Responsibilities
  1. The assigned FS&A analyst must:

    1. Ensure Territory offices promptly place and complete equipment orders and notify the SPEC HQ analyst of any anomalies with orders and/or shipments made to the territory or partner

    2. Communicate between SPEC HQ and the territory information related to the Depot, equipment, annual inventory actions, orders, problems etc.

    3. Communicate with SPEC HQ any problems or concerns raised by the territory, partners or volunteers about equipment, orders, use, etc.

    4. Notify ADs and/or the FS&A manager of problems or concerns about equipment orders, use, etc.

    5. Review equipment controls in SPECTRM against Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, when the territory conducts reviews

    6. Ensure territories respond to SPEC HQ and FS&A requests for action

    7. Ensure territories complete annual equipment certification actions and keep documentation of completion

    8. Shift equipment among the territories to achieve greatest return on investment while balancing service coverage. This includes ensuring partners use equipment only for its intended purpose

    9. Ensure the territories place and complete printer and printer cartridge orders promptly and notify SPEC HQ of any issues

Territory Responsibilities
  1. The Territory offices must:

    1. Decide where to place laptops (VITA and TCE non-AARP) and printers and ensure sufficient equipment resources exist to fill these needs

      Note:

      AARP Tax-Aide decides where to place laptops for their sites.

    2. Work with the FS&A office to obtain more resources when needed and/or share existing resources with other Territory offices when not needed

    3. Ensure the use of equipment at the best level to show balance with return on investment and service coverage

    4. Ensure the use of VITA and TCE equipment to carry out the purpose of the program

    5. Place all equipment orders as requested

    6. Confirm order information and delivery with SPEC partners or volunteers to ensure correct delivery of the equipment

    7. Ensure SPECTRM reflects correct contact information completion of shipments by the Depot

    8. Ensure SPECTRM always reflects the correct location of equipment

    9. Communicate information about the use of equipment to partners/volunteers, such as passwords, use of equipment, etc.

    10. Respond promptly to FS&A and SPEC HQ questions or concerns about equipment

    11. Secure Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, for loaned equipment and send information to the Depot following all Annual Certification procedures. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures

    12. Secure and keep documentation on lost and/or stolen equipment

    13. Ensure partners or /volunteers adhere to conditions listed on Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement

    14. Inform the assigned FS&A analyst of any problems relating to equipment, orders, inventory, use, etc.

Equipment Ordering (Laptops)
  1. SPEC uses the SPECTRM database to create and approve laptop orders.

  2. To help improve the accuracy of information sent to the Depot, SPEC HQ and FS&A analysts approve the laptop orders in SPECTRM.

  3. Beginning in July and ending in December, the territory creates laptop orders in SPECTRM and balances these orders for weekly shipments. SPEC HQ informs the areas of the maximum number of shipped orders per week at the beginning of each ordering year.

  4. AARP Tax-Aide sends their orders through their SPEC HQ, and territories create the orders in SPECTRM. Territories must ensure the contact information is correct in SPECTRM.

  5. Territories distribute the log-in and password information to laptop recipients.

  6. Territories send the PLA to laptop recipients to request a signature. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4, Property Loan Agreement and Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement for more information on the PLA.

  7. Territories secure signed PLAs from laptop recipients.

  8. SPEC HQ supplies laptop ordering guidelines to the SPEC field in June, annually.

Printer Cartridge Bulk Order
  1. To minimize cost, SPEC purchases printer cartridges annually and in bulk for printers used in the VITA and TCE program. The purchase occurs at the national level through the IRS Procurement office. SPEC HQ, FS&A, and the territories work together to coordinate ordering and acknowledging receipt of cartridges delivered to the Territory offices.

Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (PLA)
  1. The Territory must issue Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (PLA), to volunteers or partners who loan equipment for use to support volunteer electronic tax return preparation and electronic filing.

  2. Territories keep the signed PLA received from volunteers and partners. Signed PLAs for printers and laptops not acknowledged in SPECTRM, employees must send them to the Depot during certification (see IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures).

  3. Territories generate PLAs from SPECTRM reports. Except in limited situations, territories generate loan agreements outside of SPECTRM. If the territory generates a loan agreement outside of SPECTRM, the territory must then input it into SPECTRM at once.

  4. The Territory office must ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the loan of equipment, signed PLA, and return of equipment.

New Agreements
  1. Partner organizations and/or volunteers sign a new PLA when equipment moves from one volunteer to another.

  2. When a partner or volunteer keeps control of laptops or printers beyond the filing season, an In-Use Change Request (IUCR) in SPECTRM documents the new expected return date. The IUCR creates a new PLA. The partner or volunteer does not sign a new PLA if the date on the original PLA is after October 1st of the current fiscal year. Update the PLA acceptance date with the original signature date. File the new PLA with the original PLA. The partner or volunteer must sign a new PLA if the date on the original PLA is before October 1st of the current fiscal year. Update the PLA acceptance date with the new signature date.

  3. If the partner or volunteer plans to continue in the program and keep a printer for more than one filing season, the territory must secure a new PLA signature on or after October 1st each year. The PLA stays in effect for one year.

  4. Partners or volunteers who keep laptops after the filing season ends to continue filing season activities must return the laptops no later than November 1st each year. The Territory office must input an IUCR to reflect the new expected return date. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2.2, Extension for Returning Laptops for more information.

  5. The Territory office must ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the loan of equipment, signed PLA, and return of equipment.

Alternate Contact Information
  1. If the equipment on loan to a partner representative moves to another partner representative, the original representative must complete Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (alternate contact recipient information section) and send the updated information to the local SPEC Territory office within 30 days. Territory offices must input an In-Use Change Request (IUCR) to reflect the change in partner representative when they receive a PLA with alternate contact information. The Territory office must associate the new PLA with the original PLA.

  2. The partner may reassign equipment to other individuals but decide to keep central control. In this instance, the partner does not complete the PLA alternate contact information and send to SPEC. The partner (recipient) must keep control over the equipment and use Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, or other method to control the actual locations of the equipment. SPEC understands that partners may spread equipment among their sites to achieve maximum use. The partner representative must keep effective control of the equipment.

  3. The Territory office must ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the receipt and return of the loaned agreement.

Acknowledgement of Equipment Return
  1. Territories use the signed PLA on file to acknowledge receipt of returned equipment. After the territory verifies equipment received from a partner or volunteer, the employee must document the receipt by signing and dating the PLA. The territory sends a copy of the document to the recipient of equipment for their records. The territory may discard the original document after one year if the Depot receives all equipment covered on the agreement.

  2. Territories must ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the receipt and return of loaned of equipment.

Maintenance of Agreements
  1. Territories must keep Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (PLA), in an active file while equipment is on loan to a partner or volunteer. Once the partner or volunteer returns all equipment listed on the PLA or signs a new loan agreement, the territory must place the old agreement (and related property certification document) in an inactive file. The territory may discard this file one year after the agreement ends. SPEC keeps all PLAs and they must not send it to the Depot for filing purposes.

  2. Territories must ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the receipt of a signed PLA and return of equipment. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures.

Equipment Return Procedures
  1. Partners and volunteers must return all laptops to the Depot by May 15th, annually. SPEC employees must encourage partners to return equipment once filing season activities end.

  2. The territory decides whether partners and volunteers keep printers on loan or return them to the SPEC Territory office for storage. The Territory must keep a current year (dated on or after October 1st) Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, on file for printers the volunteer keeps.

Communicating Equipment Return Procedures to Partners
  1. Territories must ensure partners and volunteers understand the equipment return procedures and can use email to communicate with them about loaned equipment.

Minimum Communication Required to Be Sent to Partners
  1. Partners and volunteers must return laptops to the Depot when filing season activities end, but no later than May 15th.

  2. SPEC issues Publication 4473, IRS Equipment Loan Program Welcome Package, which tells recipients how to:

    • Back up data on the computer

    • Delete data from the computer

    • Request UPS return label and/or packing box

    • Package equipment (including all computer components)

    • Remove unnecessary items

  3. Partners and volunteers must keep and share UPS tracking information for the return shipment with the Territory office. Territory offices must request the tracking information from partners if not received. The territory must also ask the partner or volunteer to send the barcodes and serial numbers for the laptops if shipping multiple boxes.

  4. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.3 Printer Return Procedures, for printers returned to the territory or kept by the partner.

Laptop Return Procedures
  1. Territories must work with their partners and volunteers to ensure they return laptops to the Depot by May 15th and send tracking documentation if the Depot does not acknowledge receipt in KISAM. This protects both SPEC and the partner or volunteer. Partners or volunteers must send the Territory office the United Parcel Services, UPS, shipping label information along with the date shipped for each barcode.

  2. If the Depot did not receive the equipment, check for the return shipment in UPS using the tracking number obtained from the partner or volunteer. If there is no UPS tracking number found, the territory must verify the tracking number and date of shipment with the partner or volunteer. If the partner or volunteer has not shipped the laptop, verify the date they plan to ship it. Monitor UPS until the Depot receives the shipment.

  3. Territories can update SPECTRM with United Postal Service at UPS tracking numbers on equipment shipped from partner locations. Territories may develop and keep records to track equipment shipped from the partner or volunteer to the Depot if they decide not to use SPECTRM. This information supports a partner’s claim of returned equipment to the Depot.

  4. Laptops stay in the territory’s inventory until the Depot scans the barcode into KISAM. SPECTRM updates 24 hours after the Depot scans the equipment into KISAM.

Laptop Follow-Up Actions
  1. Territories must review their inventory beginning on May 15th to find equipment showing as not returned. The territory compares the SPECTRM inventory listing to the documentation received from the partner or volunteer and to any exceptions granted such as an extension to keep the laptop.

  2. Review the documentation and confirm UPS receipt and/or contact the partner to discuss the Depot’s non-receipt of the equipment. Document the discussion.

  3. Ensure SPECTRM reflects the correct expected return date; if SPECTRM reflects an expired expected return date, contact the partner or volunteer.

Extension for Returning Laptops
  1. Sites that continue to file electronic return after April 15th, can keep equipment to use for electronic filing of returns. Territories must consider the number of taxpayers expected to use the service and the number of volunteers operating sites after April 15th. This reduces the risk of stolen equipment and provides the partner with the needed resource.

    Example:

    A site keeps five laptops after April 15th. One volunteer continues to schedule appointments and prepares returns until August 15. Based on prior experience, the site files another 50 returns during this period. The territory and partner must assess the continued need for all equipment. In this specific example, the partner must return four laptops, keeping only one.

  2. The Territory must update SPECTRM to reflect the agreed upon date for the return of the laptops after May 15th. For instance, in the above example, update SPECTRM from an expected return date of May 15th (default date) to September 1st. Partners and volunteers must complete actions within two weeks of site closure and return the equipment.

