22.30.1 Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication

Manual Transmittal

September 06, 2017

Purpose

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

Material Changes

(1) Various editorial changes were made throughout and changed subsections.

(2) IRM 22.30.1.1Program Scope and Objectives – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision. Subsections added under Program Scope and Objectives applicable to this program include:

  1. IRM 22.30.1.1.1,Background – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision. Moved text previously contained in IRM 22.30.1.1, What is stakeholder, Partnerships, Education and Communication (this subsection has been deleted).

  2. IRM 22.30.1.1.2,Authority – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision. Moved content from IRM 22.30.1.1 (7).

  3. IRM 22.30.1.1.3,Responsibilities – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision.

  4. IRM 22.30.1.1.4,Measures and Program Reports – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision. IRM 22.30.1.3

  5. IRM 22.30.1.1.5,Terms – Compiled a list of frequently used terms in the SPEC process, including those related to management and internal controls.

  6. IRM 22.30.1.1.6,Acronyms – Added new subsection; moved text previously contained in IRM 22.30.1.1.1, Acronyms and Abbreviations (this subsection has been deleted).

  7. IRM 22.30.1.1.7Related Resources – Added new subsection to place information involving internal controls for a program IRM under this subsection to conform to the new rules described in this revision.

(3) With the addition of IRM 22.30.1.1, Program Scope and Objectives and the reorganization of the IRM, several subsections were renumbered. The change paragraphs below identify where the subsections where the changes can be located in the revised IRM and these subsections may be different from the subsection identified in IPU 16U1626 (issued on 11/4/2016), IPU 17U0528 (issued 3/20/2017) and IPU 17U1612 (issued on 08/04/2017).

(4) IRM 22.30.1.1.3, Responsibilities, section updated to further define the role of SPEC executives and employees.

(5) IRM 22.30.1.3.2 , SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines, section updated to note routing and signature requirements of SPEC weekly reports.

(6) IRM 22.30.1.3.2 , SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines, section updated to change Public Folders to the Point- SPEC’s intranet site.

(7) IRM 22.30.1.3.2 (14), SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines, section updated to replace TaxWise with TaxSlayer.

(8) IRM 22.30.1.3.6, Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to delete last sentence.

(9) IRM 22.30.1.3.6, Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to add domestic sites being required to complete Form 13206.

(10) IRM 22.30.1.3.6 (4), Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to add paragraph 4; subsequent paragraphs renumbered.

(11) IRM 22.30.1.3.6 (5), Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to delete title, Form 13206 - Volunteer Assistance Summary Report

(12) IRM 22.30.1.3.6 (8), Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to include requirement for partners to report new volunteers.

(13) IRM 22.30.1.3.6 (9), Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report), section updated to change Relationship to relationship.

(14) IRM 22.30.1.3.6 (12), Number of Volunteers (Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report) section updated to change Relationship to relationship.

(15) IRM 22.30.1.8,Volunteer Return Preparation Overview, section revised by changing VITA low income threshold amount to $54,000 and tax year to 2016 in Note. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(16) IRM 22.30.1.8.6.2, Volunteer Milestone Recognition, section updated to change the words Plaque (Wooden) to Certificate.

(17) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.1.1, High Risk Attributes,a referral must be made to SPEC headquarters for further review/assessment of the allegations.

(18) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.2, Training Delivery Methods the note was updated to reflect prior to the delivery of the software and Continuing Education Credits section updated to include reference to Continuing Education Credits.

(19) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10 (1), Continuing Education (CE) Credit for Volunteers of the VITA/TCE Program, section updated to add reference to CFPs and CTEC registrants.

(20) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.1, (Note), Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities., section updated to add reference to CFPs.

(21) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.1 (2), Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities., section updated to further explain requirement of volunteer to register with LLT and complete VSC training; delete last bullet.

(22) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.1 (5), Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities, section updated to include reference to volunteers who are CTEC registrants.

(23) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.2(1), VITA or TCE Partner Role section updated to delete alphas b and d.

(24) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.2, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.2 (1) (g), VITA or TCE Partner Role, section updated to further explain use of Form 13615 for CE Credits.

(25) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.2 (1) (i), VITA or TCE Partner Role, section updated to revise Note.

(26) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.3 (1), Territory Office Role, section updated to include steps to be taken once Form 13615 is received from the partner or site coordinator.

(27) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.3 (1) (c), Territory Office Role, section updated to include volunteer hours of service in LLT.

(28) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.3 (1) (d), Territory Office Role, section updated by deleting (1)(d)(f) and Note; subsequent paragraphs renumbered.

(29) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.4 (2), Area Office Role, section updated to include step of verifying Form 13615 against the list of volunteers requesting CE credits in LLT.

(30) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.4 (4), Area Office Role, section updated to include step of reviewing the records for all CPAs.

(31) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.4, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.4 (5), Area Office Role, section updated to delete paragraphs 5 & 7; subsequent paragraphs renumbered.

(32) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.5, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.5, Overseas Military HQ National Relationship Manager (RM) Role, section AARP HQ National Relationship Manager (RM) Office Role deleted.

(33) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.5 (3), Overseas Military HQ National Relationship Manager (RM) Role, section updated to include step of identifying volunteer hours of service.

(34) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.5 (4) (5), Overseas Military HQ National Relationship Manager (RM) Role, paragraphs deleted.

(35) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (1), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role ,section updated to include requirement for SPEC HQ to maintain copies of Form 13615.

(36) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (2), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role, section updated to further explain the LLT system and data portal.

(37) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (3), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role, section updated to further explain the use of LLT to validate volunteers who met the CE requirements.

(38) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (4), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role, section updated to include reference to CE Certificates being available in LLT to print.

(39) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (5), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role, section updated to include reference to creation and maintenance of folders on a Shared Drive in OPQ.

(40) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.10.6 (6) (8) (9), Headquarters (HQ) Office Role, section updated by deleting paragraphs.

(41) IRM 22.30.1.8.7.2 (3), Filing Season Readiness Training Requirements (SPEC Employees), section updated to describe requirement of Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) employees regarding Filing Season Readiness

(42) IRM 22.30.1.8.10 IRM 22.30.1.8.10, Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites, section revised by adding the word tests and correcting the title of Publication 1084. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(43) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.1,Return Preparation Criteria, section revised by adding sentence regarding volunteers certifying in tax law. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(44) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.2 (3), Prior Year and Amended Return Preparation, section updated to describe certification requirements for volunteer preparers and quality reviewers.

(45) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.3 (2), Prior Year and Amended Return Preparation, section updated to describe state and federal tax return filing to secure a benefit from the state.

(46) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.3 (3), State Return Preparation, section updated to describe not filing both federal and state returns to secure a benefit from the state.

(47) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.3 (4), State Return Preparation, section updated to list information regarding balance due returns.

(48) IRM 22.30.1.8.10.3,State Return Preparation, section updated by correcting title to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; reworded paragraph #1 and added paragraph #2.

(49) IRM 22.30.1.8.13 (2), Quality Review Process, section revised to add text "or more in some situations" to 1st bullet.

(50) IRM 22.30.1.8.13 (10), Quality Review Process section updated to add reference to Publication 4299 being available at every site.

(51) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), section updated to further explain Quality Site Requirement (QSR) #1 -Certification; requirement explained in detail.

(52) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), section updated to further explain QSR #2- Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process; both requirements merged. Requirements explained in detail.

(53) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), section updated to change the third QSR #3 to Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN). Requirement explained in detail.

(54) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), section updated to explain QSR #4 in detail.

(55) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR), section updated to explain QSR #5 in detail.

(56) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR) formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13 (10), section updated to add reference to Publication 4299 being available at every site. Section updated to explain QSR #6 in detail.

(57) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (4), VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR) formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13 (10), section updated to add reference to Publication 4299 being available at every site.Section updated to explain QSR #7 in detail.

(58) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1 (6) VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR)IRM 22.30.1.8.13 (10), section updated to add reference to Publication 4299 being available at every site. If/then Chart- Section updated to change "site" to "coordinator" .

(59) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (1), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define requirement for new volunteers to complete VSC training.

(60) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (2), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define requirement for returning volunteers regarding certification.

(61) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (3), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define purpose of Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update.

(62) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (4), Section updated to further define the scope of the Volunteer Certification (VITA/TCE) Programs.

(63) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (5), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define certification requirements for quality reviewers.

(64) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (6), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define certification requirements for volunteers in other roles. For ex. greeters, client facilitators etc.

(65) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (7), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define certification requirements for coordinators.

(66) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (8), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define training requirements for volunteers.

(67) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (9), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define required test score and training methods.

(68) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (10), Volunteer Certification, section updated to further define volunteer training types.

(69) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (11) Volunteer Certification, section updated to change training requirements based on volunteer position.

(70) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1 (12), Volunteer Certification, section updated to include requirement of domestic military partners to submit Form 13206.

(71) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1.1 (1), Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance, section (if/then chart) first row: updated to add that volunteer must be tax law certified; deleted reference to Publication 4491.

(72) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1.1 (1), Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance, section (if/then chart) second row: updated to change "site" to "coordinator" ; added reference to volunteers being certified in tax law and VSC at the appropriate levels.

(73) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1.1 (1), Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance, section (if/then chart) third row: updated to further define role of the volunteer.

(74) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.1.1 (1), Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance, section (if/then chart) fifth row: updated to include requirements for volunteers to certify in Intake/Inteview and Quality Review Training.

(75) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.2 (3), Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process, section updated to further define the Intake and Interview Process.

(76) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.2.1 (1), Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process, section updated to define non-compliant issues.

(77) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.3, Quality Review Process, section updated to change title to Quality Review Process.

(78) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.3 (2), Quality Review Process, section updated to add components for an effective quality review.

(79) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.3.2, Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN), section added - Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN). Subsequent sections re-numbered. IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.3.2, Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN), section added - Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) Non-Compliance. Subsequent sections renumbered.

(80) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.5 (1), Volunteer Agreement, section updated to include requirement for new volunteers to complete Form 13206; all volunteers must pass the VSC test with a score of 80% pr higher; copies of Forms 13615 and 13206 must be available at the site location.

(81) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.5 (5), Volunteer Agreement, section updated to include maintenance of Forms 13615 and 13206.

(82) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.6 (2), Timely Filing of Tax Returns, section updated to further define the process of timely filing of tax returns.

(83) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.9Correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN), section updated by deleting reference to Publication 3189; adding reference to Pub 4396.

(84) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5 (1) (2) (3), Field Site Visits, section updated by re-ordering sections 1, 2 and 3.

(85) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5, (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11), Field Site Visit’s, section updated by adding these paragraphs; #3 renumbered to #12 because of additions.

(86) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.1 (4), Selection of Sites, section updated to change text- "form" to "for"

(87) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.1 (5), Selection of Sites, section updated to delete "for sites" on the third line.

(88) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.2, Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Visits, section updated to move title Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site Visits from 22.30.1.9.13.5.11 to 22.30.1.9.13.5.2; subsequent sections renumbered.

(89) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.4 , Preliminary Research, section updated to add paragraph #3.

(90) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.6 (2), Unannounced (FSV) versus Announced (RSR) Reviews, section updated to add the word "generally" in paragraph #2.

(91) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.6 (3), Unannounced (FSV) versus Announced (RSR) Reviews, section updated to add paragraph #3.

(92) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7 (4), Conducting Field Site Visits, section updated to replace ", but no more than fourteen days" with “. The Territory Manager (TM) may allow additional business days based on the TC workload.”

(93) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7 (5), Conducting Field Site Visits, section updated to add paragraph #5; subsequent paragraphs renumbered.

(94) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7 (6), Conducting Field Site Visits, section updated to change text - "will be" to "are" ; and delete the words "tax consultants" .

(95) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7 (7), Conducting Field Site Visits, section updated to add third sub-bullet - Publication 5166.

(96) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.8, Conducting the Review, section added titled Conducting the Review. Subsequent sections renumbered.

(97) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.9, Field Site Visit Return Reviews, section added titled Field Site Visit Return Reviews.

(98) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.10,Conducting the Return Review for Field Site Visits, section added titled Conducting the Return Review.

(99) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.10, Out of Scope Return’s,,section updated to add paragraphs 3 & 4 to section titled Out of Scope Returns.

(100) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.12 , The Site Review, section added titled The Site Review.

(101) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.13,Conducting the Site Review, section added titled Conducting the Site Review.

(102) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.20, Errors Identified After Leaving the Site, section updated to change you to the TC; changed identify to identifies.

(103) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.21 (1) (2), Post-Review Notification, section updated to change you to the TC

(104) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.23 (1), Rating the Site Review, section updated by deleting last sentence of paragraph #1.

(105) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.30,Roles and Responsibilities, section revised to add new section Roles and Responsibilities

(106) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.1.3 (2) (3), Making an Internal Referral, section updated to make editorial changes.

(107) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.2.4 (2), VolTax Referrals section updated to remove reference to a VolTax toll free telephone number.

(108) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.9 (4), Partner Reviews, section updated to include role of relationship managers regarding partners site and return reviews.

(109) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.9, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.8.2 (1), Invalid SIDNs,, section updated to send area analyst the Invalid SIDN report at least 7 times during the year. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(110) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.9, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.9 (2), Correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN),, section updated to reflect IRS e-file applications must be submitted on-line via e-services and users must apply for this program. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(111) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.2, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13.2, Review Types,, section revised by adding 4th bullet- Field Site Visits/Remote Site Reviews. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(112) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.3, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4, Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews,, section revised by removing reference to three returns; added reference responsibility of Chief, OPQ. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(113) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.3, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.3, Chief QPO Responsibilities,, section revised by further explaining responsibility of Chief, OPQ. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(114) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.4, Requirements for QSS Reviewers,, section revised by adding reference to Site Coordinator Training and Tax Preparation software training. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(115) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.5, QSS Continuing Professional Education (CPE),, section revised by further explaining purpose of QSS CPE. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(116) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.6, Site Data Research,, section revised by adding 6th bullet - TaxSlayer Production Reports. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(117) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.7 (1), Planning for Reviews,, section revised by adding reference to QSS reviewer using SPECTRM date to determine if a site is still. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(118) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.7 (2), Planning for Reviews,, section revised by changing travel authorization website to ConcurGov. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(119) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.9, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.8, Initial Site Contact,, section revised by adding statement regarding contingency plans. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(120) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.9 (1), Selecting Returns for Review,, section revised by further clarifying QSS reviewer responsibility for selecting return for review. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(121) IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.9 (2), Selecting Returns for Review,, section revised by adding text to first sentence regarding quality review process at sites. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(122) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.9, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.9 (6), Selecting Returns for Review,, section revised by adding reference to random selection policy of tax returns. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(123) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.9, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.9 (7), Selecting Returns for Review,, section revised by adding paragraph. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(124) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.10, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.10, Reviewing Returns Using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(125) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.11, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.11 (8), Conducting Return Reviews,, section revised by further explaining tolerance criteria for accurate returns. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(126) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.11, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.11 (9), (10), (11), and (12), Conducting Return Reviews,, section revised by adding new paragraphs. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(127) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.12, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.12, Scanning and Redacting the Return,, section revised by adding paragraphs 2 and 3. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(128) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.13, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.13, Conducting the Site Review,, section revised by removing reference to three return reviews. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(129) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.13, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.13 (1), Conducting the Site Review,, section revised to remove reference to three return reviews. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(130) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.13, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.13 (2),Conducting the Site Review,, section revised to further explain QSS reviewer role when determining if a site meets the QSR. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(131) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.13, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.13 (4), Conducting the Site Review,, section revised by adding reference to Publication 5141. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(132) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.20, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.20, Inter-Rater Reviews,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017 )

(133) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.21, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.21, Inter-Rater Review Procedures,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(134) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.22, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.22, Inter-Rater Training,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(135) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.23, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.23, Inter-Rater Certification,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(136) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.24, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.24, Selecting Inter-Raters,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.24Noncompliance and Corrective/Follow-up Actions,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(137) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.25, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.25, Selecting Inter-Rater Reviews,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(138) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.25, section titled Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Violations, was added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(139) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.26, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.26, QSS Case Files,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(140) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.27, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.27, Assigning Reviews,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(141) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.28, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.28, Conducting Inter-Rater Reviews, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(142) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.29 IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.29, Correcting the Site Quality Module, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(143) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.31, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.30, Providing Written Feedback,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(144) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.32, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.31, Performance Reviews, section added . (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(145) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.32, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.32, Maintaining the Case Files, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(146) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.4.33, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.4.33, Closing the Case File, section revised by changing addressee from Chief, QPO to SPEC-Quality Program Office. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(147) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5 (2), Field Site Visits, section revised by changing Form 6729 to Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(148) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.1, IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.1, Selection of Sites, section revised to add paragraphs 2 through 5. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(149) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.2, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.11, Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site, section revised to add option for additional or supplemental ad-hoc field visits. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(150) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.2, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.11 (3), Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site, section revised to add section regarding percentage of minimum number of reviews. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017

(151) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.3, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.2, Assigning Sites, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(152) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.4, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.3, Preliminary Research, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(153) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.5, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.4, Planning the Review, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(154) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.6, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.5, Unannounced Field Site Visit (FSV) versus Announced Remote Site Reviews (RSR), section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(155) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.6, Conducting Field Site Visits,section revised by deleting first sentence in paragraph 1; deleted paragraph 3 and subsequent paragraphs were renumbered. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(156) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.6 (3), Conducting Field Site Visits, section revised by changing Form 6729 to Form 6729-D. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(157) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.7, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.6 (4), Conducting Field Site Visits, section revised by adding text regarding time frame for follow-up email to site coordinator; changed Form 6729 to Form 6729-D. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(158) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.8, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.15, Conducting the Review,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.8 formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.15, Conducting the Review,, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(159) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.10, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.12, Conducting the Return Review for Field Site Visits, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(160) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.11, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.13, Out of Scope Returns, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(161) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.11, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.13, Out of Scope Returns, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(162) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.11, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.13, Out of Scope Returns, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(163) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.13, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.14, Conducting the Site Review,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(164) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.15, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.7, Follow-Up Site Reviews,section revised by adding paragraph 3. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(165) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.15, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.8, Virtual VITA/TCE Sites,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(166) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.16, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.9, Reviewing VITA/TCE Grant Site,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(167) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.17, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.10, Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Sites,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(168) IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017 IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.18 formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.16, Preliminary Feedback Discussion,section added.

(169) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.21, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.18, Errors Identified After Leaving the Site,section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(170) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.22, (formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.19), Post-Review Notification, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(171) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.22, (formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.20), Completing the Database, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(172) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.23, (formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.13.5.21), Rating the Site Review, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(173) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.22,Case File Maintenance, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(174) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.2, Remote Site Review Benefits, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(175) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.3, Methodology for Screening a Minimum Number of Remote Site Reviews, paragraph 2 revised by changing review period from 4 to 5 years. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(176) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.4, Selection of Remote Review Sites, bullets 5 and 6 added; bullet 7 revised by changing review period from 4 to 5 years. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(177) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.5Conducting the RSR - Key Points, section added. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(178) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.6, Conducting Remote Site Reviews, paragraph 4 added (subsequent paragraphs renumbered); paragraph 6 revised by removing reference to entering data into SPECTRM; added paragraph 8 ( subsequent paragraphs renumbered). (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(179) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.7, Follow-up Remote Site Reviews, updated to reflect f/up visits must provide assistance to site coordinators to improve site operations.

(180) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.8, Remote Site Reviews, section revised by removing second sentence. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(181) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.6.9,Issues Arising from Remote Site Reviews, updated to reflect violations must be reported on the Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report.

(182) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.1.1,High Risk Attributes,a referral must be made to SPEC headquarters for further review/assessment of the allegations

(183) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3, Volunteer Return Preparation Program Preparer Misconduct, new section added. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(184) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.1,Headquarters Responsibility, section added regarding Headquarter responsibility. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(185) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.2, Territory Responsibility, section added regarding Territory responsibility. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(186) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.3,Partner Responsibility, section added regarding Partner responsibility. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(187) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.3, Partner Responsibility,, section revised to change text to state that partners are encouraged to provide relief to taxpayers. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(188) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.5, IRS Responsibility,, section added regarding IRS responsibility. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(189) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.5, Taxpayer Responsibility,, section added regarding taxpayer’s responsibility (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(190) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.5,VITA/TCE Site Selection, must be referred to Chief QPO. These sites will be marked as un-open on the SPEC Shopping Review Scheduling Worksheet located on the quality shared drive

(191) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.7,Assigned Scenario, updated to reflect that intake sheet must be completed, if requested.

(192) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.10,Arriving at the Site, updated to reflect that the shopping reviewer must begin observing site operations while waiting to begin site’s return preparation process.

(193) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.15, Conducting the Post Shopping Site Review, updated to reflect that reviews must be conducted to determine site adherence to the QSR and VSC criteria.

(194) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.16, Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator, updated to reflect that the relationship manager must email the final results within two weeks. However if areas of non-compliance to the QSR and/or VSC are identified, corrective actions will be recommended to the site coordinator prior to leaving the site and included in the written feedback to the territory manager.

(195) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.19, Completing Form 6729-B, Shopping Review Sheet, Form 6729-B, Shopping Review Sheet,must be completed after leaving the volunteer site. This form must not be completed during the shopping review or at any time while at the site.

(196) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10.24Final Results Email, final results email must be sent to the territory manager and designated officials no later than 24 hours after edit date of SPECTRM Quality Database, (Wednesday) and within 2 weeks of completing the review

(197) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.13,Performance Reviews, section revised by changing Field Site Visits to visits; changed title of Site Review Sheet to Form 6729-D. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(198) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.14,Volunteer Tax and Quality Site Requirement Alerts, updated to reflect volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA) is to update, correct, or clarify tax law topics. VTA messages have proven to be a useful educational tool and are most valuable when delivered immediately to their intended audience, SPEC VITA and TCE partners and their certified volunteers. VTAs must be distributed as quickly as possible to sites and volunteers.

(199) IRM 22.30.1.8.15.2,E-file Technical Publications,section updated to inform and instruct users that they can register for e-services on-line. Also, users must pass the Secure Access Authentication on-line course before they can submit the IRS e-file application. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(200) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.1, SPECTRM Partners Module, updated to reflect contact with the Partner Survey role must be linked to each partner in SPECTRM. The annual Partner Survey will be sent to this designated contact..

(201) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.1.1,Documenting Potential Partners in SPECTRM,updated to reflect potential partners must be left inactive by selecting “Active-NO” and any activity, meetings, and results of the recruitment effort must be input into the comments section.

(202) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3, SPECTRM Contacts Module, updated to reflect volunteer 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 be updated to reflect the delivery of site coordinator training and the delivery method.

(203) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3.1, formerly IRM 22.30.1.10.16.3.1 (2) and (3), Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet, section revised to make section easier to follow and clarify steps to be taken if a site is open. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(204) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3.1Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet, section added instructing Relationship Managers to secure Form 13715 and input accurate site information into SPECTRM. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(205) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3.1Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet, paragraphs 5 - 16 updated to reflect SPEC responsibilities for Form 13715. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(206) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3.2, SPECTRM Site Module Validation,updated to reflect The following areas must be validated after October 1, and no later than January 15 for the filing season

(207) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.3.3, SPECTRM Annual Review, section revised for clarity and to specify Form 13715, SPEC Site Information Sheet, must be reviewed for all non-AARP sites and AARP website for all AARP sites included in the review. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(208) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.4,SPECTRM Equipment Module,updated to reflect the system allows for linking equipment to the contact information recorded in SPECTRM to eliminate the need to maintain separate systems with similar data. While equipment is on loan, it must reflect the appropriate contact and partner information to allow SPEC to easily locate the equipment if needed. Users may also link the equipment to a site. Although not required, this is recommended because it will provide valuable information for Relationship Managers in assessing the productivity of the site in relationship to the equipment we loan.