  3. The Territory must create an In-Use Change Request (IUCR) to document the extension and new expected return date in SPECTRM. If the date on the signed and current PLA is on or after October 1st of the current fiscal year, do not request a new signature from the partner or volunteer. However, if the date on the PLA is before October 1st of the current fiscal year, request a new signature from the partner or volunteer. The territory must document the decision to extend the loan of equipment and obtain concurrence from the FS&A office. The FS&A office defines the method territories use to obtain concurrence but at a minimum, the documentation must include:

    • Bar code and serial number of equipment

    • Site name and dates of operation

    • Anticipated number of returns filed

    • Partner agreed upon return date

    • Updated expected return date in SPECTRM

  4. The method for filing tax returns electronically expires on October 15th. Partners and volunteers must return laptops no later than November 1st. Although some sites may continue to offer services beyond this date, the service of electronic filing of returns is not available.

Data Deletion Requirements
  1. Partners and volunteers must return computers to the Depot annually for the update of operating and tax software for the following filing season. Most partners and volunteers return laptops to the Depot in May and June because site operations end on April 15th. Volunteers who use online versions of tax preparation software may return laptops to the Depot without disk wiping them because the software does not store data on the laptop. Volunteers who use other versions of software (Desktop) and those who save taxpayer information, such as lists with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) etc. on the hard drive, must perform disk wipe actions before returning laptops to the Depot. IRS computers include a "wipe disk" program that removes software and all data from the computer. SPEC employees or the partner may complete this action based on local agreement.

  2. Because the Depot performs a 100 percent disk wipe of returned computers, SPEC does not perform a separate certification of data deletion for returned laptops.

Printer Return Procedures
  1. Territories must update SPECTRM to show an assignment of "in stock" for printers returned to the Territory office.

  2. Printers kept by partners must reflect an assignment of "in use" and show a current fiscal year October 1st through June 30th Property Loan Agreement. Update the Expected Return Date in SPECTRM to May 15th of the following year.

    Example:

    Fiscal year July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022, the territory updates the Expected Return Date in SPECTRM to May 15, 2024.

Broken or Obsolete Equipment
  1. Partners and volunteers must inform the territory if equipment (printers) breaks and plan for disposal. This frees up room for storage and gives a true accounting of equipment resources available for use.

  2. Partners and volunteers must return inoperable laptops to the Depot for disposal. Instruct the partner or volunteer to use the current contractor for controlled shipping, UPS.com. Record the tracking information for the shipment and file the documentation for future use.

Procedures to Dispose of Broken or Obsolete Printers
  1. For printers classified as broken or obsolete, the territory must input an IUCR in SPECTRM to show disposal of the printer and transfer of the printer to the Depot.

  2. Contact the Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) to open a ticket for printer disposal. ESD assigns the ticket to the Depot to resolve. To ensure proper ticket routing, notate the Depot’s group name, UNS-OSS-LM-BED, in the comments section of the ticket for proper assignment to the Depot. The Depot contacts the initiator to verify the address/location of the printer and sends a UPS label and box (if needed). The Depot follows their local procedures when they receive the printer to complete final disposition and "retire" the printer in KISAM.

Annual Certification Procedures
  1. EUES (End User Equipment Services) asset certification process includes equipment loaned in the VITA and TCE program. It is important for SPEC to supply correct information to EUES to complete certification and ensure the accuracy of controls over loaned equipment.

  2. The certification process requires contact with individuals, with loaned equipment (computers and printers).

  3. The certification process begins in October. Staff must send all certification packages to the Depot no later than three (3) weeks after the filing season ends.

  4. The assigned FS&A analyst sends the certification packages to the Depot over a four (4) week period beginning the week of April 15th. SPEC HQ and/or the FS&A office develops a schedule for the territories to send their certification packages. Territory offices may swap response due dates between Territory offices if the dates fall between the scheduled due dates. The Territory offices must communicate swaps to SPEC HQ, FS&A, and the Depot.

Annual Inventory Certification
  1. SPEC performs physical inventory certification for loaned assets. This includes equipment SPEC distributes and/or stores. Some Territory offices order laptops then distribute them to partners; therefore, physical certification can include laptops. The handling of laptops or printers counts as a physical touch. Territories must ensure SPECTRM shows correct information. The territory must confirm at least one physical touch between October and June for certification.

  2. Self-certification documentation for SPEC includes two steps:

    1. Certifying the basic equipment information (type, barcode, and serial number)

    2. Certifying the information in SPECTRM is correct for each record. Partners certify the basic equipment information through use of Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement. By signing this form, partners self-certify the document reflects the correct information for the equipment they receive. Partners cannot certify to the accuracy of SPECTRM inventory, so the territory achieves this through review activities. Territories review SPECTRM records to supply certification documentation to the Depot. The dates supplied by the Territory offices is usually between October and June of the current year to meet certification

  3. SPEC and the Depot work together to find the best process to carry out the tasks associated with inventory certification. SPEC HQ sends guidance to the territories annually on certification and on the documentation the Depot needs to certify assets on loan.

Copies of Property Loan Agreements (PLAs)
  1. The territories must include copies of signed property loan agreements (PLA) in the final package for all printers and laptops not assigned or acknowledged in SPECTRM during certification.

  2. Territories must input an In-Use Change Request (IUCR) if the territory manually creates the PLA, and it does not include a PLA number. If the manually created PLA signature date is on or after October 1st of the current fiscal year, do not request a new signature from the partner or volunteer. The territory can either write the new PLA number next to the barcode on the PLA or print the new PLA (with the number) and attach it to the original. Write on the unsigned PLA "See attached PLA for signature" and attach the signed, unnumbered PLA. Update SPECTRM with the PLA acceptance date.

  3. Send the final package and all attachments electronically to Depot personnel or via UPS to the following address:
     

    Internal Revenue Service
    Attn: VITA and TCE Depot
    1040 Waverly Avenue, Stop 800
    Holtsville, NY 11742

Information Needed for Certification
  1. Territories must compare Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, with SPECTRM and ensure they match. At a minimum, the territory must compare the:

    • Barcode(s)

    • Serial Number(s)

    • Property Loan Agreement Number(s)

    • Contact Name

    • Signature

    • Acceptance Date on SPECTRM

    • Date of the signature on the Property Loan Agreement

  2. Territories must ensure SPECTRM shows the receipt and return of the loaned agreement. This process occurs all year, not only during annual certification.

    Note:

    Do not secure a new PLA for laptops shipped from the Depot and printers shipped from the SPEC Territory office before September 30th; update the PLA acceptance date in SPECTRM to October 1st of the loan year in question to meet certification for these assets. This is assuming the partner or volunteer returns the computers to the Depot and printers to the SPEC Territory office by May 15th. If user’s intent on keeping the equipment in their possession after April 15th, the territory must secure a new PLA and update the date in SPECTRM to show the expected return date. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5 and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2.2.

Unable to Locate Equipment During Certification
  1. If a Territory office cannot find an asset assigned to them in SPECTRM, follow reporting procedures in IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8, Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1, Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment.

Final Territory Package Set Up for Depot
  1. The final certification package for the Depot consists of:

    • Signed cover memorandum from the SPEC TM to the VITA and TCE Depot which summarizes actions taken and any concerns or problems. List the name and contact information in case the Depot raises questions

    • Inventory spreadsheet. Include those columns required by the Depot in correct order

      Reminder:

      Remove the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) column.

    • Signed copies of all Property Loan Agreements for printers and computers not acknowledged in SPECTRM

    • Signed document for any assets reported missing or lost

  2. Territories can adjust the response dates to the Depot to ensure sufficient time to review and/or correct. Staff must make effort to complete and supply certification packages to the Depot on or before the due date.

  3. The FS&A analyst must review the territory packages prior to submission to the Depot. Send one package from each territory. Territories with multiple post of duties can combine their information into one package.

  4. The FS&A analyst emails the final certification package to the Depot and SPEC HQ.

Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM)
  1. Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM) controls asset inventory for the IRS. Information Technology (IT) employees review KISAM and ensures KISAM includes all equipment loaned to VITA and TCE program participants. All VITA and TCE assets show in KISAM in the "9080" Inventory Responsibility Contract. All assets both physically at the Depot and those currently in SPEC (in the territory or with a partner or volunteer) show an assignment of "in stock." Assets assigned to a territory or partner show an assignment in the fulfillment tab and a PLA number for the asset.

  2. SPEC aids IT in keeping effective controls over VITA and TCE equipment through SPECTRM and annual inventory certification efforts. SPEC certification actions begin in October and end in June.

Government Accountability Office (GAO) Review of KISAM
  1. Each year the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviews the IRS asset control system to ensure it correctly reflects assets (including VITA computers and printers) under IRS control and the location of these assets. SPEC supports these efforts by ensuring SPECTRM controls over the equipment used in the VITA and TCE program correctly reflect the location of each asset. The GAO review period occurs in late July or early August following the end of IT’s asset inventory cycle (October 1 – June 30).

  2. The review covers a sample of Category A assets in Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM). Category A assets include all computers (laptops and desktops) and some high-end printers. GAO selects the sample from KISAM and IT must produce the asset(s). For assets not in government space, GAO may either visit the location or request a photo of the asset which shows the asset barcode and serial number. GAO decides which review method to use.

  3. SPEC supports IT in all GAO reviews related to VITA assets. If GAO selects a SPEC asset, they send notification to SPEC HQ. The assigned SPEC HQ analyst contacts the assigned FS&A analyst. SPEC HQ, FS&A and the territory works together to finds the asset. SPEC contacts the partner and goes with GAO on the review if they choose to conduct the review in person rather than secure photo identification of the information needed.

Reporting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment
  1. Although the PLA outlines safeguarding conditions for loaned equipment, the possibility of loss or theft exists. As a condition of IRS-loaned equipment, the recipient of loaned equipment agrees to inform IRS at once of the theft of IRS loaned equipment (both computers and printers), but no later than the next business day after confirmation of the incident.

  2. The RM must obtain as much information about the stolen equipment and the theft from the VITA and TCE program participant. Document when and how the IRS receives notification of the theft. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.1, Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment, for questions the program participant must answer. Do not delay reporting the theft to obtain all the information. Report what is readily available to all parties in steps (a) through (f) below within one hour of receiving notification. To properly report stolen IRS owned equipment (both computers and printers), the RM must take the following steps:

    1. Notify the local TM at once

    2. Use the Computer Security Incident Reporting Form or call 240-613-3606 to report the theft if the partner has not already done so. Report the theft within one hour of receiving notification. Both platforms accept reports 24 hours a day/seven days a week. Supply updated information when you receive it. Record the incident report number from Computer Security Incident Response Capability (CSIRC) office on Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen/Lost Equipment. Do not report incidents of stolen/lost partner owned equipment to CSIRC. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2, Reporting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers

    3. Contact TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) through their toll-free number 800-366-4484 or their local office. Do not report incidents of stolen/lost partner owned equipment to TIGTA. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2 Reporting Stolen Lost Partner Owned Computers and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen Lost Partner Owned Computers

    4. Send an email to SPEC and CARE management to report the theft. See the list below of offices to contact. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment, and a general description of what occurred. Send the communications to the following: Director, CARE; Chief, CARE PM; Director, SPEC; Director, Area office (select based on area reporting incident); Chief, PS, the PS analyst and FS&A analyst

    5. Send an email to the Depot to report the theft. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of the equipment and a summary of the circumstances about the theft. Send the email to: vitadepot@irs.gov.

    6. If the theft was of a laptop and return information was present, discuss with partners the need to send notification to impacted taxpayers. The decision to provide/not supply notification is the partners; however, Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, supplies guidelines for assessing risk of identity theft. If notification is necessary, the notification is from the partner

Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment
  1. RM must gather information from the program participant about the theft. To help obtain the information, ask the following questions, and document the incident:

    Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment

    Relevant Probe or Question Required Action
    What IRS equipment was stolen? Record the barcode, serial number, manufacturer, and model.
    Was anything else stolen? Report whether the theft involved other property.
    Was this the first time IRS equipment was stolen at this location? Obtain AD and Chief, PS concurrence to continue the loan of equipment if equipment was stolen more than once.
    When did the theft occur? If applicable, probe to decide why there was a lapse between the theft and the report to IRS. The conditions in the PLA state that incidents must report to the IRS at once but not later than the next business day after confirming the incident.
    When was it reported to the local police or federal police? Request a copy of the local police report or federal police report (mandatory) depending on the location from which the equipment was stolen. Include a copy of the report in the documentation package. Staff must review and report to decide if the facts presented by the partner or volunteer match the report from the authorities. Note any discrepancies in the documentation package. Document the circumstances on the package if the partner or volunteer does not supply a police report. For example, the police department refuses to take a report because there is no evidence of a theft or the report of a theft would create a false report.
    Who was responsible for the equipment? Include a copy of the PLA as an attachment to the assessment memorandum if the equipment was on loan at the time of theft.
    Where was the IRS equipment when it was stolen? Obtain the physical address of the equipment along with its actual location within the address. For example, a residence, business, community center, library, or parking lot. Probe to ask whether the equipment was in a locked cabinet, locked room, limited access location, out on a desk or table, in a closet, trunk of car, back seat of vehicle, personal residence, within sight of windows or doors, or stored in the computer bag.
    Were passwords needed to access information on the computer? For equipment shipped to program participants after August 21, 2006, the Depot loads a disk encryption product on the laptops which protects the entire hard drive. Program participants must set the passwords on the tax preparation software during initial set up.
    Were the assigned passwords compromised? Probe to decide if the partner or volunteer wrote the passwords down and attached them to the computer or placed them in the bag with the computer.
    What other security measures are in place to protect the equipment? Probe for specific details. For instance, if the partner or volunteer claims the equipment was in a locked cabinet at the time of the theft, find out how many people have keys and where they keep them.
    What data was present on the computer? Decide how many taxpayer information records include data. Returns prepared using the IRS supplied software including disk encryption products which protects the entire hard drive.
    If data was present, was it encrypted? For laptops shipped from the Depot after August 21, 2006, the Depot loads a disk encryption product on the laptops which protects the entire hard drive. Ask if the partner added other encryption or security features.

    Note:

    When responding to the CSIRC question about whether Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was present, respond "yes" if any return data is present. IRC 6103 defines this type of data as PII not SBU.

    Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag? What information was present at the time of the theft? Was it encrypted? For backups done within the IRS provided software to transfer information to the transmitting computer, the tax preparation software the IRS supplies encrypts the files. Other copies of information (un-crypted).
    If taxpayer information was present, does the partner plan to notify the individuals whose information was compromised? Explain the risks of identity theft and encourage the partner to send notification to the individuals. The notification must come from the partner.
     

  2. The RM must prepare a documentation package for the stolen equipment. Include a memorandum from the TM through the AD to the Chief, PS. The RM must complete the package within 10 business days of the incident report date. Send an interim documentation package to SPEC HQ with the information available and date of completion of the package if the Territory does not obtain all the documentation within 10 business days.

  3. The territory must:

    1. Include the answers to the questions in the Information Gathering Process in the memorandum and address all items on the Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment

    2. Include any attachments in the package (e.g., PLA and police report) and Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment

    3. Complete Side 1 of Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment, to ensure the package includes all actions taken. The Territory must include detailed explanations in the memorandum or in an attachment to the memorandum

    4. Keep a copy of the package with equipment records in the local territory

      Note:

      SPECTRM automatically updates when the Depot updates KISAM.

  4. The FS&A office must review the interim or completed documentation package for territory compliance as noted in two and three above and send the package to SPEC HQ within two business days. Comments must include the territory’s recommendation to continue or stop the loan of equipment. If the partner has multiple thefts in two or more years, the AD and Chief, PS must concur to continue the loan of equipment to the partner or volunteer.

  5. The assigned PS analyst reviews the package for completeness and shares it with Chief, PS, Director, SPEC, and the VITA and TCE Depot. The HQ analyst places the documentation package on SPEC’s Executive Share Point site. The analyst supplies this information in briefings, responses to Business Systems Security Office (BSSO), and Mission Assurance, when asked.

Reporting Stolen or Lost Partner Owned Computers
  1. Partners must let the IRS know at once, but no later than the next business day after confirmation of a partner owned computer theft or loss. To ensure proper reporting of stolen or lost partner owned computers, the RM must obtain as much information as possible about the stolen or lost equipment and the theft or loss from the partner or volunteer. The RM must document when and how IRS receives notification of the theft or loss. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen or Lost Partner Owned Computers, to ensure the partner or volunteer answers all questions. Report what is readily available to the TM within one hour of receiving notification. Send an email to the Director, CARE, Chief, CARE PM, Director, SPEC, AD (select based on area reporting theft/loss), Chief, PS, FS&A analyst, and PS equipment analyst to report the theft or loss. The email must Include the following:

    • Serial number

    • Make

    • Model of computer

    • Description of what occurred

    • Taxpayer data at risk (include number of records)

    • Confirmation of computer encryption (State If not encrypted)

    • Password strength (Did the computer have a strong password?) Describe the password makeup

    • Notify taxpayers of theft/loss (if notified, method used)

    Caution:

    Do not report incidents of stolen/lost partner owned equipment to CSIRC or TIGTA.

Documenting Stolen or Lost Partner Owned Computers
  1. RM must document the theft or loss of partner owned computers.

  2. To help obtain the information, ask the following questions, and document the theft or loss:

    • What equipment was stolen or lost? Record serial number, manufacturer, and model

    • Was anything else stolen/lost?

    • When did the theft/loss occur?

    • When was it reported to the local or federal police?

    • Where was the partner owned equipment when it was stolen or lost? Obtain the physical address of the equipment along with its actual location within the address. For example, a residence, business, community center, library, or parking lot. Probe to decide if the equipment was in a locked cabinet, locked room, limited access location, out on a desk or table, in a closet, trunk of car, back seat of vehicle, personal residence, within sight of windows or doors, or stored in the computer bag.

    • Were passwords needed to access information on the computer?

    • Were the assigned passwords compromised? Did the partner or volunteer write the password and attach it to the computer or place it in the bag with the computer?

    • What other security measures currently in place to protect the equipment? Probe for specific details. For instance, if the partner or volunteer claims the equipment was in a locked cabinet at the time of the theft, find out how many people have keys and where they keep them

    • What data was present on the computer at the time of the loss or theft? Decide how many taxpayer information records include data

    • If data was present, was it encrypted? The tax software the IRS supplies encrypts data on tax returns

    • Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, floppies, or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag? What information was present at the time of the loss of theft? Was it encrypted? For backups done within the IRS supplied software to transfer information to the transmitting computer, the tax software the IRS supplies encrypts the files. Other copies of information (un-encrypted)

    • Does the partner plan to notify the individuals, whose information was compromised, if the taxpayer’s information was present? Explain the risks of identity theft and encourage the partner to send notification to the individuals. The notification must come from the partner

  3. The Territory must complete and send the documentation package to the FS&A analyst for review within ten days. The FS&A analyst must review the completed documentation package for compliance and sends it to SPEC HQ in two business days.

Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment
  1. SPEC employees must keep effective controls on equipment loaned to volunteers or partners in support of electronic filing. As a condition of IRS-loaned equipment, the recipient of loaned equipment agrees to notify the IRS at once of a loss of loaned equipment (computers and printers), but no later than the next business day after confirmation of the incident.

    Note:

    SPEC employees must treat missing equipment under partner or volunteer control as a theft. RM must follow instructions for stolen equipment.

  2. SPEC employees must follow the steps below to report incidents of lost equipment while on loan to partners or volunteers. In rare instances, equipment may get lost while in stock at an IRS office location. The Territory office must follow the steps below for unable to find assets:

    Reporting Lost Equipment

    1) SPEC employees must complete all actions on Side 2 of Form 13747, Checklist for Lost Equipment. The territory uses the Computer Security Incident Reporting Form or calls 240-613-3606 to report the loss if the partner or volunteer has not already done so. Report the loss within one hour of receiving notification. Both platforms accept reports 24 hours a day, 7-days a week. Supply updated information as you receive it. Record the incident report number from CSIRC on Form 13747, Checklist for Lost Equipment.
    2) Contact TIGTA, Office of Investigations through their toll-free number 800-366-4484 or their local office. Do not report incidents of lost partner owned equipment to TIGTA. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2, Reporting Stolen or Lost Partner Owned Computers and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen or Lost Partner Owned Computers.
    3) Send an email to SPEC and CARE management to report the lost equipment. The email must include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment and an explanation that a piece of equipment is lost. Send the communication to the following:
    • Director, CARE

    • Chief, CARE PM

    • Director, SPEC

    • Director, Area office (select based on area reporting incident)

    • Chief, PS

    • Analyst, PS

    • Analyst, FS&A

    4) Send an email to notify the Depot of the lost equipment through the manager. The email must include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of the equipment and a general description of the loss. The Depot email address:VITADepot@irs.gov. The Depot manages the inventory of all equipment, both printers and computers, on KISAM (Information Technology Asset Management System).
    5) The Territory office must keep a copy of all documentation of lost equipment as described in the following IRM section.
     

Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment
  1. Staff must document the loss of IRS owned equipment by completing the Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment. The checklist must include any other information on a separate page and attach it to the forms. Suggested questions for information include:

    Documenting Lost Equipment

    1) What IRS equipment is lost? Record barcode, serial number, manufacturer, and model.
    2) Where was the equipment last seen? Include the address where the equipment is stored. Supply specific information about the location and how equipment is stored, e.g., cabinet, room, etc.
    3) What type of security does this location have? Is the building limited access? Does everyone who enter/exit subject to checks of property cards?
    4) Is anything else missing? Report whether other property is missing.
    5) Is this the first time IRS equipment went missing from this location?
    6) When did the Territory first realize equipment might be lost?
    7) Who is responsible for the equipment?
    8) Are passwords needed to access information on the computer? The Depot loads a disk encryption product on loaned laptops which protects the hard drive. The encryption uses a password at the operation system entry level. Program participants must set the passwords on the tax preparation software during first set up.
    9) Were the assigned passwords compromised, such as written down and attached to the computer or placed in the computer bag?
    10) What security measures are in place at the site to protect the equipment? Include items such as the number of people with keys to access the controlled space.
    11) Was data present on the computer? If data is present, decide what information was present.
    12) If data was present, was it encrypted? The Depot loads a disk encryption product on laptops which protects the entire hard drive.