(209) IRM 22.30.1.8.16.7, SPECTRM Change Request, SCR’s must CRS forward to the SPECTRM Help Desk

(210) IRM 22.30.1.9 (1) Volunteer Programs: Security, Equipment, and Software, added taxpayers in rural areas as one of the targeted audiences

(211) IRM 22.30.1.9.1.1, Territory Responsibilities,updated to reflect territories must also obtain a new sponsor agreement when key personnel changes in the partner’s organization to ensure the new individual is aware of the agreement in place as it relates to privacy, confidentiality and security requirements of the VITA and TCE program.

(212) IRM 22.30.1.9.1.2 , Helping Partners Assess Risk and Develop a Security Plan to Protect Information, updated to reflect that one must become familiar with Publication 4299 and Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business so that they can provide assistance to partners.

(213) IRM 22.30.1.9.2, Computers for Volunteers, territory offices must consider past performance, hours of access, and availability of volunteers when making equipment allocation decisions. New partners must be encouraged to provide this resource, however, some hard to reach customer segments may need equipment upon start up. This is acceptable.

(214) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4, Property Loan Agreement (PLA), Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement section updated to state report must be generated within SPECTRM. If not, it must be entered as soon as possible

(215) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4.1,New Agreements, anew PLA must be signed when equipment, partner organization, and/or volunteer change

(216) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4.2, Alternate Contact Information,updated to reflect the initial representative must complete the Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (alternate contact recipient information section) and provide the updated information to the local SPEC territory office within 30 days.

(217) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4.4,Maintenance of Agreements,updated to reflect Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement must remain in an active file. Once all equipment listed is returned or a new loan agreement is signed, the old agreement (and related property certification document) must be filed in an inactive file, and may be purged one year after the agreement ended. SPEC will maintain all PLAs.

(218) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5,Equipment Return Procedures, updated to reflect that SPEC employees must encourage partners to return equipment immediately after filing season activities cease and not to wait until later.

(219) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.1.1, Minimum Communication Required to Be Sent To Partners, updated to reflect laptops must be shipped to be received at the Depot no later than May 15.

(220) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2,Laptop Return Procedures,updated to reflect territories must work with all their partners to ensure equipment is returned by May 15, and the tracking documentation is provided by the partner to the territory in the event the Depot does not acknowledge receipt of the asset in KISAM

(221) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2.2, Extension For Returning Laptops, updated to reflect that the territory and partner must assess the continued need for all equipment; and in this specific example, the partner must return four laptops, keeping only one.

(222) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2.3, Data Deletion Requirements, section updated to remove the requirement of laptop recipients disk wiping laptops prior to them being returned to the VITA Depot.

(223) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.3, Printer Return Procedures,updated to reflect printers returned to the territory office must be updated on SPECTRM to reflect assignment of “in stock”

(224) IRM 22.30.1.8.13.5.4, Broken or Obsolete Equipment, updated to reflect equipment must be disposed of and not held.

(225) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.4.1,Procedures to Dispose of Broken or Obsolete Printers, updated to reflect to ensure proper ticket routing, the Depot’s group name, UNS-OSS-LM-BED, must be noted.

(226) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.1, Annual Inventory Certification,updated to reflect territories must ensure documentation in SPECTRM is accurate. At least one is required between October and June for certification.

(227) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.1.1, Copies of Property Loan Agreements (PLAs), updated to reflect SPECTRM must update with the PLA acceptance date

(228) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.1.2, Required Information for Certification, revised section to add printers to Note. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(229) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.1.4, Final Territory Package Set Up for Depot,updated to reflect it must be emailed to the Depot and SPEC headquarters. Include in the email the tracking number for UPS so that the Depot can locate the information if misdirected at the campus. (5), every effort must be made to provide the completed certification packages to the Depot so they are received on or before the due date.

(230) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7 IRM 22.30.1.8.2.7(2) (b) (d), Reporting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment, section updated by changing CSIRC’s telephone number to 240-613-3606; deleting reference to Director, SPEC headquarter operations.

(231) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2,Reporting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers, updated to reflect proper reporting of stolen/lost partner owned computers the Relationship Manager must obtain as much information as possible about the stolen/lost equipment and the theft/loss from the initial contact with the VITA and TCE program participant. Document when and how notification of the theft/loss is received by IRS.

(232) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers,updated to reflect a table of key questions to ask when a computer is lost or stolen and required actions to document.

(233) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8, formerly IRM 22.30.1.8.2.8 (2), Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment, section updated by changing CSIRC’s telephone number to 240-613-3606; deleting reference to Director, SPEC headquarters operations.

(234) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1,Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment, table under required action; revised to remove reference to SPEC director, headquarter operations and added Chief, OPQ. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(235) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1, Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment, revised section to remove reference to director, headquarter operations; added Chief, OPQ and VITA and TCE Depot. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(236) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1, Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment, revised table section to remove reference to Director, SPEC-HQ in the 4th bullet. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(237) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1,Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment, table section revised to remove reference to Director, SPEC-HQ. (IPU 16U1626 issued 11-04-2016)

(238) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.10, Barcode Change, must follow the steps below to obtain a new and /or reprinted barcode:

(239) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.1Placing Software Orders,updated to must not be ordered until the site is established.

(240) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.2, formerly IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.2 (c), Headquarters’ Responsibilities, section updated by deleting reference to registration codes.

(241) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.8, formerly IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.8 (5) (6), Required Actions for a Compromised, EFIN section updated by deleting references to registration codes

(242) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.9,Deactivating VITA and TCE EFIN, third paragraph must no longer be referred to SPEC headquarters or to the Andover e-Help Desk

(243) IRM 22.30.1.9.6.2 (1), Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM), section updated to change the words Plaque (Wooden) to Certificate; change the words Plaque (Acrylic) to Certificate.

(244) IRM 22.30.1.9.6.2.1 (1), section updated to remove the words and plaques; place the word and in front of the word certificates.

(245) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.1Eligibility Standards, removed sentence to check if a state is participating visit OMG Grants.

(246) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.2,Debarment or Suspension, if incorrect information is identified about an organization or individuals within an organization, contact must be with the agency that reported the information. .

(247) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.3, Civil Rights Reporting Requirements, Civil Rights Reporting and Certification Requirements to incorporate changes made by the Civil Rights Division.

(248) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.4, Audit Requirements, updated the Federal Audit Clearinghouse hyperlink was updated

(249) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.5.3,Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FATA), added sentence that Grant Program Office (GPO) provides quarterly grantee data to Treasury to populate the site.

(250) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.5.3.1, section added titled, Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act),

(251) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added statement to paragraph that grantees must inform local tax consultants or relationship managers if changes are made during filing season.

(252) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, section was updated IPU 17U1216 issued 08-04-2017 IRM 22.30.1.11.3.6.2 (2) b, updated procedures regarding when a recipient must provide Site Establishment Report updates to the Grant Program Office. This IRM section was previously IRM 22.30.1.5.3.6.2 (2).

(253) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added statement that since the GPO is not the owner or has oversight of the Payment Management System ,they can’t grant the extension.

(254) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added statement that this report must be completed as part of the requirement to close out the grant period.

(255) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, updated the paragraph updating the year one progress.

(256) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added statement that reports must be completed as part of the close out period

(257) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added the name of the report and the sentence was re-worded to add a statement that the report must be submitted 45-days after the grant period.

(258) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, statement added to reflect if a extension is requested it must be approved by the Chief, grant Program Office.

(259) IRM 22.30.1.10.3.6.2,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports, added statement that since the GPO is not the owner or has oversight of the Payment Management System ,they can’t grant the extension.

(260) IRM 22.30.1.10.4.3,Intergovernmental Review, updated to incorporate edits made by General Legal Services Division for the Intergovernmental Review.

(261) IRM 22.30.1.10.4.4,TCE and VITA Grant Program Application, updated to incorporate hyperlink for grants.gov and to add extenuating circumstances to application submission guidance.

(262) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.1,Receipt and Control, updated to change sequential grant number examples for VITA and TCE

(263) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.2, Application Completeness and Eligibility Processing, revised for editorial changes

(264) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.3,Ranking Panel Evaluation of Application Packages, paragraphs 7 and 8 updated to reflect and include a GPO review. (IPU 17U0528 issued 03-20-2017)

(265) IRM 22.30.1.10.5.4.2 IPU 17U1216 issued 08-04-2017 IRM 22.30.1.10.5.4.2 (4) ,Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant, updated the 3rd bullet to reflect that expected minimum growth percentages may change to allow flexibility to current demands. This section was previously IRM 22.30.1.5.5.4.2 (4)

(266) IRM 22.30.1.10.6, Program Monitoring, revised to remove reference to risk assessments, adding grantee monitoring and editorial changes to renumber based on deletion.

(267) IRM 22.30.1.10.6.2, Fiscal Agents,updated to incorporate hyperlink for USASpending.gov and remove reference to TCE under sub-award reporting.

(268) IRM 22.30.1.10.6.3.3,Payments to Grant Recipients, updated to add extenuating circumstances to Payments to Grant Recipients late submission guidance.

(269) IRM 22.30.1.11.7.1 (2), GPO Web-page, updated to incorporate hyperlink for TCE webpage, VITA webpage and irs.gov.

(270) IRM 22.30.1.11.8.1, SPEC Headquarters Office Responsibilities, updated to add other user group meeting that GPO attends

(271) IRM 22.30.1.11.8.1 (11), SPEC Headquarters Office Responsibilities, updated to reflect the the addition of Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act.

(272) IRM 22.30.1.11.8.1 (19-200), SPEC Headquarters Office Responsibilities, revised to remove reference to risk assessments

(273) IRM 22.30.1.11.8.3 (4 & 5), SPEC Territory Office Responsibilities, updated to switch 4 & 5 order

(274) IRM 22.30.1.11.8.3 (13), SPEC Territory Office Responsibilities, added not grant related to the first sentence.

(275) IRM 22.30.1.11.3, Outreach Process, updated to reflect all EITC events must be recorded into SPECTRM on Form 13315.

(276) IRM 22.30.1.18.2, Functional Contacts/Alternates for the SPEC Partner Email Box, updated to reflect that SPM will forward the message to the local area office

Effect on Other Documents

IRM 22.30.1, dated September 26, 2016 (effective October 1, 2016), is superseded. This IRM also incorporates the following IRM Procedural Updates (IPUs), issued after 11/04/2016: 16U1626, 17U0528, 17U0132 and 17U1612.

Audience

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

Effective Date

(10-01-2017)

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

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose: This IRM section provides guidance to Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) employees and managers who assist taxpayers with satisfying their tax responsibilities.

  2. Audience: These procedures apply to all SPEC employees and managers.

  3. Policy/Program Owner: The Director, SPEC is the owner of the polices and programs contained in this IRM section.

Background

  1. Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) is the outreach and education function of IRS Wage and Investment (W&I) Division. SPEC’s mission is to assist taxpayers in satisfying their tax responsibilities by building and maintaining partnerships with key stakeholders who seek to create and share value by informing, educating, and communicating 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. SPEC’s partners are organizations of all types—corporate, faith-based, non-profit, educational, financial, government and military—that share the same customer base as SPEC. SPEC customers are generally low to moderate income taxpayers who file Form 1040,U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

  4. Community coalition members work together to help lower income people in their own neighborhoods. As such, the coalitions have greater access to taxpayers, higher potential for expanded resources, and own the important intangibles of taxpayers’ credibility and trust. By working with the coalitions of partners, SPEC can more effectively achieve its mission.