    Note:

    When responding to the CSIRC question about whether Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is present, respond yes. IRC 6103 defines this type of data as PII not SBU.

    13) Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag?
    14) Prepare a documentation package to include Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen/Lost Equipment from the TM through the AD to the Chief, PS. The territory must complete this package within 10 business days of the incident report date. The SPEC employee must send an interim document package to SPEC HQ with the information available and estimated date of completion of the final package if they do not obtain all the documentation within 10 business days.
    15) Update SPECTRM to reflect the loss of the equipment.
    16) The FS&A office must review the interim or completed documentation package for compliance and forward to SPEC HQ within two business days. The Area office must show whether the territory stores equipment correctly and supply an action plan if not correct.
    17) The SPEC HQ analyst reviews the package for completeness, shares it with the Chief, PS and places it on SPEC’s Executive Share Point site. The analyst supplies this information in briefings, responses to BSSO, and Mission Assurance, when asked.
     

Found Equipment
  1. If someone finds a piece of equipment, previously reported as stolen, the RM must:

    1. Prepare a memorandum from the TM to the Depot manager to inform them of the found equipment and ask for an update of the equipment on KISAM to transfer the equipment to the territory’s control. Include in the memorandum the barcode, serial number, model and make of the equipment

    2. Monitor to ensure the Depot completes these actions. Update SPECTRM with the actual location of the equipment. Send an email to SPEC HQ to "undelete" the record, if needed

    3. Keep a copy of the request in the equipment files at the Territory office

    4. Notify PS through the FS&A office of the found equipment. The PS analyst updates stolen or lost records in SPEC HQ

Barcode Change
  1. It is important that all assets have a readable barcode label. Territories must follow the steps below to obtain a new and /or reprinted barcode label:

    Barcode Change

    Step Required Action
    1 Send an email to the Depot and include the barcode, serial number, equipment type, make and model. Ask for a new barcode with the same number and/or generation of another barcode label with a new number. The Depot mails a new label to the partner, volunteer or SPEC employee who has the asset. Send the Depot the correct mailing address for the asset’s location.
    2 Remove the old barcode label and replace it with the reprinted or new barcode label.
    3 Confirm the correction in SPECTRM. If the number did not change, the Depot made no change; however, if the number did change, the old barcode must no longer show in SPECTRM. Contact the Depot for any problems with the new barcode label.
    4 Change any territory records to show the replacement and/or change in barcode number. File the information with the territory’s equipment inventory control records.
    5 Update SPECTRM to show the barcode change
     

Tax Preparation Software
  1. IRS buys electronic return preparation and transmission software for use by SPEC volunteer return preparation programs (VITA and TCE).

    Note:

    Each site must send a signed Form 13533, Sponsor Agreement, prior to the delivery of the software.

  2. Partner use of the contracted IRS software bought for the VITA and TCE program is not mandatory for electronic return preparation.

  3. To electronically file returns using TaxSlayer Pro (Desktop/Online), VITA/TCE sites must have the 16 to 20-digit Tracking Number from e-Services to associate with their EFIN. TCs must access the Employee User Portal/External Services Authorization Management (EUP/ESAM) to retrieve the Tracking Number for the EFIN in the "Current EFIN" field position in SPECTRM. TCs must add the e-Services Tracking Number to SPECTRM for these sites prior to placing a software order for the upcoming season. For more information, review Vendor Control Number Requirement guidance on The Point.

Software Ordering Process
  1. The Software Ordering period starts each October and stays open through the end of January. RM place tax software orders. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.1 Placing Software Orders, for more information on placing software orders. SPEC sends the first orders to the contractor in October and each week through January. The contractor must distribute the software in November.

    Note:

    The IRS shipping date is figured-out by the timeline for conducting Assurance Testing System (ATS). The contractor cannot ship the tax software until it passes ATS.

  2. The professional software package bought by the IRS requires the use of an EFIN. The EFIN allows the VITA or TCE site to electronically sends federal tax returns and to order software. If a site does not have an EFIN, the Responsible Official must register for e-services and send the IRS e-file application electronically.

Placing Software Orders
  1. Do not order software until after the partner site is set up. SPEC defines a site as one where the partner gives resources (such as the site coordinator, the site location and computer equipment) a valid EFIN, signed agreement and days/hours of operation in place.

  2. SPEC Territory offices place VITA and TCE software orders. Before you place an order, the RM must list the location in the SPECTRM Site Module, show it as an e-file site and at a minimum include the site name, address, city, state, zip code, EFIN, Transmitting and Relational EFIN (if applicable) on the site record.

  3. The SPECTRM Software Orders Module allows tax consultants to enter software orders for their VITA and TCE sites. The SPECTRM Software Orders Module pulls from the information in the SPECTRM Site and Contact Modules to create the order.

  4. The site name, address, program type, SIDN, EFIN and transmitting EFIN comes from the SPECTRM Site Module. Do not change this information in the SPECTRM Software Orders Module.

  5. The contact listed in SPECTRM receives the software order email and must have an association with the e-file site they support. The shipping address, name, phone number, and email address come from the SPECTRM Contact Module. Do not change this information in the SPECTRM Software Orders Module. Territory offices must correct the email address for the software order. SPEC shares this information with the vendor for site software and updates.

    Reminder:

    Only use the RM's email address as the site administrator.

  6. SPEC staff must update any missing, inaccurate site or contact information in the Site and/or Contact modules in SPECTRM.

  7. For more information on use of the SPECTRM Tax Software Orders module, refer to the SPECTRM User Guide.

Headquarters' Responsibilities
  1. The SPEC HQ analysts for the tax software program:

    1. Supply guidance to SPEC for software orders

    2. Place software orders on time with the contractor in an acceptable format

    3. Notify the FS&A analyst of delivery details

    4. Communicate vital information to the FS&A analysts necessary for successful delivery of the software, orders, problems, etc.

    5. Communicate order changes/corrections to the contractor

    6. Make sure adherence to software license agreements

    7. Keep exact inventory of all tax software order

    8. Complete RTS requests to make sure adequate funding of software packages and training

    9. Find contract modifications when necessary

    10. Coordinate Tax Software Train-the-Trainer sessions between the vendor, area, and territory

    11. Manage the IRS’ tax software contract

    12. Pull, analyze, and supply use and production reports to the area

    13. Serve as the IRS Point of Contact between the IRS and its licensees

    14. Keep a good working relationship with the contractor, procurement, and IT

    15. Make sure the Master Service Level agreement between SPEC and IT EUES clearly defines SPEC’s IT support needs

Tax Software- Field Support and Analysis (FS&A) Responsibilities
  1. The FS&A analysts must:

    1. Make sure the Territory offices promptly place and confirm all tax preparation software orders and notifying SPEC HQ analyst of any anomalies

    2. Confirm territory compliance to qualifications for receipt of software, as shown in IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.4, Tax Software Territory Responsibilities, below. If SPEC supplies the software but the site does not meet the qualifications, the AD or their designee must approve the purchase in writing. FS&A keeps a copy for a minimum of one fiscal year from receipt by the Territory office

    3. Serve as liaison between SPEC HQ and the territory

    4. Share vital information about the tax software i.e., orders, problems, etc. with the territory

    5. Keep SPEC HQ abreast of any problems or concerns from the territory or partners/volunteers relating to the software, orders, use, etc.

    6. Notify ADs of problems or concerns relating to software, order, use, etc.

    7. Make sure there is adherence to software license and user authentication requirements

    8. Analyze area tax software management and production reports to find anomalies and communicate those anomalies to SPEC HQ and the territory

    9. Make sure of adherence to civil rights requirements

    10. Coordinate tax software Train-the-Trainer sessions between SPEC HQ and the Territory office

Tax Software Territory Responsibilities
  1. The Territory office must:

    1. Secure Form 13533, Sponsor Agreement, prior to delivery of the software

    2. Make sure eligible sites receive tax preparation software. Qualifications for receipt of tax software: VITA and TCE sites that prepare 50 or more accepted e-file returns during the prior fiscal year can receive electronic return preparation software This minimum return requirement applies to FSA software orders except in the case of an FSA fusion product that incurs no other cost to the IRS. FSA fusion software orders input at the same time as traditional software in the SPECTRM database does not incur a purchase cost. For this reason, a minimum return requirement does not apply to a Fusion site. A request for custom URLs from the Free File Alliance does not have a minimum return requirement

    3. Supply software to sites not eligible to receive tax preparation software. When this happens, the TM supplies a written business justification and plan of action to the AD and secures approval from the FSA using Form 14574, SPEC Software Exception Request for Sites That Filed Less Than 50 Returns, prior to placing the software order. An FSA fusion site or Free File Alliance user does not need a Form 14574, Software Exception Request for Sites That Filed Less Than 50 Returns, because the minimum return requirement. The FS&A analyst must keep a copy of the approval for a minimum of one fiscal year from receipt and the Territory office keeps the original

      Note:

      In Fiscal Year 2020 many VITA and TCE sites had to cease operations due to COVID-19 shutdowns, similarly in Fiscal year 2021 sites opened but ran at a lower capacity and did not meet the goal of 50 accepted e-file returns. Due to COVID-19 operating issues for Fiscal Year 2021 and Fiscal year 2022, sites do not have to complete the Form 14574 prior to ordering the software.

    4. Place all tax preparation software orders on time using SPECTRM Software Orders Module

    5. Ensure accuracy of all software orders in SPECTRM. Territory offices must verify the status of each EFIN in the Third-Party Data Score (TPDS) prior to placing a software order. The office must resolve inactive EFIN issues in the Taxpayer Data Store (TPDS), prior to placing the order

    6. Communicate essential information to the partner about the software product relational EFIN, security codes, training information, and adherence to the software license agreement, etc.

    7. Confirm contact and delivery information with partners to ensure correct delivery of the software

    8. Respond promptly to Area questions or concerns relating to the software orders

    9. Keep the PS analyst in SPEC HQ abreast of any problems relating to the software, orders, use, etc.

Software User Authentication Process
  1. The IRS contract includes an authentication process which requires the vendor to confirm IRS license. The authentication makes sure adherence to the license agreement and to Electronic Return Originator (ERO) requirements found in Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns. The license agreement for the use of the software used by Employee e-file sites, and volunteer programs (VITA and TCE) sites, restricts access to the Vendor’s Processing Center to one computer per EFIN. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.6 Potential Violation of Software License Agreement or Compromised EFIN, for information on potential contract violations or compromised EFINs.

Potential Violation of Software License Agreement or Compromised EFIN
  1. The vendor must contact the IRS Points of Contact (POC) when suspecting potential violations of the software license agreement or compromised EFIN. Once contacted, the IRS POC starts an investigation of the incident using the steps below.

    1. The IRS POC (or their designee) contacts the area to inform them of the violation and requests an investigation and response as to the results of the investigation

    2. The FS&A analyst contacts the local territory to inform the TM of the potential violation

    3. The TM notifies the responsible RM

    4. The RM contacts the site administrator found in SPECTRM as the user of the EFIN to investigate the occurrence. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.7, Required Actions for Potential Software License Violations, for required actions of the site administrator

  2. Take required actions within one business day of notification of the occurrence by all parties.

Required Actions for Potential Software License Violations
  1. The site administrator, found in SPECTRM as the user of the EFIN, investigates the occurrence to decide which of the following situations exists:

    1. The site switched transmitting computers due to a computer malfunction: The RM reports these results to their TM. The TM notifies the Area Analyst via email and phone copying the IRS POC on both communications. The IRS POC notifies the vendor. No other action needed; the site may continue using the EFIN

    2. The site violates the license agreement when more than one computer connects to the Vendor’s Processing Center: The RM works with the site administrator to make sure compliance occurs and notifies the TM of the corrective actions agreed to by the site. The TM notifies the FS&A analyst via email and phone copying the IRS POC on both communications. The IRS POC notifies the vendor

    3. For a compromised EFIN: See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.8, Required Actions for a Compromised EFIN

Required Actions for a Compromised Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN)
  1. When dealing with a compromised EFIN, the RM must notify the TM. The TM notifies the FS&A analyst and the IRS POC for the tax software program via email.

  2. The RM works with the site to apply for and secure a new EFIN and updates SPECTRM to remove the e-file site destination, using the on-line application process whenever possible to speeds up this request.

  3. The site can continue to use the software to prepare returns while waiting on the new EFIN but may not sends electronically.

  4. Upon receipt of a new EFIN the RM notifies the FS&A analyst of the new EFIN. The FS&A analyst then notifies the IRS POC, who finally shares the new EFIN with the vendor.

  5. Once received, the RM works with the site administrator and the vendor to approve and acknowledge all returns prepared prior to the violation and resolve all rejects.

  6. The RM must update SPECTRM to reflect the updated EFIN and return the e-file designation to the site.

Deactivating VITA and TCE Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN)
  1. The IRS deactivates VITA and TCE partner EFIN for one of the following reasons:

    • An ERO refuses to follow QSR

    • During inactive (closed) period for the site

    Note:

    Verify processing of all e-filed tax returns acceptance and rejects prior to EFIN deactivation.

  2. Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN because an ERO refuses to follow QSR should only take place as a last resort. When considering deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN use the If/Then table below:

    If ... Then ...
    You find a problem
    1. discuss the findings and the actions needed to follow the Site Coordinator and the ERO.

    2. document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

    you cannot reach an agreement
    1. elevate the issue to the partner. Attempt to resolve the issue at the lowest level possible.

    2. brief the SPEC TM and national RM, when proper.

    3. document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

    the (TM) and/or national (RM) still cannot resolve the issue (requiring EFIN deactivation
    1. notify the correct AD. The AD must concur with the decision and approve the suspension.

    2. prepare the letter requesting deactivation of the EFIN and check sheet. Refer to Exhibit 22.30.1-1, Form 14716, Request for Deactivation from the VITA and TCE e-file Program, and Exhibit 22.30.1-2

    3. mail the approved/signed letter to the volunteer ERO.

    4. send a copy of the signed letter to the FS&A analyst for EFIN deactivation.

    5. Document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

    6. The FS&A analyst sends a copy of the letter and form to the Chief, PS and the Chief, National Partnership (NP).

    7. The territory updates SPECTRM. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.15.3, SPECTRM Site Module, for more information. Document your actions in the partner’s file.

  3. When a site closes and no longer open, the Territory offices must deactivate the EFIN to prevent further access to e-file. Territory offices must follow the process outlined below:

    1. Complete Form 14716, Request for Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN, to request the EFIN deactivation. The following parts of the form that staff must complete includes site information, SPEC information, and reason for deactivation.

    2. Notify the partner that the EFIN of the pending action

    3. Send Form 14716 to the designated FS&A analyst. Do not sends EFIN deactivation requests to SPEC HQ PS or to the Andover e-Help Desk. The FS&A analyst deactivates the EFIN and forwards notification to the TM

    4. Send a copy of the "Request for Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN" document to the Chief, PS and Chief NP

    5. Update SPECTRM properly. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.15.3, SPECTRM Site Module, for more information. Document your actions in the partner's file

    6. Document the final actions in the partner's file upon receipt of confirmation from the FS&A analyst

  4. NP must take the following actions to deactivate a VITA and TCE EFIN:

    1. Contact the tax preparation software vendor to suspend e-file activities

      Note:

      Verify processing of all e-filed tax returns acceptance and rejects prior to EFIN suspension.

    2. Take proper action in SPECTRM for a partner/contact approved for inclusion in the Volunteer Registry

Products, Development, Evaluation and Ordering Procedures

  1. SPEC’s product lines:

    • Program, Partnership Development, Site Management and Outreach - includes partnership development, partner, and taxpayer outreach life cycle materials, and appreciation products. It also includes the volunteer tax preparation and site management products

    • Volunteer Training - includes hardcopy volunteer and facilitator training materials, PowerPoint presentations, SPEC’s e-learning applications Link and Learn Taxes (LLT) and Understanding Taxes (UT)

    • Product Ordering and Forecasting - includes products and procedures for ordering materials using various ordering methods such as on-line, and email

    • Other program - products include federal tax forms and publications published by MP, and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), e-file, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and Civil Rights products

The Product Professional (PRO)

  1. SPEC shares and asks for product information from employees and other stakeholders through a variety of tools. The Product Professional (PRO) is SPEC’s one-stop intranet site for product information and guidance. The Product PRO conveys the following:

    • Guidance for sending new product ideas

    • Template for reporting product concerns

    • Product ordering procedures and tools

    • Compilations of product and Volunteer Quality Tax Alerts

    • Comprehensive listings of SPEC’s products for internal and external use

  2. In addition to the Product PRO, SPEC uses the direct web-based survey tool, SPEC Direct, to obtain feedback from employees on planned product enhancements.

Product Development and Production Planning

  1. SPEC and MP join forces in February and March each year to discuss and reach agreement on product production plans for the upcoming filing season. The meeting which includes representatives from the Offices of Printing and Distribution takes place in Atlanta. From May through August, SPEC partner teams meet to aid in updating and revising products and processes.

New Product Ideas and Concerns

  1. Document 13412, Where Do I Begin with a New SPEC Product Idea or Revision? supplies SPEC employees’ step-by-step instructions for sending new product ideas, updating existing products and creating fact sheets, job aids and alerts. SPEC employees should not create new products or update existing products without following the guidance outlined in this document.

  2. SPEC employees must secure first and/or second-level manager approval on Form 15306, Business Case for New SPEC Products, by May 15th for new products needed within the current fiscal year. Send Form 15306 to Products, Systems & Analysis (PSA) at wi.spec.products@irs.gov.

  3. Document 13364, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Scope and Product Change Requests for SPEC Employees, and Publication 5395, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Scope and Product Change Requests for SPEC Partners, supply information on how to sends suggestions for new and existing training products.

  4. Employees and partners use Form 15247, Product Review Feedback for SPEC Products, to supply feedback or concern about the design, accuracy, usefulness, and timeliness of Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide, Publication 4491, VITA/TCE Training Guide, and miscellaneous SPEC products. Check boxes at the top of each page holds instructions on how to complete each form. Attach all documents relevant to the change and send to the PSA group as "VITA/TCE Scope and Product Change Request Fact Sheet" (Internal). Partners should refer to instructions in the VITA/TCE Scope and Product Change Request Fact Sheet (Partners).

Product Forecasting and Inventory Management

  1. Product forecasting and inventory management ensures adequate inventory is available for partners and employees to successfully execute their program goals. SPEC collaborates with Media & Publications (MP) to project requirements for SPEC printed training materials based on historical data and trend analysis. SPEC areas review available reports and conduct analysis of current year projected orders against the prior year actual totals. The territory should use their prior year’s actual orders as their ceiling for the current year, i.e., The total number of TY 2019 actual orders is the ceiling for TY 2020 orders. Territories must limit current orders to comparable orders placed during the same period in the prior year.

  2. The Territory sends an email to the SPEC HQ PSA analyst through their FS&A analyst if it finds need to increase orders by more than a 10 percent increase. PSA Analyst cannot approve product requests once printing begins. If an area needs more products after printing begins, send product requests to other areas for consideration and notify the PSA and FS&A analysts.

Product Ordering

  1. SPEC on-line ordering application via CAPS and email ordering is the preferred methods for ordering materials. SPEC staff must review guidelines annually and post it on Product PRO. The on-line ordering application is normally available from September 1st through June 30th of each year. The system is not available in July and August during the annual database review, system enhancement and maintenance update. The database review consists of territory and SPEC Headquarters’ personnel confirming the accuracy of the address information for each account and removing duplicate account information when needed. The programmers remove accounts with no activity and archive the prior year’s data. Order products throughout the year using Form 2333-V, Order for VITA/TCE Program, or the CAPS Web Interface.

Product Availability

  1. Document 13414, Job Aid: SPEC Products At-A-Glance, supplies employees an overview of available products for the facilitation of their daily activities and the VITA/TCE programs and is available on the Products PRO page.

  2. Refer to Publication 5358, Fact Sheet: VITA/TCE Training and Site Materials, for a complete listing and description of training and site materials in print, electronic, and e-book format. Publication 5358 includes key ordering information and dates for printed products. Employees can find electronic files in the product catalog. Partners can access printed training products in late November. Site materials begin arriving in bulk at the National Distribution Center (NDC) from October to mid-December. Partners can access many of the printed products posted on the IRS website.

  3. The learning application Link & Learn Taxes is available with new tax law in November on the IRS website.

  4. Partners can access outreach products throughout the year.

  5. Product and/or Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTAs) notify employees and volunteers of important updates or guidance. SPEC staff must store Alerts on the Quality and Tax Alerts for IRS Volunteer Programs page on the IRS website.

Who to Call for Product Assistance

  1. SPEC HQ named personnel for territory employees to contact for product help. Whenever possible, employees should direct their questions to these individuals. Submit all email correspondence to the PSA staff through the assigned FS&A analyst.

  2. Document 13414, Job Aid: SPEC Products At-A-Glance, lists all SPEC’s active products and the Publishing Service Request (PSR) originator. Forward inquiries or questions about active SPEC products to the assigned PSR originator.

  3. Some products on the Product Pro page link directly to the MP product catalog. The catalog houses official information about all published and controlled IRS products, including SPEC Products.

Volunteer Training Products Quality Review Procedures

  1. Quality Review Methodology - A product change suggestion allows partners and employees to supply suggested changes annually on a designated spreadsheet. SPEC must send suggested changes to the Chief, PSA by the last Friday in April.

  2. Established product review teams consist of PSA tax analysts, SPEC field employees, MP print specialists, and external partners.

  3. The product team edits and updates the electronic version of the prior year product.

  4. Each team member reviews their assigned lessons and/or sections for grammar, accuracy of content, and tax law updates.

  5. PSA team members review all feedback and suggested changes received from employees and volunteers and decide whether to include it in the updated training material. Team members must incorporate new legislation into impacted training products.