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

    1. Tax Preparation - Working together with partners to prepare tax returns is the first component of the SPEC approach. 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 - Partners often reach out with helpful tax information to people who can benefit from it. Partners in coalitions educate families about tax issues like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), filing responsibilities, and locations of tax assistance, among others. This is the second component of SPEC's three-pronged approach.

    3. Financial Education and Asset Building - Encouraging financial responsibility is the third component of SPEC’s three-pronged business model. SPEC and its partners 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 22.30.1.8.10.5, Financial Education and Asset Building (FEAB).

  6. In conjunction with partner organizations, SPEC sponsors several programs that are designed to reach the W&I taxpayer from the high school level to retirement age with information and tax return assistance.

Authority

  1. SPEC programs are administered in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that the IRS has a legal obligation to ensure that taxpayers with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in or enjoy the benefits of an IRS activity or program.

Responsibilities

  1. The SPEC Director is the executive responsible for the SPEC program.

  2. Executives of each IRS function are responsible for preparing, maintaining and archiving internal management documents (IMD) affecting their offices

  3. SPEC Headquarter Managers are responsible for preparing and maintaining SPEC programs.

  4. Management officials are responsible for:

    • Providing internal controls relating to each program, process or activity.

    • Ensuring the instructions are communicated to and carried out by the proper officers and employees.

  5. SPEC employees who prepare IMDs are responsible for clearing them through all affected offices.

Program Reports

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

Terms

  1. Acronym - An alphabetical list of commonly used abbreviations and their definitions.

  2. Audience - SPEC employees are responsible for taking actions or who required knowledge about the program, process or activity. Identify the primary user by job title, role, specific office or organization.

  3. Internal Control -a process effected by an oversight body, management, and other personnel that provides reasonable assurance that the objectives of an entity will be achieved.

  4. Internal Management Control - Official communications that designate 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, determine or influence the policies of the agency.

  7. Manager - The SPEC employees first line manage

  8. Policy Owner - IRS organization or the title of the executive (position only) responsible for the program. This information is found in IRM 1.1, Organization and Staffing, for the applicable IRS organization.

  9. Primary Stakeholders - Offices or functions, internal or external to the program whose employees are responsible for following or developing the procedures

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

  11. Program Effectiveness - A description of how program goals are measured include references and links to documents or websites helpful to employees

  12. Program Goals - A description of the program or manager’s expectations and what they plan to achieve. Include links to program and quality reviews

  13. Program Owner - The office which has primary responsibility for establishing the policy, process and procedures necessary to implement and manage the IRS program. Directors within this office are responsible for developing and publishing IRM procedures. The program owner is the IRM owner for the program

  14. Program Reports - The types of reports and reporting mechanisms produced under the program. Identify the primary purpose for the data used to report

  15. Program objectives, include:

    • Data sources

    • Storage location

    • Reporting mechanisms

  16. Purpose - A description of the program, process or activity. Also, identify

    • Program objectives

    • Employees responsible for taking action

    • The type of work employees will perform. See Audience.

Acronyms

  1. The following is a list of commonly used acronyms and abbreviations in SPEC. Additional acronyms are defined within this IRM or may be obtained from the Acronym Database

    Acronyms and Abbreviations Description
    AARP American Association of Retired Persons
    ACORN Association of Community Organization for Reform Now
    AFTC Armed Forces Tax Counsel
    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
    CONOPS Concept of Operations
    CPA Certified Public Accountant
    CRD Civil Rights Division
    CTEC California Tax Education Council
    DATA Digital Accountability and
    DB Dun and Bradstreet
    DOJ Department of Justice
    DUNS Data Universal Numbering
    E-Filing Electronic Filing
    E-Services Electronic Services
    EA Enrolled Agents
    EDI Equity Diversion 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
    FSR Field Site Visit
    GAAP Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or Generally Accepted Practices
    GAO Government Accountability Office
    GPO Grant Program Office
    HAS Health Savings Account
    HHS Health and Human Services
    HQ Headquarters
    IMF Individual Master File
    IMT Inventory Management Tool
    ITIN Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
    KASIM 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
    M&P 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
    OPQ Oversight, Products and Quality
    PAC Point of Contact
    PBT Process Based Training
    PMS Payment Management System
    PSA Products, Systems and Analysis
    PLA Property Loan Agreement
    POC Point of Contact
    PPRA Performance Progress Report Performance Measure
    POD Post of Duty
    Product PRO SPEC’s one-stop Intranet Site
    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
    SIDN Site Identification Number
    RPO Return Preparer Office
    PSR Remote Site Reviews
    SA Survey Administrator
    SAM System for Award Management
    SERP Servicewide Electronic Research Project
    SETR Single Entry Time Reporting
    SOI Statistics of Income
    SL Stakeholder Liaison
    SPECTRM SPEC Total Relationship Management
    SPM Strategy and Program Management
    SOW Statement of Work
    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
    UT Understanding Taxes
    VV Virtual VITA
    VITA Volunteer Income Tax Assistance
    VRPP Volunteer Return Preparer Programs
    VSC Volunteer Standards of Conduct

Related Resources

  1. For information on SPEC's organization structure, see IRM 1.1.13.7.5, Wage and Investment Division.

SPEC Business Model - Concept of Operations (ConOps)

  1. The SPEC Business Model – Concept of Operations (ConOps) has five guiding principles. Four of the five principles listed in the ConOps are aligned with the IRS objectives under Goal 1- Deliver high quality and timely service to reduce taxpayer burden and encourage voluntary compliance. The fifth principle is one of the IRS objectives under the Strategic Foundations – Empower employees with the tools and training to further develop skill proficiency and improve business performance. The SPEC Guiding Principles are:

    • Incorporate taxpayers' perspectives to improve all service interactions

    • Expedite and improve issue resolution across all interactions with taxpayers, making it easier to navigate the IRS

    • Provide taxpayers with targeted, timely guidance and outreach

    • Strengthen partnerships with tax practitioners, tax preparers, and other third parties in order to ensure effective tax administration

    • Make the IRS the best place to work in government

  2. Each guiding principle also has significant actions to help the organization realize its mission, as outlined in the SPEC Business Model.

Measures Reporting

  1. The official annual SPEC count of sites and local partners will be determined by the Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) group as of 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 all active sites must be entered into the SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM) information system by January 15 entered annually.

  2. The official annual number of national partners and coalitions will be determined by the National Partnerships (NP) group. The sources of all of this data will be contained and extracted in SPECTRM except for the number of coalitions, which will be extracted from The Point, until SPECTRM has the capability to capture this data.

  3. SPEC Headquarters submits weekly filing season and monthly Program Activity Code (PAC 1C) reports as directed by Customer Assistance Relationships and Education (CARE) Headquarters:

    • The monthly and cumulative planned data is provided for the current year via PAC 1C report.

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

    • Cumulative performance data that is more or less than 10 percent of the previous year's performance and/or current year cumulative target required anomaly statements.

  4. SPEC uses the following methodology to calculate Number of Returns Prepared by Volunteer Return Programs;

    • Two sources are used to capture the number of returns prepared by Volunteer return programs. The Site Identification Number (SIDN) report is the source for paper and Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) prepared returns. The ELF 1541 report is the source for e-file returns.

    • Fiscal Year returns are calculated by the sum of paper, e-file, and FSA returns for the periods October 1 through December 31 plus calendar or filing season period January 1 to September 30.

    • The calculation of the number of paper and e-file returns for the period October through December requires an additional step since the Individual Master File (IMF) report is cumulative for the period January 1 to December 31 and the Electronic Filing (ELF) 1541 report is cumulative for the period January 1 to October 20. The number of paper returns for the period October 1 to December 31, 20xx is calculated by subtracting the cumulative number of returns to September 30, 20xx from the cumulative number of returns to December 31, 20xx. The number of e-file returns for the period October 1, 20xx to October 20, 20xx is calculated by subtracting the cumulative number of returns to September 30, 20xx.

      Note:

      Note: Fiscal Year is October 1 September 30. Calendar year is from January 1 through December 31.

    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/Efile Returns for xx (=) equals the total number of returns prepared Fiscal Year xx
    How to calculate Fiscal Year E-file Returns is sum of returns filed from October 1 through December 31 and January 1 through September 30 E-file returns filed from October 1, to October 20, (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 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 sum of returns filed from January through September 30 E-file returns filed from January 1, to September 30, (=) the Number of e-file Returns for Calendar Year xx.
    How to calculate Calendar Year paper Returns is sum of returns from January to September 30 Paper returns filed from January 1, to September 30, (=) number of paper returns filed for Calendar Year.
  5. There are 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, Form 1040A and Form 1040 EZ) returns transmitted electronically by SPEC partners and Volunteers. Anticipate the percentage of e-file returns to decrease slightly as more paper returns are processed.

    • Output Measure: Number of Returns Prepared

    • Balanced Measures: Surveys are administered annually by the following surveys: 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 will continue to conduct shopping and return reviews. To measure the accuracy of volunteer return preparation at VITA/TCE sites is also calculated using shopping and return reviews. Return preparation quality is determined through on-site reviews of completed returns. These reviews determine 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 follow provide guidance on SPEC Programs and reporting procedures.

SPEC Weekly/Monthly Reports Guidelines

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

  2. ELF 1541 report – pull the “NOON” during non peak season (5/1/xx-9/30/xx).

  3. For the weekly measures report pull ELF 1541 report on the Monday following the Sunday midnight drain. ELF 1541 report – area reports are only available on Mondays, Non-Profit Organization Summary Report is available as needed.

  4. The SIDN report is only available on Tuesday after 6:00 pm.

  5. SPEC Return Production are due weekly by 12 noon on Wednesdays.

  6. PAC 1C – due monthly – refer to CARE monthly due date report.

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

  8. Update all tabs in the Excel spreadsheets.

  9. SPEC weekly report should be routed and approved by the Chief of SPM before disseminating to others.

  10. Post all weekly and monthly reports to the Point, SPEC’s intranet site

  11. Special permissions are needed to access the ELF 1541 and SIDN reports. Contact manager for further instructions to request access.

  12. For assistance with the SIDN report contact Cheryl Black at 470-639-2839

  13. For assistance with the ELF 1541 report contact Janice Faulk at 512-460-4562.

  14. TaxWise is available on the STARS shared drive weekly during filing season and monthly after the filing season. Refer to the TaxWise folder located on the STARS shared drive.

Data Dictionary

  1. The SPEC Data Dictionary lists and defines each of the performance measures by which SPEC tracks and reports its accomplishments externally. The Data Dictionary lists and briefly describes the internal measures, entitled Key Business Indicators, used by SPEC management to gauge the success of SPEC initiatives and to determine how to effectively employ limited resources to best reach SPEC objectives.

Return Prepared Taxpayer Contacts

  1. SPEC will only obtain 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 provide the total number of paper and electronic returns filed by SPEC's volunteer programs.

Number of Sites

  1. SPEC reports the number and location of VITA, Military VITA, TCE, VITA Grant and co-located sites. A site is counted only one time per filing season when the site opens. All tax preparation sites are counted including sites open one-day a week for several weeks during the filing season, appointment only, and sites closed to the general public, etc. All sites, including sites open for one day must be entered in SPECTRM.

    Note:

    All sites, including sites open for one or two days during the filing season, covered by VITA or TCE Grant recipients must be input into SPECTRM.

  2. Sites are classified as either direct or leveraged (indirect). The definitions listed below offer guidance in determining if a tax preparation site is direct or indirect/leveraged. These definitions do not eliminate the use of judgment. Do not focus on one element from the definition for direct sites, such as "provide training" , and conclude that because SPEC provides training to a site that it must be considered a direct site. Each site must be analyzed on its own merit in determining whether it is a direct or indirect/leveraged site.