Quality Review Process

  1. The quality review team reviews the first electronic draft of primary training products (e.g., Publication 4491, VITA/TCE Training Guide, Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide, and Form 6744, Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest, received from (MP) or the vendor.

    1. Each team member reviews their assigned lessons and/or chapter to ensure the file holds the requested updates

    2. The review teams perform peer-to-peer review to ensure accuracy

  2. MP/vendor receives electronic files requiring further corrections.

  3. The team lead sends approval to print/post to MP/vendor if the file does not require more edits.

  4. MP / vendor supplies the approved/final copy of products.

  5. Product team lead coordinates completion of the signed Quality Review Documentation from for each reviewer to certify completion of the quality review process.

  6. Product team manager signs the Quality Review Documentation form to certify completion of the quality review process.

  7. Publication 4491-X, VITA/TCE Training Supplement, documents errors found after the release of the final/approved training product. SPEC employees and their partners/volunteers should review this information prior to helping taxpayers with issues covered in the supplement. Pub 4491-X is available on IRS.gov and in the internal forms catalog.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant Programs

  1. This section of the IRM supplies information and guidance in the administration of the TCE and the VITA grant programs. The GPO within SPEC administers both grant programs. The term “recipient, or “sponsor” refers to the organization awarded a grant.

    Note:

    Use these terms interchangeably.

Purpose and Authority

  1. The following describes the background, purpose, and authority for SPEC grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978, Public L. 95-600, 92 Stat. 2810, November 6, 1978, authorizes the IRS, to enter into agreements with private or public non-profit agencies or organizations to provide training and technical aid to prepare volunteers to provide tax counseling aid for elderly individuals, age 60 and over. Find Implementing regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 26, Subpart H Part 601.

  2. IRC 163 authorizes the IRS to provide TCE grant recipients:

    1. Preferential access to IRS customer service representatives

    2. Publicity to make elderly persons aware of the availability of volunteer taxpayer return preparation aid programs under this section

    3. Technical materials and publications used by such volunteers

  3. In fulfilling responsibilities under IRC 163, the Secretary, through the IRS may:

    1. Supply help to organizations which provides to the satisfaction of the Secretary, that all volunteers receive training to give effective tax counseling to the elderly in the preparation of federal income tax returns

    2. Supply training for volunteers to ensure they provide effective tax counseling help to elderly individuals in the preparation of Federal income tax returns

    3. Supply reimbursement to volunteers through such organizations for transportation to and from the site, meals, and other expenses incurred by them in training or supplying tax counseling aid in the preparation of federal income tax returns under this section, and such other support and assistance determined in carrying out the provisions of the IRC 163

    4. Support for the use of services, personnel, and facilities of federal executive agencies and state and local public agencies with their consent, with or without reimbursement

    5. Prescribe rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of the section

  4. IRC 163 the IRS does not consider a volunteer in the TCE program as an employee of the United States.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant
  1. On December 26, 2007, the VITA matching grant program is funded and legislated in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110-161. Division D of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, entitled the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2008.

  2. On July 1, 2019, the Taxpayer First Act, Public Law 116-25, made the VITA matching grant program permanently adding provisions to IRC 7526A, Return Preparation Programs for Applicable Taxpayers of the Internal Revenue Code directing grant funds to qualified organizations for the development, expansion, or continuation of VITA programs.

  3. IRC 7526A prioritizes programs that supply help, outreach, and educational activities to taxpayers with income levels equal to or less than the maximum EITC threshold.

  4. The program supplies direct funds to extend services to underserved populations and hardest-to-reach areas, both urban and non-urban, as well as to increase the ability to file returns electronically, heighten quality control, enhance training of volunteers, and significantly improve the accuracy rate of returns prepared by VITA sites.

  5. The VITA Grant Program supplies free federal tax return preparation, and electronic filing to targeted segments of W&I taxpayers. The program targets low to moderate-income taxpayers, persons with disabilities, persons with limited English proficiency, Native Americans, individuals living in rural areas, members of the Armed Forces and their spouses, and the elderly.

Grant Program Overview

  1. The following describes the overview for SPEC grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. The TCE Program offers FREE tax help to individuals age 60 and older for the purpose of supplying training and technical aid to prepare volunteers. Regulations in Subpart H of 26 CFR Part 601, sections 601.801 through 601.806 supplies program implementation regulations.

  2. Eligible agencies and organizations compete for acceptance as TCE recipients in compliance with the Federal Grant and Cooperative Agreement Act of 1977, Public Law No. 95-224, 92 Stat. 3, February 3, 1978, codified at 31 U.S.C. Chapter 63. Eligible organizations include a private or public non-profit agency or organization granted a tax exemption” under IRC 501 or a federally recognized Indian tribal government and have experience in coordinating volunteer programs with income tax preparation. Ineligible organizations include organizations that applied for tax-exempt status but not confirmed by the IRS and federal, state, or local government agency. Refer to Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program for eligibility requirements.

  3. Recipients may use grant funds to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses including transportation, meals, and other expenses. Recipients may use grant funds for allowable expenses including salaries, wages, and benefits of personnel that supply administrative and/or database support or technical personnel responsible for supply support for electronic filing for the TCE program (i.e., maintenance of equipment). This program allows recipients to use funds for office supplies and equipment; printing and postage costs; installation of telephone lines necessary for offering a telephone filing service and/or to service a telephone answering site; rent, utilities, and custodial services when necessary; and costs for interpreter services.

  4. The Form 9661, Cooperative Agreement, and Publication 5245, TCE Terms and Conditions, defines the functions that the program sponsor and IRS perform the geographical area involved, the largest amount of funding available for reimbursement and administrative purposes, minimum federal returns carried out for the period of performance and other information.

  5. All aspects of running a TCE Program including publicity, recruitment, training, site selection and management of volunteers lies with the recipient.

  6. The GPO manages the TCE Grant Program within the SPEC organization. Publication 1101, Application Package Instructions and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program, outlines the requirements of the IRS TCE Program and supplies information on how non-profit organizations may apply to take part.

  7. Agencies and organizations interested in a three-year multi-year award must request consideration when sending an application. Consideration to applicants that meet all eligibility requirements. Second- and third year funding subject to the following: satisfactory performance, compliance with program terms, and availability of appropriated funds. Award amount for next year may differ.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant
  1. In December 2007, Congress appropriated funds to the IRS to set up and administer a matching grant program for community volunteer income tax help. Then, in July 2019, the Taxpayer First Act made the VITA matching grant program permanent. VITA grant funding allows the SPEC organization of IRS to partner with organizations to achieve the following program goals:

    • Enable the VITA Program to extend services to underserved populations in hardest-to-reach areas, both urban and non-urban

    • Increase the ability to file returns electronically

    • Heighten quality control

    • Enhance training of volunteers

    • Significantly improve the accuracy rate of returns prepared at VITA sites

  2. The VITA Program uses trained volunteers to prepare FREE basic tax returns for low-income taxpayers in both urban and non-urban locations, persons with disabilities, Non-English-speaking persons, elderly members of the Armed Forces and their spouse, persons living in rural areas and Native Americans.

  3. The VITA grant supports the VITA Program. Recipients must follow existing guidelines governing VITA site operations and file all eligible returns electronically. The IRS supplies the software for filing electronically.

Administrative Requirements
  1. The SPEC IRM references the TCE and VITA Grant Program operations and requirements. Refer to the individual chapters in the IRM for further information in addition to the Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program and Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions.

  2. The Publication 4883, Grant Program Resource Guide, for VITA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and TCE Tax Counseling for the Elderly supplies’ guidance recipients of the TCE and VITA grants. This resource guide supplements information provided in the TCE and VITA Grant programs application package instructions and focuses on the requirements of the two grant programs.

Eligibility Requirements

  1. This section describes the eligibility requirements for SPEC's grant programs.

Eligibility Standards
  1. Organizations interested in becoming a TCE recipient must meet the following eligibility criteria prior to applying to the IRS:

    1. Follow federal tax filing and payment requirements

    2. No debarred or suspended organizations or individuals from federal contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements

    3. Supply a Unique Entity Identifier at sam.gov or a DUNS number from Dun and Bradstreet

    4. Register in the System for Award Management at sam.gov and kept an active status

    5. Qualify and receive an IRS determination letter confirming the organization’s tax exemption under IRC 501 or a federally recognized Indian tribal government

    6. Submit all required reports prompt if a prior year recipient

    7. File returns electronically

    8. Experience in coordinating volunteer programs

    9. No federal, state, or local governmental agency

    10. Register in grants.gov

    11. Follow all applicable civil rights reporting requirements

    12. Decide if application subject to Intergovernmental review by the state under Executive Order 12372

  2. Organizations interested in becoming a VITA Recipient must meet the following eligibility criteria prior to sending an application to the IRS:

    1. Follow federal tax filing and payment requirements

    2. Maintain status of not debarred or not suspended from federal contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements

    3. Supply a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) obtained at sam.gov or a DUNS number from Dun & Bradstreet

    4. Register in System for Award Management at sam.gov system and kept an active status

    5. Classify as one of the following: a private or public non-profit organization qualifying for tax exemption under IRC 501 including but not limited to educational institutions or faith based and community organizations; a state or local government agency; a federally recognized Indian Tribal government

    6. Submit all required reports promptly if a prior year recipient

    7. File returns electronically

    8. Supply dollar-for-dollar matching funds for monies asked (VITA only)

    9. Register in grants.gov

    10. Figure out the organization’s Intergovernmental Review under Executive Order 12372

Debarment or Suspension
  1. Applicants must agree to assurances and certifications. Refer to the assurances and certifications section of the Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines, and Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions.

  2. As part of eligibility, the GPO checks the organizations and individuals listed on the Standard, SF 424, Application for Federal Assistance, including key personnel noted in the Program Plan and Financial Operations narratives for debarment, suspension, exclusion from or ineligible for a federal award. Organizations can check for themselves by visiting the SAM at sam.gov. The GPO contacts the reporting agency about an organization or individual listed in SAM as debarred, suspended, excluded or ineligible for a federal award.

Civil Rights Reporting Requirements
  1. Applicants must supply information necessary to prove compliance with the following:

    • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law. 88-352), as amended, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin

    • IRC 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112) as amended which prohibits discrimination based on disability

    • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-318), as amended, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities

    • the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Public Law. 94-135), as amended, which prohibits discrimination based on age

    • Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, which sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial aid must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally supplied in English to those with limited English proficiency, including supplying oral interpretation and written translation when necessary

    Note:

    When developing program budgets, applicants must consider the provision of language services for persons with LEP and reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability. For more guidance on providing language services for persons with LEP, review the Department of the Treasury guidance provided at Limited English Proficiency.

  2. The Civil Rights Unit annually conducts selected post-award compliance reviews to ensure civil rights requirements to supply technical help to recipients. The Civil Rights Unit compiles the results from selected compliance reviews into a report and provides it to the SPEC Office.

  3. This section describes the data collection and reporting requirements of TCE and VITA Grant’s applicants by the IRS to meet its responsibilities for civil rights statutes, regulations of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Treasury. Recipients of TCE and VITA grants supply updated information as conditions call for. All applicants must send the IRS their application package that includes information outlined in items a-e below. Applicants must answer all the items.

    1. A list of active lawsuits or complaints naming the applicant which alleges discrimination bases on race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, or reprisal with respect to service or benefits provided. The list must include the filing date of the lawsuit or complaint; a summary of the allegation; and the status of the lawsuit or complaint, including whether the parties to a lawsuit have entered a consent decree

    2. A description of all pending applications for financial aid and all financial assistance currently provided by other federal agencies. For all applicants for IRS financial assistance, this information must be relevant to the organizational entity and submit the application, not necessarily the larger agency or department of which the entity is a part

    3. A summary of all civil rights reviews in the last three years. The summary includes: the purpose or reason for the review; a summary of the findings and recommendations of the review; and a report on the status and/or disposition of such findings and recommendations. For all applicants of IRS aid, this relevant information must be relevant to the organizational entity and submit the application, not necessarily the larger agency or department of which the entity belongs

    4. A description of how the applicant addresses the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) individuals and individuals who may need a reasonable accommodation to access free tax return preparation services

    5. A description of the eligible population served, categorized by race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex

    6. Applicants, recipients, or sub-recipients must keep all records and other information to ensure the organization is compliant with all federal statutes relating to nondiscrimination. Confirm certification of these documents by checking “I Agree” in Block 21 of SF 424. Application for Federal Assistance

    7. A statement that the applicant agrees to display the IRS Civil Rights Poster, Publication 4053, or equivalent, notifying the public that persons discriminated against on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability or reprisal in the distribution of services and benefits resulting from this financial aid or grant program may file a complaint through email at edi.civil.rights.division@irs.gov or at the following address:


      Civil Rights Unit
      Internal Revenue Service, Room 2413
      1111 Constitution Ave., NW
      Washington, DC 20224

  4. An applicant for a multi-year grant must update the required civil rights reporting information annually. The Civil Rights Unit of the IRS reviews each application for financial aid for its civil rights reporting requirements. Upon completion, the Civil Rights Unit must send a preliminary civil rights determination based on the information in the grant application to the SPEC organization. Financial aid must not be awarded to the applicant until after the civil rights reviewer has issued a finding of compliance or conditional compliance. Each federal agency’s Civil Rights office completes civil rights compliance for each applicant. The Civil Rights Unit annually conducts selected post-award site visits to ensure civil rights requirements to supply technical help.

  5. The Civil Rights Unit annually conducts selected post-award compliance reviews to ensure civil rights requirements to supply technical help to recipients. The Civil Rights Unit compiles the results of the reviews into a report and sends it to the SPEC Office. The following examples of civil rights requirements addressed during compliance reviews: a) External building accessibility (e.g., accessible entrances, curb cuts, sufficient parking spaces for persons with disabilities); b) Interior accessibility (e.g., signage for emergency routes, accessible routes to and within the service area, sufficient seating in the service area, accessible rest rooms, water fountains and elevators); c) Non-discrimination policies (e.g., Pub 4053 displayed in service areas, the organization’s non-discrimination policy posted and distributed marketing materials); d) Accommodations for persons with disabilities (e.g., sign language interpreters, Braille/large print documents); and e) Accommodations for persons with limited English proficiency (e.g., bilingual volunteers, language interpreters, over-the-phone interpreters, community resources).

Audit Requirements
  1. 2 CFR Part 200 audit requirements applicable to grant recipients. Organizations that spend less than $750,000 a year in total federal awards must complete a Single Audit of the total federal awards from all sources, not just the funds received from IRS. If an organization spends $750,000 or more a year in federal awards, they must arrange for an audit by an independent auditor per the Government Auditing Standards (GAO) developed by the Comptroller General of the United States.

  2. 2 CFR Part 200 provides guidance on allowable costs associated with audits. Recipients must keep financial records, supporting documents, and all other pertinent information for a period of three years from the date the final report is sent.

    Note:

    Subject to certain exceptions in 2 CFR Part 200

    .

  3. The Federal Audit Clearinghouse runs on behalf of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and gives audit information to federal agencies and the public. If the most recent audit showed an unfavorable finding, the GPO may request more information on deficiencies noted in the audit. Obtain detailed information from 2 CFR Part 200. The GPO reviews the audit reports found at the Federal Audit Clearinghouse.

Certification Regarding Lobbying
  1. The applicant must certify, to the best of its knowledge and belief, that:

    1. No federal appropriated funds paid by or on behalf of the applicant, to any person for influencing or trying to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress in connection with the awarding of any federal contract, the making of any federal grant, the making of any federal loan, the entering of any cooperative agreement, and the extension, continuation, renewal, amendment, or modification of any federal contract, grant, loan, or cooperative agreement

    2. If any funds other than federal appropriated funds paid to any person for influencing or trying to influence any officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an officer or employee of Congress, or an employee or a Member of Congress in connection with this application, the undersigned must complete and send standard Form LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities, per the instructions

    3. The applicant must include language of this certification in the award documents for all sub-awards of all tiers (including subcontracts, sub-grants, and contracts under grants, loans, and cooperative agreements) and all sub-recipients must certify and show lobbying activities

  2. Applicants must send these certifications when these lobbying transactions occur according to Section 1352, Title 31, U.S. Code. Any person not sending the required certification is subject to civil penalty of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 for each such failure.

    Note:

    If the organization, wither recipient or sub-recipient, must file a standard form LLL (Disclosure of Lobbying Activities). Find a sample in Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program and Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions, with other application materials.

Corporate Felony Convictions
  1. The IRS cannot award TCE or VITA funds to any corporation convicted of a felony criminal violation under any Federal law within the preceding 24 months. The IRS may consider the suspension or debarment of the organization and decide that denial of the grant does not protect the interests of the government. Applicants must show all violations of federal criminal law involving fraud, bribery, or gratuity violations potentially affecting the award. Applicants awarded a grant must show these acts and require the same certifications from sub-recipients. Organizations must record the information specific to the conviction or violation and send it with their application through grants.gov as an attachment.

Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000
  1. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, as amended (22 USC 7104), requires the IRS to cancel the grant or take other remedial actions, without penalty, if the private entity engages in certain activities related to trafficking in persons. The Office of Federal Financial Management set up terms to include in every grant agreement (See 2 CFR 175.15). Under the Act, a recipient or sub-recipient, if a private entity, or must not engage in, or use labor recruiters, brokers, or other agents who engage in:

    1. Severe forms of trafficking in persons

    2. The procurement of a commercial sex act during the time t the award

    3. The use of forced labor in the performance of the award

    4. Acts that directly support or advance trafficking in persons

  2. Acts that directly support or advance trafficking in persons include the following:

    • Destroying, concealing, removing, confiscating, or otherwise denying an employee access to that employee’s identity or immigration documents

    • Failing to provide return transportation or pay for return transportation costs to an employee from a country outside the United States to the country from which the employee was recruited upon the end of employment if requested by the employee, unless exempted from the requirement to provide or pay for such return transportation by the Federal department or agency providing or entering into the grant, contract, or cooperative agreement; or the employee is a victim of human trafficking seeking victim services or legal redress in the country of employment or a witness in a human trafficking enforcement action

    • Soliciting a person for the purpose of employment, or offering employment, materially false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises about that employment

    • Charging recruited employees’ unreasonable placement or recruitment fees, such as fees equal to or greater than the employee’s monthly salary, or recruitment fees that violate the laws of the recruited employees’ country

    • Supplying or arranging housing that does not meet the host country housing and safety standards

  3. The IRS may unilaterally stop the award or take other remedial actions, without penalty, if any private entity or employee violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA)
  1. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, intended to empower Americans with the ability to hold the government accountable for each spending decision. Each applicant must ensure it has the necessary processes and systems in place to follow the FFATA reporting requirements. OMB has issued guidance to establish requirements for recipients to report information about executive compensation in certain circumstances. For more information, see 2 CFR Part 170.

  2. As required, GPO supplies data monthly to Treasury.

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act)
  1. The DATA Act, enacted into law in May 2014, makes federal spending data more accessible, searchable, and dependable. Treasury compiles the data on USAspending.gov with the help of federal agencies and the results published on their site monthly, with the first batch of data published in May 2017.

  2. As required, GPO supplies monthly grantee data to Treasury to populate this site.

Buy American Act
  1. The Buy American Act, 41 U.S.C. 8301-8303, includes a requirement that all unmanufactured articles, materials, and supplies bought using grant funds must be produced in the United States. All manufactured articles, materials, and supplies bought using grant funds must be manufactured in the United States.

  2. A conviction for violating the Buy American Act causes debarment from federal grants and contracts. The requirement to Buy American does not apply to the following:

    • information technology commercial item

    • products for which the expected value of the procurement is $10,000 or less

    • products for use outside the United States

    • foreign products when domestic products are unavailable or are of unacceptable quality

    • foreign products excepted by certain trade agreements

  3. The IRS may waive the requirement to Buy American if its application would be inconsistent with the public interest or the cost would be unreasonable.

Other Applicable Laws and Regulations
  1. Various federal laws, regulations, OMB circulars govern the VITA and TCE grant programs. These include, but not limited to:

    1. The grant award administrative requirements in 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, and other Federal regulations

    2. The common rule on non-procurement debarment and suspension, adopted by the Department of the Treasury (31 CFR Part 19)

    3. The common rule on government-wide requirements for Drug-Free Workplace (Grants), adopted by the Department of the Treasury (31 CFR Part 20), which requires grant award recipients to make a good faith effort to support a drug-free workplace.

    4. Whistleblower Protection Act at 41 USC 4712

    5. Rules governing allowable costs at 41 USC 4304 and 4310

    6. Prohibition on Certain Telecommunication and Video Surveillance Services or Equipment under CFR Title 2 Part 200.216, which prohibits the use of Federal aid funding on certain telecommunications and video surveillance services or equipment

    7. Federal law prohibits the IRS and all recipients of TCE and VITA funds from supplying grant funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors as sub-recipients, subcontractors, or other sub-recipients. Contact the GPO for up-to-date information about this prohibition

Report Requirements
  1. The following sections describe annual, semi-annual, and periodic reporting requirements.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly Reports
  1. At the end of the program season, recipients must send Semi-Annual, Annual and Final Narrative reports to give us specific information about the methods and procedures used to implement their program. These reports must show the actual expenses incurred by the organization during the period of the Cooperative Agreement.

  2. Recipients must send all reports electronically to their grant officers. Failure by the organization to promptly give reports to the GPO may result in freezing of funds or termination of the grant.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports
  1. The recipient must promptly and accurately report the following information throughout the period of performance.