    • A Direct Site is defined as a site in which a SPEC employee provides site support that includes, but is not limited to, soliciting space, recruitment of volunteers, providing training, installing computers, providing computer trouble-shooting, site management, preparing site reports, overseeing the day-to-day operation, etc. If a SPEC partner only provides space and the IRS does everything else, the site is considered a direct site.

    • An Indirect/Leveraged Site is defined as a site in which a SPEC Partner provides site support that includes, but is not limited to, providing the space, recruitment of volunteers, providing training to the volunteers, site management, preparing the site reports, overseeing the day-to-day operations, or a combination of these items, etc. The only services or resources provided by the IRS are relationship management, consultative services, train the trainer classes, tax software for electronic filing, tax content for marketing materials, tax law expertise, and research data to assist in placing sites.

      Note:

      All military and TCE tax preparation sites are considered leveraged sites.

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

  1. SPEC is required to report the number of volunteers assisting with the VITA/TCE Programs. SPEC is also required to count and report the number and certification level(s) of all volunteers.

  2. Partners and military VITA sites are required to report the names, positions, and certification levels for every volunteer. For additional 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 containing the same information by February 3rd but no later than February 15th, for sites opening after February 3rd. A new report must continue to be submitted on the 3rd of each month to show new volunteers not previously reported. Instruction for preparing a volunteer listing is included on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report.

  4. Except for AARP volunteers, SPEC territories will record the number of their local volunteers from Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing containing the same information in the Production Module in SPECTRM. 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. Ensure all volunteer counts are “Approved” by the territory office.

    6. Repeat this for every assigned partner.

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

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

  6. Territory offices will 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 ensure all partner and military VITA site volunteer totals (except AARP volunteers) are recorded into SPECTRM by May 15 to be included in the official number of volunteer count.

  8. AARP does not use Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. AARP will provide a volunteer listing to the SPEC territory office by February 3rd and the 3rd business day of each month as new volunteers report to the site. The site listing must include all the same information as listed on the current Form 13206. The current Form 13206 will be shared with the HQ AARP Relationship manager. Territory offices must not report the number of AARP volunteers in SPECTRM.

  9. AARP National will submit their official number of volunteer counts to the SPEC headquarters designee by May 15 to be input into SPECTRM.

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

  11. All overseas military VITA sites will provide their volunteer listing on Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar document containing the same information. The listing will be forwarded to the SPEC Headquarters Relationship Manager. The SPEC Headquarters relationship manager will input the volunteer count into SPECTRM by May 15.

Form 14310 VITA/TCE Volunteer Recruitment Referral Process

  1. (1) IRS.gov, Volunteer Recruitment Referral Process provides instructions for individuals interested in volunteering in the VITA/TCE program to complete Form 14310,VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up Sheet, if they are not already affiliated with one of our partnering organizations. Form 14310 will be modified to include the date range in which volunteer interest is solicited based primarily on when partnering organizations typically recruit volunteers for the VITA/TCE program. Form 14310,VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up Sheet, instructs the potential volunteer to email the form to taxvolunteer@irs.gov. The VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up Sheet, is reviewed by a SPEC Headquarters analyst who compiles a list of interested volunteers on a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet includes the roles and responsibilities of the territory.

  2. Form 14310 includes a question to capture individuals interested in obtaining Continuing Education credits and a question to identify IRS employees interested in volunteering.

  3. SPEC Headquarters (HQ) Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) group will issue an Area summary report in spreadsheet format of the information from submitted Form 14310:

    1. This data will be delivered to the areas once a week from August through December, which is the heavy recruitment and training period.

    2. This data will be delivered once a month from January through July when the demands for volunteers are low.

  4. HQ's PSA group will send the Area summary report to the primary analysts, back-up analysts, Chiefs of Staff, and Chief, Quality Program Office. The Area summary report will include a count of the total potential volunteers provided to the area office.

  5. Area analysts are responsible for sending information from the Area summary report to the appropriate territory office managers.

  6. Territory office managers are responsible for providing the potential volunteers’ information to the appropriate partners based on the potential volunteer’s address and zip code or as requested by the potential volunteer.

  7. Territory office managers are responsible for sending an email, within 7 business days, to the potential volunteer acknowledging his/her interest in volunteering and advising him/her which local partner(s) he has been referred to as a potential volunteer. The partner must be copied on the email as well. Templates of appropriate letters have been developed for optional use by Territory offices and posted to The Point under VITA/TCE Programs/Volunteer Information/Volunteer Communication. Template letters include links for Fact Sheets to use as appropriate, including CE Credits, IRS Employees interested in volunteering, How to use Link and Learn Taxes, How to use the Practice Lab, and How to get started with certifications.

  8. Territory offices must document actions taken by completing the following Area summary report columns - Date TM received volunteer 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 appropriate). If there is no associated partner near the interested volunteer’s zip code, mark N/A in the appropriate field on the spreadsheet and add a remark to the comments section. Territories must use the spreadsheet provided unless they have a mechanism in place to capture the information already.

  9. HQ’s PSA will forward complaints from potential volunteers to the appropriate area office for follow-up. Complaints often state the volunteer was not contacted by anyone.

  10. Area analysts must monitor how the process is working.

  11. HQ will update Form 14310,VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up annually based on Area and Field input.

  12. HQ will update the Form 14310VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up VITA/TCE 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. The measure of the accuracy of volunteer return preparation at VITA/TCE sites is calculated using Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) and return reviews. Return preparation quality is determined through on-site reviews of completed returns. The review determines the application of tax law by comparing a customer prepared questionnaire to the filing status, dependents, and EITC application on the return.

Disaster Relief

  1. Disaster Relief Acts are signed by the President of the United States to assist taxpayers affected by natural disasters. A disaster is defined as a grave occurrence having ruinous results. When the President declares a city or county a disaster zone, the IRS will develop guidelines to be followed by all levels of the agency. Based on those guidelines, SPEC will establish specific policies and guidelines that will be shared 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. For information on Record Retention, please refer to IRM 1.15, The Records and Information Management Program.

Communications Guidelines for SPEC Employees

  1. These communications guidelines are intended to ensure that all the proper parties are included in decisions involving media interviews and contacts.

    • No SPEC employee must ever contact a media outlet without contacting Media Relations (MR) first.

    • No SPEC employee must ever respond to a media inquiry without first talking to your FMR contact. If a SPEC employee is contacted by any media outlet, the employee must first confer with FMR prior to communicating with the media source.

    • If a SPEC employee becomes aware of media coverage or media activity that is a result of a partner (partner news release or news conference), then he/she must notify FMR immediately.

  2. If SPEC employees have an IRS news release that is outside the normal announcement or publicity of VITA and TCE sites, they must collaborate with W&I Communication and Liaison (C&L) staff for approval. Releases announcing sites can be written locally and distributed without additional clearance. The single point of contact for news release distribution and for all media activity is the local FMR contact. Refer to the table below:

    If Then Then
    You wish to do a news release publicizing a VITA event. You are to first check The Point to see if a news release template is available for your situation. If none... W&I C&L will help you write a news release for this event. W&I C&L will also post templates on the SPEC intranet site and include space to add local information for others to use. FMR 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 national news outlet asking for an interview regarding your partner coalition. If you are a headquarters SPEC employee, you must contact W&I C&L to handle the request. If you are a SPEC field employee, you must contact your local FMR to handle the request. These two organizations will handle the inquiry and will contact you if additional information is needed. Generally, they will take the inquiry and work the request with National Media Relations.
    You get a call from a local media reporter asking you questions. If headquarters SPEC employee, you must contact W&I C&L to handle the request. If you are a SPEC field employee, you must contact your local FMR to handle the request.

SPEC Awards Program

  1. The SPEC Awards Program is designed to recognize exemplary SPEC employees who have made significant contributions to the SPEC organization. Any employee or manager in SPEC can nominate any other employee or manager in SPEC. Task teams can only be nominated for an achievement award.

    Note:

    Entire work groups cannot be nominated for the achievement award as a task team. Also, no self-nominations are accepted.

Nomination and Selection Process

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

    • Name of person making the nomination

    • Name of individual/task team being nominated (if a team, each member must be named and the chair-person must be identified)

    • Narrative which specifically addresses the criteria for the award and why the nominee deserves to be recognized with that particular award

  2. Once all nominations are in, the SPEC Awards Selection Committee will make recommendations to the director of SPEC for final decision on award winners. Awards will be presented during predesignated meeting. Winners will be featured on The Point, SPEC's web-site.

  3. The SPEC Awards Selection Committee is composed of:

    • Director, SPEC

    • One area director

    • Three territory managers, one from each area office

    • Award program coordinator

Writing an Effective Award Nomination
  1. Your task in writing an award nomination is to let others see why the person you are nominating is so great! You have the opportunity to brag about someone you know, but the catch is that you may use only written words to introduce this person. Your nominee will be visible only through the words you write describing him or her.

  2. Therefore, 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, identify the criteria, every time you write something, you have a purpose whether you’re composing a letter to a friend or writing a novel. When you are writing an award nomination, you will generally have specific criteria to address. These criteria will form the basis of your nomination narrative.

      Example:

      The criteria for a SPEC Achievement Award are: 1. Exceptional individual or team effort in support of SPEC’s program goals and objectives, and 2. Creation or development of a major program enhancement or improvement of high value to SPEC.

    • 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: Janet was a pioneer in bringing the SPEC partnership model to life in her community. There were a great number of people who came to her presentation.
      Better: Janet pioneered the partnership model in her community. People flocked to her presentation.

    • Show, don’t tell. As much as possible, give examples that illustrate the characteristics you are trying to portray. Let your words evoke a picture. Use sentences that describe situations where your nominee displayed the criteria solicited. Be specific and write down the details that matter.

      Example:

      Weak: Mary was instrumental 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.

    • The narrative must stand alone. Prepare the narrative so that it tells your story with no other documents attached or necessary.

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

SPEC Awards

  1. The SPEC Awards are:

    • SPEC Leadership Award

    • SPEC Partnership Award

    • SPEC Achievement Award for Individual and Task Teams

    • SPEC Territory of the Year Award

    • SPEC Director's Choice Award

    • SPEC Headquarters Function of the Year Award

SPEC Leadership Award
  1. The Leadership Award is given to an individual whose leadership attributes are worthy of emulation throughout SPEC. Leadership is not defined by position, but by action. Therefore, this award is open to all SPEC employees.

  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.

SPEC Partnership Award
  1. The SPEC Partnership Award is given to recognize an individual, or small group of employees, working to develop a single coalition or initiative and innovation in support of partnership. This award is not intended to recognize initiatives, but rather to recognize 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.

SPEC Achievement Award
  1. The SPEC Achievement Award is given to an individual or Task Team for distinguished acts in support of SPEC's goals and objectives. This award is open to all SPEC employees and task force teams.

  2. The SPEC Achievement Award recognizes:

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

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

SPEC Territory of the Year Award
  1. The SPEC territory of the Year Award is given to an individual territory in recognition of their full support of achievement of SPEC strategic business plan objectives and success in implementing the partnership approach. This award is open to all SPEC territories and is selected by the director of SPEC.

  2. The SPEC territory of the Year Award recognizes:

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

    • Strong evidence of effective partnerships reaching and assisting our customers.

    • Leadership as a group in support of SPEC.

SPEC Area Director’s Choice Award
  1. The area director’s Choice Award is selected by each area director to honor a area headquarter/territory manager. In selecting the winner, the area director will consider achievement of SPEC Strategic Business Plan objectives and success in implementing the partnership approach.

  2. The SPEC area director’s Choice Award recognizes:

    • The manager that has exhibited evidence of leadership in support of SPEC’s program goals and objectives

    • The manager that exhibited evidence of effective partnerships, reaching and assisting our customers

SPEC Headquarters Function of the Year Award
  1. There will be one award presented in this category. The SPEC director chooses the Headquarters Function Award. Concepts considered include SPEC's concept of operations and achievement of the SPEC Strategic Business Plan objectives.