  2. The following reports and reporting dates apply to the VITA Grant:

    1. Federal Financial Report (FFR) Cash Transaction Report - (Standard Form 425). Recipients send this report through the Payment Management System quarterly. This report supplies quarterly financial information and due 30 days after the quarter ends

    2. Federal Financial Report (FFR) Final Report - Recipients send this report through the Payment Management System. Submit the final FFR within 120 days after the end of the period of performance

    3. Unused Funds - Recipients must inform GPO of unused funds by June 30.

    4. Narrative - Recipients must send a narrative within 120 days after the end of the period of performance. The narrative supplies accomplishments of program goals. Submit to GPO electronically

    5. Site Establishment Report - Site Listing - Send to GPO electronically. Recipients must send a list of planned sites within 30 days after the award notifications but no later than December 1. Recipients must provide a revised list of sites opened at the end of the period of performance with the final report. Recipients must inform their local tax consultant or RM of any changes during the filing season

    6. Budget Detail Explanation – Submit to GPO electronically. Recipients must send a detailed budget explanation within 20 days after the award notification. Recipients must supply a final detailed budget explanation, reflecting actual expenses incurred, within 120 days after the end of the period of performance

    7. Standard Form PPR-A, Performance Measures - Recipients send the PPR-A to GPO electronically within 120 days after end of performance period

  3. Payment Management System automatically freezes the account and prevents funds from being withdrawn.

  4. Extensions for reports Due Dates. GPO grants extensions for reports only in unusual circumstances. Recipients must request an extension writing at least five business days due date of the report. Recipients must receive confirmation granting the extension.

    Note:

    The GPO cannot grant extensions for Payment Management System reports or sub- award reporting.

Grant Application Requirements

  1. The following sections explains requirements for sending grant applications for both TCE and VITA grant programs.

Use of a Unique Entity Identifier by Grant Applicants
  1. Grant applicants must supply a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) number when applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements.

  2. The UEI finds, tracks, and confirms entities receiving federal funding.

  3. Organizations must include a UEI number when applying for a TCE or VITA Grant Programs. Supply the UEI number Box 8c (Applicant Information) on SF 424, Application for Federal Assistance.

  4. For information on how to obtain a UEI number or for the policy relating to this requirement visit the sam.gov. Applicants can receive a UEI number by registering at sam.gov.

System for Award Management (SAM)
  1. System for Award Management (SAM) is the primary registrant database of contracts and aid awards for the federal government. The purpose of the SAM is to ease paperless payment through electronic funds transfer. The registration process supplies basic information relevant to procurement and financial transactions.

  2. All organizations must register with SAM, keep an active registration during the application and evaluation period and then throughout the period of performance. Organizations must allow up to fifteen business days to confirm registration by SAM and acceptance in Grants.gov.

    Note:

    Prior to May 15, 2021, organizations used the Dun & Bradstreet data universal numbering system (DUNS). Effective April 2022, SAM no longer allows the use of DUNS numbers.

  3. SAM requires a UEI number to complete the registration process. If already registered in SAM, the organization must renew the registration annually and watch their registration status. Visit sam.gov for the complete resource for SAM registration.

  4. All entities must review the Financial Assistance Representations and Certifications prior to registering for All Awards or Federal Assistance Only. These certifications and representations Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

  5. Once an organization registers in SAM, SAM notifies the organization to renew their registration. If an organization does not keep their registration active in SAM, SAM is prohibited from reviewing the application.

Intergovernmental Review
  1. Executive Order 12372, Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, issued to foster the intergovernmental partnership and strengthen federalism by relying on State and local processes for the coordination and review of proposed Federal financial aid and direct Federal development.

  2. Applicants must contact the State Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for Federal Executive Order 12372 to decide whether the application is subject to the state intergovernmental review process.

Grants.gov
  1. Grants.gov to supplies website to applicants for federal competitive discretionary grants process and end redundancies. The Department of Health and Human Services manages grants.gov.

Grants.gov Registration
  1. Once an organization receives their UEI number and registers it in SAM, they must register the number in grants.gov.

  2. Once registered, heck to make sure they have a current password and proper permissions to perform the required actions.

  3. For registration help, review grants.gov for the actions needed to complete this step.

  4. Organizations must send their TCE and VITA grant application in grants.gov by the due date for consideration.

TCE and VITA Grant Program Application
  1. Qualifying organizations must compete for consideration. The TCE and VITA Grant Programs announce in the Federal Register, on the grants.gov and the IRS website. Publications for each grant supplies deadlines for sending applications.

  2. For TCE -Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program, stores current program guidelines and requirements, certification documents, and other materials needed for the preparation and assembly of a TCE Program Grant application. Download Publication 1101, Applying for a TCE Grant, for further information.

  3. For VITA Grant - Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions, stores current program guidelines, certification documents, and other materials needed for the preparation and assembly of a VITA Grant application. Download Publication 4671 at Applying for a VITA Grant for further information.

  4. A solicitation of an application does not assure or commit the IRS to enter a cooperative or grant agreement with an organization. The IRS does not pay expenses or other costs incurred by an applicant in considering, preparing, or sending an application.

  5. Organizations must send all application information through Grants.gov prior to the application deadline. The GPO processes all applications.

  6. The Freedom of Information Act 5 USC 552 supplies public access to agency records unless protected from disclosure by certain exemptions or exclusions. Individuals may request copies of an organization’s TCE or VITA grant application for their review. The GPO makes grant applications available to the public upon written request after the redactions. Make requests through the local IRS Disclosure office.

    Mailing Address Private Delivery Service (PDS) Mailing
    IRS Disclosure Scanning Operation
    P.O. Box 621506
    Stop 93A
    Atlanta, Georgia 30362-3006
    Internal Revenue Service
    Centralized Processing Unit
    2980 Brandywine Road - Suite 209 Fordham Building
    Chamblee, GA 30341
Multi-Year Grant Opportunities
  1. Availability of multi-year grant opportunities exist for applicants interested in meeting the criteria.

  2. Prior year recipients eligible for multi-year grants must be in good standing. The program defines good standing as:

    • No significant concerns found during Territory office visits, financial administrative or TIGTA reviews

    • Applicant successfully met its program plan and minimum returns expected

    • Applicant showed its ability to grow and sustain its programs

  3. Multi-year funding

    • Year one – subject to availability of annually appropriated funds

    • Year two and/or year three – Funding subject to: satisfactory performance; compliance with grant terms and conditions; and availability of appropriated funds

  4. Recipients approved for a multi-year grant send an abbreviated grant application for years two and three. Recipients must keep satisfactory performance and remain in compliance with grant terms and conditions.

  5. For more information on multi-year requirements, refer to the following: Publication 1101, Application and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program or Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions.

Grant Application Processing

  1. The following section describes IRS processing of grant applications.

Receipt and Control
  1. The pre-award process begins with receipt and control of grant applications as described in the following section:

    1. GPO retrieves applications from Grants.gov

    2. Enter applications into the Enterprise Case Management (ECM) System Grants Management System. The systems automatically assign a Case ID number (e.g., 2021-XXXX-X). For more tracking, each case includes an application number and recorded in an Excel workbook

Application Completeness and Eligibility Processing
  1. GPO reviews the application for completeness in ECM to ensure prompt receipt and includes all required information.

  2. All applications must include the Standard SF 424, Application for Federal Assistance, with authorized organization representative signature, UEI number, and EIN.

  3. The TCE application must include the following:

    1. Non-profit eligibility documentation

    2. Program Plan narrative

    3. Financial Operative narrative

    4. Civil Rights narrative

    5. Form 14335, Primary Contact Information for VITA and TCE Grant Programs

    6. Form 14204, Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program Application Checklist and Contact Sheet

    7. Form 8653, Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program Application Plan

    8. Disclosure of lobbying activities

  4. The GPO contacts the applicant for missing information and signatures if the organization made a good faith effort sending the application.

  5. The GPO allows the applicant two business days to supply missing information.

  6. The GPO does not consider woefully incomplete applications or contact the applicant. The application becomes ineligible.

  7. The GPO may consider applications received after the deadline. Send exception to the Chief, GPO for approval.

  8. The GPO reviews complete applications through the following eligibility process.

  9. The GPO must research IRS’ master file records to confirm accuracy of applicant’s entity/tax-exempt designation and tax compliance.

  10. For Tax Compliance, GPO researches the Integrated Data Retrieval System (IDRS) to confirm entity information, tax exempt status and tax compliance status. Tax compliance status includes compliant, conditionally compliant, or non-compliant.

  11. GPO evaluates each complete application using IDRS command codes BMFOL, INOLES, TXMOD, and SUMRY, when available. GPO uses other command codes such as TRDBV and ENMOD.

  12. If there is a balance due or a failure to file indicator, and the module shows a filing requirement exists, the GPO sends an email and a Letter 6028 to the authorized “Federal Tax Matters Contact” found on Form 14335.

    1. This letter notifies the organization of a tax related issue and instructs them to contact the IRS to resolve

    2. The applicant must respond within 5 business days

    3. If the applicant does not respond, the application becomes ineligible

  13. GPO allows applicants the opportunity to resolve the issue. The applicant must send supporting documentation or information to GPO prior to the award date.

  14. Examples of supporting documentation include requests for penalty abatements, proof of payment or filing return, installment agreement requested and/or approved.

  15. If the applicant disagrees with the compliance issue and supplies information showing the error on the part of the IRS and the GPO agrees, the applicant becomes eligible for consideration of an award.

  16. If the GPO decides ineligibility for an award due to non-compliance, the SPEC Director may conduct a secondary review for reconsideration.

  17. If the GPO and SPEC Director concurs, the application become ineligible.

  18. The GPO researches the organization name and key individuals in the System for Award Management (SAM) for debarment or suspension.

    1. Research the organization name, Authorized contact

    2. Research the names of key individuals found in the application Program Plan and Financial Operations narratives, such as the program director and financial officer

    3. Not all individuals mentioned in the program narrative require research

    4. When a name receives a hit in SAM and the researcher requires further clarification, the GPO requests more information from the applicant to confirm identity. The GPO reviews the information to confirm if the organization or individual matches the name in SAM

    5. When a name receives a hit in SAM and the researcher requires further clarification, the GPO requests more information from the applicant to confirm identity. The GPO reviews the information to confirm if the organization or individual matches the name in SAM

    6. If the name matches a person disbarred or suspended, the award notification includes measures to mitigate the risk. The person disbarred or suspended cannot take part in the VITA program or supply oversight of the grant until cleared.

    7. The GPO does not consider organizations disbarred or suspended for an award

  19. The GPO uses the Federal Audit Clearinghouse at the Harvester website, to research reports.

    1. The analyst reviews the most recent audit report to find deficiencies and unfavorable findings

    2. Depending on the results of the audit, IRS may request more information from the applicant to decide whether if the organization implemented any corrective actions to respond to deficiencies and findings

    3. IRS may institute safeguards against organizations with deficiencies and findings, such as more reporting and prior approval for payments to ensure effective use of grant funding

  20. The GPO uses the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Sanctions Program Listings to complete the Terrorist Screening.

    1. The organization name must be sent through OFAC

    2. GPO sends any negative results to the Criminal Investigation Division for further review

  21. The IRS Civil Rights Division (CRD) reviews each application in ECM meets civil rights compliance requirements and no violations reported.

  22. For prior recipients, the GPO reviews the prior year grant file to figure out whether the organization followed reporting requirements.

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