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

    • The group that has exhibited evidence of a team effort in support of SPEC’s program goals and objectives

    • The group has exhibited evidence of exemplary customer service

    • The group has exhibited evidence of leadership as a group in support of SPEC

Volunteer Return Preparation Overview

  1. Organizations (for profit and not for profit), employers and individuals (referred hereinafter as partners) all across America share a commitment to public service and partner with the IRS to provide free tax preparation to the under-served populations in local communities. SPEC Headquarters enters into memorandum of understanding (MOU) with National Organizations to create national partnerships. Local organizations not affiliated with a national partner are approved by SPEC TM through, Form 13533, VITA/TCE Sponsor Agreement or Form 13533-A,FSA Remote Sponsor Agreement.. The targeted audiences for these free tax preparation services includes taxpayers with low-to-moderate income (defined by the EITC threshold), persons with disabilities, elderly, taxpayers in rural locations, and limited English proficiency (LEP).

  2. The objective of the volunteer programs is to provide federal and state (where appropriate) tax preparation services, free of charge. These services are provided by volunteers who are certified by the IRS through passing a test with a score of 80 percent or higher. Volunteers work for IRS partners. Partners are responsible for ensuring the volunteers adhere to all IRS Quality Site Requirements (QSR).

  3. Volunteer sites are located in geographic areas consistent with the targeted audience populations. SPEC offices, in conjunction with partners, determine the optimum location for volunteer sites by utilizing existing research, including census data, to identify the largest concentrations of the targeted population.

  4. The volunteer return preparation programs are limited in scope to specific tax law topics. The scope of the volunteer programs can change 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. Volunteers who adhere to QSR and prepare returns only within scope of the volunteer return preparation program are protected under the Volunteer Protection Act of 1997.

  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 limited English proficiency. Keep in mind, 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 establishing income limitations for return preparation.

    Note:

    For example, our VITA low income threshold is $54,000 for Tax Year 2016. 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, then the site must exercise sound judgment and rationale in determining whether or not it will prepare the return.

Volunteer Return Preparation Components

  1. There are two components of SPEC Volunteer Return Preparation Programs. These components are:

    • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)

    • Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
  1. Since the implementation of the VITA program in 1969, thousands of volunteers have provided free tax assistance and prepared millions of U.S. Federal and State tax returns. 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 is vital to delivering service to those taxpayers who most need tax assistance and cannot afford the services of a paid preparer.

    Note:

    SPEC allows volunteers to use the IRS provided 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.

  2. The Military is also a partner in the VITA Program. The Armed Forces Tax Counsel (AFTC) consists of the 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 conduit 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 and taxpayer are not face-to-face. Technology such as internet, fax and video is used to connect the volunteer preparer and the taxpayer. Although suitable for rural environments where it is difficult to build a traditional VITA site, this approach can be used in urban settings to provide a free alternative to qualified taxpayers.

Purpose of Virtual VITA/TCE
  1. Procedures were developed to assist partners with consistent instructions for operating a free, Virtual VITA/TCE site, to assist low income taxpayers in addition to the procedures already established for the operation of a Traditional VITA and TCE site.

  2. In traditional VITA and TCE sites, a certified volunteer is required to conduct face-to-face interviews with taxpayers as their returns are prepared, quality reviewed and e-filed. This is the optimum method of volunteer tax preparation.

  3. In an effort to increase the amount of free tax preparation provided to all eligible taxpayers, the VITA and TCE Site requirements were expanded to address the needs of partners and taxpayers. In cases where the use of a traditional VITA and TCE site may not be practical, SPEC partners may use a Virtual VITA/TCE Model.

  4. Virtual VITA/TCE sites exist when either the taxpayer, return preparer or quality reviewer are not face-to-face during the tax preparation process.

Preparing Returns Using Virtual VITA/TCE
  1. There are many reasons all eligible taxpayers are not able to take advantage of the traditional free VITA and TCE. In some cases, partners have distinct challenges trying to operate traditional free tax preparation sites for a variety of reasons; including the lack of certified volunteers and/or equipment. Alternatively, the taxpayer may not be able to access a traditional VITA and TCE site due to travel constraints or other reasons.

  2. The Virtual VITA/TCE Model uses the same process as traditional VITA/TCE except that the preparer or quality reviewer and taxpayer are not face-to-face (in person) while the return is being prepared. Technology (i.e., internet, fax, video, phone, etc.) is used to connect the volunteer preparer and the taxpayer.

  3. In traditional VITA and TCE sites, a certified volunteer is required to conduct face-to-face interviews with taxpayers as their returns are prepared, quality reviewed and e-filed.

  4. In cases where the use of a traditional VITA/TCE site may not be practical, partners may use a Virtual VITA/TCE Model.

  5. This model provides VITA and TCE services through the incorporation of two components:

    • 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 ten Quality Site Requirements (QSR)

    2. The partner must document the Virtual VITA/TCE process and it must be approved by the responsible territory manager before the site opens. This only applies to those partners who choose to establish Virtual VITA/TCE site(s), not partners who utilize Virtual VITA/TCE as part of the filing contingency plan.

    3. The process must be explained to the taxpayer(s). This includes the length of time it will take to prepare the return.

    4. The taxpayer(s) must agree to the process and sign Form 14446,Virtual VITA/TCE Site Model Taxpayer Consent. This consent form will contain all the required information outlined later in the IRM. No substitute forms may be used for this consent.

    5. The taxpayer(s) identity must be verified using photo identification at the intake site. If the taxpayer(s) must return to the site the taxpayer(s) must again provide a photo identification when they return to review, sign and pick up a copy of their return.

    6. The taxpayer(s) and preparer, and/or the quality reviewer can be non face-to-face by phone or by electronic means such as video conference.

    7. The certified volunteer preparing the return cannot be the same certified volunteer conducting the quality review.

    8. All tax documents including the completed Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, must be available to the certified volunteers during the return preparation and the quality review.

    9. These documents can be delivered via: mail, fax, personal delivery, email, secure video conference or secure scan/upload.

    10. The taxpayer(s) must have the opportunity to review their return and ask questions to a certified volunteer.

    11. The taxpayer(s) must sign Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

    12. The taxpayer(s) must receive a copy of their signed Form 8879,IRS e-file Signature Authorization and their tax return.

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

Virtual Site Process
  1. The transmitting site must apply for only one Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN)

  2. Each Virtual Site location must obtain a separate SIDN to be used on all tax returns prepared using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model. This will allow SPEC to more accurately report returns prepared through the Virtual VITA/TCE Model. However, SPECTRM must be coded to properly identify those sites utilizing the Virtual VITA/TCE process

  3. All sites must conform to the software contract requirements.

  4. The volunteer at the virtual intake location will:

    1. Explain the process to the taxpayer.

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

    3. Advise the taxpayer to complete the Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet or partner approved. If necessary, assist the taxpayer with completing Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

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

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

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

    2. How and why the site will be sending the information from one site to another

    3. Where the information will be sent

    4. How the information will be used

    5. How long the information will be maintained and how long the return preparation process will take

    6. How the information will be protected

    7. How the necessary documents will be delivered (via mail, fax, email, personal delivery, secure video conference or secure scan/upload) to the virtual location for tax return preparation or the quality review

    8. Provide the taxpayer with the virtual preparation or quality review site location phone number and contact person

  6. The IRS-certified volunteer at the virtual preparation or quality review site will contact 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). Additionally they will prepare the tax return (use the SIDN designated for the appropriate Intake Site). They will then prepare or quality review the tax return (use the SIDN designated for the appropriate virtual intake site). Once the return is prepared, a different IRS-certified volunteer will contact 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) will sign Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

  9. All documents, including the signed Form 8879,IRS e-file Signature Authorization and the signed Form 14446 are returned to the taxpayer with a copy of the completed return. The Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is not required to be maintained at the site or by partners. All other documents are returned to the taxpayer or properly disposed.

Virtual Site Process Approval
  1. A partner’s Virtual Site Plan must be submitted through the relationship manager to their territory manager for approval. In order to allow sufficient time for review, feedback and approval, all Site Plans must be submitted to the territory office by December 31. During the filing season, requests must be submitted at least one week before the site expects to operate as a Virtual VITA/TCE site. All Virtual Site Plans are maintained at the Territory Office and are not submitted to HQ.

  2. A partner’s Virtual Site Plan may be rolled over from one year to the next provided that no changes are needed to the Plan (including the location of the site(s) involved in the Virtual VITA/TCE process.

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

Measured Result
  1. The results will be measured by the following:

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

    • Increased number of tax returns filed using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model identified on TaxSlayer

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

  2. All Virtual VITA/TCE returns (including those prepared under the optional Contingency Plan) will be counted using the optional Partner Use Field on TaxSlayer. Relationship Managers must ensure that partners utilize the Virtual VITA/TCE Partner Use Field to facilitate an accurate count of virtually prepared returns.

Preparing Returns Using the Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Model
  1. Only a small percentage of low-to-moderate income taxpayers interested in using volunteer tax preparation service are assisted through the direct model. In order to provide assistance to more taxpayers, while increasing taxpayer education and promoting self-sufficiency, SPEC now also captures returns prepared through an Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Model. The Facilitated Self Assistance approach uses a certified volunteer to assist taxpayers in the preparation of their tax return. Since the role of the volunteer is a facilitator, multiple taxpayers can be assisted at one time by each volunteer. This approach allows sites to offer alternatives by assisting taxpayers prepare their own simple returns. Partners can use any software that has the ability to capture the SIDN.

  2. The information that follows in this section:

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

    • Identifies the types of available self-service models.

    • Increases coverage rates in rural or urban areas as determined by the SPEC Return Database.

Facilitated Self Assistance Model for VITA and TCE Program
  1. Various types of FSA models are currently available to taxpayers but not all models are included in the VITA and TCE Program.

  2. In order for an FSA to be counted as a part of the VITA and TCE Program, the following conditions are applicable:

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

    2. Trained, certified volunteer (minimum training level: VITA Basic) must be available at all times to provide taxpayer assistance and answer questions. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.7VITA and TCE Training for additional information.

    3. Intake and quality review are not required for inclusion into the program.

      Note:

      These are minimum requirements; sites can establish additional controls as needed.

    4. Qualifying sites must have a unique SIDN (separate from any direct assistance site) to ensure that the count can be recorded separately

      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 generally will be accomplished through the insertion of either the SIDN or corresponding code into the provider URL.

    6. Providers must ensure that both federal and state returns offered through the program are free of charge to the taxpayer.

Facilitated Self Assistance Software Programs
  1. There are several types of self-service models where tax return counts are included in the VITA and TCE total. Availability of specific models may vary for each filing season.

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

    1. Individual Free File vendors: Offers vary by company and are typically linked 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 HR Block, Intuit (TurboTax), TaxAct, and OnLineTaxes (OLT). Some vendors like Intuit have specific relationships with partners and provide them with additional support, funding and training. Companies agree to assist SPEC individually outside of the main IRS MOU with Free File, Inc.

    2. MyFreeTaxes: MyFreeTaxes is an online collaborative between United Way Worldwide, Goodwill Industries International and the National Disability Institute, supported by funding from the Wal-Mart Foundation and using H&R Block@Home as its’ tax filing software.

    3. Military OneSource: Provides a variety of service resources to active-duty members of the military. Free federal and state tax preparation are provided through H&R Block software. No income/age restrictions for members of the military.

    4. TaxSlayer: New for 2017, As the new software vendor for the VITA/TCE program, TaxSlayer will offer an FSA option for partners that wish to implement facilitated tax preparation at their in-person sites (not available under the FSA Remote program). Relationship Managers must review the Talking Points/Fact Sheets related to this FSA option once they are provided by SPEC HQ.

Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Program Types
  1. Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Fusion: Sites are located at the same location with the same operating days/hours as traditional VITA/TCE services. Fusion sites allow partners to triage taxpayers to determine which service would benefit them most effectively.

  2. FSA Stand-Alone: Sites are located independently of traditional VITA/TCE services, or have distinct hours from traditional VITA/TCE operations at the same address. Stand-Alone sites focus on taxpayers who are eager to do their own return with some assistance from a certified volunteer on-site.

  3. FSA Remote: Sites are accessed from a user’s computer at home or in the office, with VITA-certified virtual assistors available via phone, email or online chat. During Filing Season 2015, MyFreeTaxes provided toll-free assistance to any taxpayer who used their product and had questions about return preparation. Partners can also provide additional local support to assist their taxpayers using the remote model, regardless of which tax preparation software they use.

Territory Required Actions for Facilitated Self Assistance
  1. Relationship Managers must take the following actions to ensure that SPEC maximizes the potential of the FSA program:

    1. Identify potential partners and 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. SPEC HQ will pull the SPECTRM data for FSA sites and email site links, instructions, etc. to the Areas and Territories prior to the filing season.

    4. Engage your partner to utilize this service, especially during peak times for tax return preparation. Optimally, this service can be used for between two to four taxpayers per volunteer during peak times.

    5. Identify any concerns/issues and elevate them to headquarters so that they can be worked with the national technical contacts/program managers for the software providers.

  2. Sites can request equipment for the FSA model. Equipment requests must be identified by the territories and submitted through to headquarters for processing. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2, Computers for Volunteers, for general information about computers for volunteers.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. The TCE Program offers free tax assistance to individuals who are 60 or older. Section 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 providing training and technical assistance to prepare volunteers to provide tax counseling assistance for elderly individuals in the preparation of their Federal income tax returns. Grants are awarded to private or public non-profit agencies and organizations that qualify for tax exemption under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code or are federally recognized Indian tribal governments.

    Note:

    SPEC allows volunteers to use the IRS provided 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.

  2. TCE sites can also employ 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 Programs - Headquarters Responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Request Legal Opinions from the Office of Chief Counsel
  1. To request an opinion, send an email to the assigned OPQ analyst (see HQ Program Assignments for latest assignments). The email must contain all of the following:

    • Subject

    • Detailed background information on the issue

    • Reason for the request

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

  3. Counsel will provide an opinion within 90 days.

    Note:

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Programs - Territory Office Responsibilities
  1. The territory office has the overall responsibility for management of the volunteer programs at the local level. The territory office and its employees receive direction from the area office. Territory offices and its employees concerns and suggestions are required to be filtered through the area office. The territory office is responsible for direct communication to SPEC local partners and volunteers.

Volunteer Protection Act of 1997

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. For purposes of the IRS Grant Programs, a stipend can only be used to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses.

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

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

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

    • Grant recipients are allowed to provide volunteers a stipend for travel and food.

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

    • Tax Assistor/Preparer

    • Screener

    • Quality Reviewer

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

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

    • Site Coordinator

    • Clerical Support

    • Tax Law Instructor

    • Clerical Support

    • Interpreter

    • Information Technology Specialist (Computer Specialist)

    • Any other position accepted by the GPO following prior approval

  3. The VITA Grant Program allows grant recipients to provide volunteers a stipend for travel expenses only.

Volunteer Program Publicity

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

  2. Partner publicity items must adhere to the following:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Loans of computer equipment

    • Loan of IRS personnel

    • Direct training of VITA volunteers

    • Provision of supplies and equipment

    • Use of federal property at no cost

    • Grants of computer software

    • Waiver of fees for electronic filing of tax returns

  2. The IRS must ensure that the recipient of government financial assistance does not discriminate against potential beneficiaries of the assistance. Also, recipients must prominently display posters explaining the procedures for filing complaints.

Civil Rights Requirements
  1. The Civil Rights Division (CRD) in collaboration with SPEC, has incorporated Civil Rights assurance language into Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights. Agreement with partners to comply with these assurances is obtained through signature on Form 13533, VITA/TCE Partner Sponsor Agreement, prior to receipt of federal financial assistance as defined in IRM 22.30.1.8.5, Volunteer Programs and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Note:

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

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

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

    Required Actions for Civil Rights Requirement

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

    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 If you have any questions or problems, contact your civil rights area analyst.
    3 Order one or more of the following civil rights notification documents for each required partner:
    • Publication 4053 , Civil Rights Poster in English/Spanish - to be used by VITA and Pub 4053 in the appropriate languages for the site demographics (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 (or TCE created publication with the same civil rights notification)

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

    4 Assemble the package (i.e., Civil Rights Notification documents, Sponsor Agreement, Form 13533 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 business reply labels are available, territories can order postage stamps by following the instructions outlined in the W&I Financial Procedures Guidebook. Refer to the Postage section. Additionally IRM 1.22.4 , Postage Accountability and Reporting Requirement, provides guidance for IRS personnel responsible for purchasing and managing postage procured from the United States Postal Service.
    6 Once the partner returns the signed Sponsor Agreement, the forms are to be kept at the territory office for a minimum number of three years. (Do not send to the Civil Rights Division. Partners must secure and maintain Sponsor Agreements signed by their sub-recipients).
    • If a partner fails to 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 will have no alternative but to terminate the relationship with the partner. Federal assistance cannot be provided if the partner refuses to sign the Sponsor Agreement.

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

    • "Date Civil Rights Signed?"


Volunteer Recognition

  1. Relationship Managers must take every opportunity to recognize and thank volunteers, partners, and sites for their support of the volunteer programs. Recognition is not limited to items listed below. Be creative while adhering to IRS policies for use of federal funds.

SPEC Partner Letters and Certificates to Recognize Volunteers
  1. Listed in the table below are certificates and letters that are available to recognize volunteers:

    Letter or Certificate of Appreciation Purpose
    Form 9234, SPEC Certificate of Appreciation Issued by territory offices to individuals and groups or organizations that assist the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer and community partnerships programs.
    Publication 3711, Volunteer Certificate Folder (Catalog 31083Z) Used to hold certificates.
    Form 13357, Community Service Leadership Certificate of Appreciation Issued by territory offices to partners or coalitions that assist the IRS through one of IRS' volunteer or outreach programs.
    Letter 3674 and Letter 3674 (SP), Volunteer Letters of Appreciation Issued to personally recognize the efforts and contributions of the volunteers who participated in the VITA /TCE programs. The SPEC director signs this letter.
    Letter 3674 A and Letter 3674 A (SP),Partner Letters of Appreciation Issued to volunteers and partners to recognize their volunteer tax preparation services and/or participation in the VITA and TCE programs. The SPEC director signs this letter.
Volunteer Milestone Recognition
  1. SPEC honors volunteer milestones to mark partner, volunteer and site dedication. SPEC only considers those partners, volunteers or sites whose years of service are increments of 10 years for recognition, contingent on available funding. See table below for milestone recipient and type of recognition available:

    Milestones 10 Years 20 Years 30 Years 40+ Years
    Partner Certificate Certificate Certificate SPEC Director's Award
    Volunteer Lapel Pin Certificate Certificate Certificate
    Site Certificate Certificate Certificate Certificate
Headquarters Roles
  1. Headquarters is responsible for the following with regard to Volunteer Milestone Recognition:

    • Ensure funding availability for the purchase of recognition items

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

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

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

    • Confirming any spellings as appropriate once requests are received

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

    • Ensuring Publication 1084 and Publication 4396-A are updated with accurate recognition instructions

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

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

    • Reemphasizing the availability of recognition items and the ordering deadline

    • Confirming all spelling for requests received or submitted

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

    • Timely submitting partner information of those who meet milestone requirement

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

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

    • Communicating this process to the partners they support and providing them with site and volunteer templates

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

VITA and TCE Training

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

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

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

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

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

      Note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Screening and interviewing the taxpayer

    2. Using key resource materials

    3. Understanding and applying tax law

    4. Conducting quality reviews

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

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

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

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

    3. Self-Study instructions allow students (using the Publication 4491, and/or Link and Learn Taxes) to independently complete their course with ad hoc face-to-face or electronic guidance from the instructor.

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

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

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

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

  5. Refer to IRM 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's training products are designed to guide volunteers through the information and skills they need to prepare accurate returns. The printed training products are available electronically via irs.gov by October 1. Partners and employees will receive printed copies of the training materials in late November. The test and retest answers Publication 4189, VITA/TCE Volunteer Test/Retest Answers) are not published. Answers are given to the territory managers to share with employees and partners. See IRM 22.30.1.8.7.1.6, Certification Requirements and Testing for Volunteer Training for additional information.

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

E-learning Products
  1. SPEC supports two e-learning applications. Link and Learn taxes (LLT) and Understanding Taxes (UT). Both are launched in the fall of each year with information for the upcoming filing season. As explained below, the applications serve two different purposes.

Link and Learn Taxes (LLT)
  1. SPEC’s e-learning application, Link and Learn Taxes (LLT), is the preferred method of training for all employees and volunteers. LLT is available in English and Spanish. The application contains nine VITA/TCE courses:

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet

    • Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC)

    • Basic

    • Advanced

    • Military

    • International

    • Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

    • Foreign Students

    • Puerto Rico

  2. The Practice Lab contains programming and tax law for the upcoming filing season and is available for training and certification before the full software is released. LLT links volunteers to the Practice Lab for VITA/TCE.

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

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

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

  4. The website for Understanding Taxes is http://apps.irs.gov/app/understandingTaxes/index.jsp. For additional information on the Understanding Taxes Program refer to IRM 22.30.1.12Understanding Taxes (UT) Program

Foreign Students and Scholar Program Training
  1. The Foreign Student and Scholar module of Link and Learn Taxes (LLT) was designed as an income tax law course for those volunteers who will be working at VITA/TCE sites specializing in the preparation of Form 1040NR, US Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return; Form 1040NR-EZ Income Tax Return for Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents; and Form 8843, Statement for Exempt Individuals with a Medical Condition. This is a standalone course which is only available in e-learning format via LLT. The training is primarily used for self study, but can be delivered in a traditional classroom setting if resources are available. Volunteers are instructed to complete the training paths in the course and successfully complete the test to obtain volunteer certification.

  2. SPEC’s role in the foreign student and scholar program is to encourage colleges and universities to establish self-sufficient VITA/TCE sites that offer this unique specialization.

  3. Volunteers are prohibited from using the VITA Hotline to obtain assistance regarding topics related to the preparation of the returns/forms mentioned in (1). The answer to many general international federal tax matters impacting individual taxpayers can be found by visiting the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters at Frequently Asked Questions About International Individual Tax Matters.

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

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

  3. This course is updated annually and is available in e-learning format on LLT in English and Spanish.

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

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

    • Serve as liaison between military and SPEC

    • Communicate with AFTC members as needed

    • Coordinates the Overseas VITA training

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

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

    • Provide return preparation and VITA training reports to the military

    • Resolve technical tax law issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Serve as a liaison between SPEC headquarters and territories

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

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

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

  4. Annual Post Filing Season:

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

    • Meeting is usually attended by SPEC headquarters and military

    • Meeting agenda jointly developed by SPEC and the military

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

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

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

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

  6. Military Page On IRS.gov

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

  7. Domestic Military VITA

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

  8. Overseas Military VITA Training

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

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

    • Selections are made no later than October 1.

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

  9. Minimum Qualifications to Instruct Overseas:

    • Must have been lead instructor for domestic Military VITA classes

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

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

    • Must be BIT/ITC/CITC certified

  10. Selected Overseas Military VITA Instructor must do the following

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

    • Contact overseas military point of contact

    • Arrange travel to overseas base

    • Confirm lodging at overseas locations

    • Apply for Official Passport (different from personal passport)

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

  11. Overseas Travel Period

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

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

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

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

  12. Overseas Military VITA Timeline

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

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

    Note:

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



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

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

  4. Whenever possible, non-IRS instructors, such as college professors, enrolled agents and accountants, must be asked to administer tests. If paper tests are used, 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. A passing score (80 percent or higher) is required for certification as a VITA/TCE preparer or quality review volunteer. Test and certification instructions are included on Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.

  7. TM, designated headquarters and area analysts can obtain certification reports on LLT. Partner specific listings taken from the certification reports can be provided to sites for validation. Since this data is Personally Identifiable Information (PII), IRS employees must use secure messaging when emailing within the IRS. To share with partners, use phone, fax or postal mail. See IRM 11.3.1.11, Facsimile Transmission of Tax Information. TM who need access to the certification reports must first register on the LLT test login page then contact the area training analyst for access to the reports.

  8. Instructors and partners will validate certifications when using other training delivery methods. Copies provided by the instructor, test monitor, volunteer, or territory will be kept at the site or partner level.

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

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

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

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

Course and Instructor Evaluations
  1. Volunteers are encouraged to submit course evaluations. Online surveys are available at https://www.linklearncertifiation.com. Volunteers must 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. Territories must encourage partners or site managers to contact state and local tax officials to conduct training on the preparation of state or local tax returns. This training may be conducted after or in conjunction with the federal tax training.

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 participating in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, Certified Financial Preparers, and CTEC registrants. Attorneys and Certified Public Accountants (CPA) can also qualify, depending on the policies of their state or national licensing board. CE Credits can be earned after taking the appropriate coursework and volunteering as a Quality Reviewer, Tax Preparer and/or Tax law Instructor at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site. New for 2015, Tax Return Preparers who meet the requirements can also receive CE Credits.

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

  3. SPEC is also an approved provider for the California Tax Education Council (CTEC). CTEC is responsible for registering non-credentialed tax preparers for the state of California as well as approving tax schools and certifying the education of tax preparers. CTEC registrants that participated in the VITA/TCE program can receive CE credit for completing volunteer training.

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

  5. 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. An additional 4 hours of CE credits can be earned by certifying in a specialty course. Volunteers can earn a maximum of 18 CE credit hours.

Program Requirements and Volunteer Responsibilities
  1. All volunteers requesting CE credits must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for CE credits to be reported to the PTIN holder’s IRS PTIN account. To see if you are required to have a PTIN see PTIN Requirements for Tax Return Preparers.

    Note:

    Attorneys, CPAs and CFPs are not required to have a PTIN to earn IRS SPEC CE credits. It is the responsibility of attorneys and CPAs to submit their CE Certificates to their local governing board/society for CE credit approval. CFPs can self report their CE credits on the CFP website.

  2. The volunteer is required to register within Link & Learn Taxes (LLT). Those volunteers required to have a PTIN number must enter it on the “My Account Page” in LLT and complete the required certifications via LLT to earn their CE Credits. The volunteer must also:

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

    • Complete the “Intake/Interview & Quality Review Test”.

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

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

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

  5. The Form 13615 must contain the California Tax Education Council’s registration number (7 digit number beginning with the letter A and six numbers -ie AXXXXXX) for those volunteers who are CTEC registrants requesting CE credits. The CTEC ID number must be input via LLT on the “My Account Page” and be clearly written to the right of the PTIN inside the PTIN field on Form 13615.

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

    1. Validate the volunteer's identity

    2. Document the number of hours the volunteer spends teaching Basic, Advance, or speciality 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 Link and Learn Taxes and signed by the volunteer)

    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 number, site or training address, identify the certification level and total hours of service.

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

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

      Note:

      All forms for Overseas Military Volunteers must be sent directly to the Overseas Military SPEC HQ National RM.

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

Territory Office Role
  1. Once Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, is received from the partner or site coordinator confirming a volunteer has completed their CE requirements, all relationship managers will review Form 13615 to::

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

    2. Confirm all CE requirements have been met, such as passing all required certifications, and meeting volunteer hour requirements.

    3. Identify the volunteer hours of service were completed by each volunteer via LLT.

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

    5. Provide a master list of all volunteers input to the Share Point site to the designated area analyst.

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

    7. Explain CE credit requirements during partner discussions.

Area Office Role
  1. Serve as Liaison between territory office and headquarters.

  2. Verify receipt of all Forms 13615 against the list of volunteers requesting CE Credits in LLT.

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

  4. Review the records for all CPAs to validate the certificates are ready to be generated via LLT.

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

    Note:

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

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

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

    2. Confirm all CE requirements have been met, such as passing all required certifications, and meeting volunteer hour requirements.

    3. Identify the volunteer hours of service were completed by each volunteer via LLT.

    4. Add all Forms 13615 to the shared drive folder designated for Overseas Military. All Form 13615 must be saved as pdf files using the volunteers first name, last name. For example: John Doe. If the volunteer is a CPA, then add "CPA" to the end of the file name.

Headquarters(HQ) Office Role
  1. Headquarters is responsible for communicating changes or updates to the territory and area offices related to the CE credit program. The record keeping retention requirement for Continuing Education (CE) Credits, mandated by the Return Preparer Office (RPO) is for a term of 4 years. SPEC Headquarters must maintain copies of all Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct, for volunteers requesting CE Credits.

  2. The LLT System will be the primary data portal that will store the CE Credit data, generate the certificates and allow volunteers to print out a completed CE Certificate.

  3. OPQ will use the LLT report to validate volunteers met the CE requirements.

  4. Upon approval and validation of CE Credit data, CE Certificates will be available in L&L Taxes for the volunteer to print.

  5. OPQ will create folders on a Shared Drive to maintain Form 13615, the RPO Approved CE Credit template and the results of the Link & Learn survey for a period of 4 years.

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

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

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

  2. This is an optional tool, unless mandated by your Area Director and/or Territory Manager. If direct support or a direct support assessment is not required, this form must not be completed.

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

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

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

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

    • Maintain Form 13826, SPEC Training Support Tool, either in a partner file maintained by the relationship manager or a group file retained by the territory

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

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

    Follow the ten Quality Site Requirements (QSR) See IRM 22.30.1.3.13.1, VITA and TCE Quality Site Requirements (QSR)– QSR The purpose of QSR is to ensure VITA/TCE sites are using consistent site operating procedures that will ultimately assist with the accuracy of volunteer prepared returns. See Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, for a full description of each QSR. Non-compliance to the Quality Site Requirements only becomes a violation to the standards of conduct if a volunteer refuses to comply with the QSR and/or if the volunteer intentionally violates the QSR and refuses to change this behavior after being counseled. If the problem is corrected, it is not a violation of the VSC.
    Do not accept payment, solicit donations, or accept refund payments for federal or state tax return preparation. Free means we do not accept compensation for our services. Therefore, we do not want to confuse the taxpayer by asking for donations. Donation or tip jars located in the return preparation or taxpayer waiting area are a violation of this standard. Taxpayers can make cash donations to the sponsoring organization, but not in the tax preparation area.
    Donation or tip jars can be placed in another area at the site as long as that area does not give the impression that the site is collecting the funds for return preparation. This cannot be in the entry, waiting, tax preparation, or quality review areas.
    Taxpayers’ federal or state refunds cannot be deposited into VITA/TCE volunteer or any associated partners’ personal or business bank/debit card accounts.
    Do not solicit business from taxpayers you assist or use the knowledge gained about them (their information) for any direct or indirect personal benefit for yourself or any other specific individual. Volunteers must properly use and safeguard taxpayers’ personal information. Furthermore, do not use confidential or non-public information to engage in financial transactions, and not allow its improper use to further your own or another person’s private interests.
    Keep taxpayer and tax return information confidential. A volunteer preparer may discuss information with other volunteers at the site, but only for purposes of preparing the return. Volunteers cannot use taxpayer information for personal or business use.
    Do not knowingly prepare false returns.
    It is imperative that volunteers correctly apply tax law to the taxpayer’s situation. While a volunteer may be tempted to bend the law to help taxpayers, this will cause problems down the road. Volunteers must not knowingly prepare false returns.
    Trust in the IRS and the local sponsoring organization is jeopardized when ethical standards are not followed. Fraudulent returns can result in many years of taxpayer interaction with the IRS. The taxpayer may be required to pay additional tax plus interest and penalties resulting in an extreme burden. In addition, the taxpayer may seek damages under state or local law from the SPEC partner for the volunteer’s fraudulent actions. Even so, the IRS would still seek payment of the additional taxes, interest, and penalties from the taxpayer.
    Nationwide, identity theft continues to grow at an alarming rate. Unfortunately there have been instances of unscrupulous volunteers using information they have obtained at a VITA/TCE site to steal the identity of taxpayers. For example, using a stolen social security number to file a false tax return to obtain the refund is identity theft. Any suspicion of identity theft will be reported to IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The IRS considers this a very serious crime and has put in place measures to detect possible identity theft situations at VITA/TCE sites. The IRS is continually implementing new processes for handling returns, new filters to detect fraud, new initiatives to partner with stakeholders, and a continued commitment to investigate the criminals who perpetrate these crimes
    Do not engage in criminal, infamous, dishonest, notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct deemed to have a negative effect on the VITA/TCE programs. Volunteers may be prohibited from participating in VITA/TCE programs if they engage (past and future) in criminal, infamous, dishonest, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, or any other conduct prejudicial to the government. Volunteers must take care to avoid interactions that discredit the program. In addition, a taxpayer may look to state or local law to seek money from the SPEC partner for a volunteer’s fraudulent actions
    Treat all taxpayers in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner.
    To protect the public interest, the IRS and its employees, partners, and volunteers must maintain the confidence and esteem of the people we serve. All volunteers are expected to conduct themselves professionally in a courteous, businesslike, and diplomatic manner. Volunteers take pride in assisting hard-working men and women who come to VITA/TCE sites for return preparation. Taxpayers are often under a lot of stress and may wait extended periods for assistance. Volunteers may also experience stress due to the volume of taxpayers needing service. This situation can make patience run short. It is important the volunteer remain calm and create a peaceful and friendly atmosphere.
  2. VITA/TCE volunteers are required to certify in VSC Training by passing a test. Volunteers must be certified in the VSC prior to certifying in tax law (i.e., Basic and Advanced) and before the volunteer begins working at a VITA/TCE site.
    The VSC training includes:

    • The six (6) VSC

    • A definition of unethical actions

    • How to report possible legal and ethical violations

    • Consequences for failing to adhere to the program requirements

    • Examples of situations that raise questions on ethical behavior

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

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

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

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

  7. An alert will be circulated whenever a violation to the VSC is identified.

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

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

  3. Relationship managers, TM, and others in the field must immediately report violations to headquarters using the Internal Referral Process.

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

  2. All tax consultants 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 must certify in the VSC and Intake/Interview & Quality Review using Link and Learn Taxes.

    2. Tax law Training: All tax consultants must certify in LLT in tax law through Advanced level, at a minimum, and in Health Savings Accounts. In addition, certify in tax law through the Military level if conducting a FSV and return review at a Military site or instructing Military tax law. All certifications must be complete before instructing or conducting reviews.

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

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

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

  3. Filing Season Readiness Training (FSR): All employees who review returns, write training materials and educate partners on tax law topics are required to take FSR training. Also, Territory Managers who perform Field Site Reviews on employees are required to take FSR training. This training is designed to equip employees with the necessary information for successful execution of the filing season.

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

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

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

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

  2. Once the tax consultant has completed all the required training, copies of the specific training certifications must be provided to the territory manager. The certification documents must be maintained in their Employee Performance File for one year.

VITA and TCE Site Management

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

  2. Potential sites must offer:

    • Adequate parking

    • Accessibility by public transportation

    • Handicap accessibility

    • Privacy during return preparation

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

    • Telephone line and/or Internet access

    • Have no evident security risks

  3. VITA and TCE sites require on-site management by a site coordinator/manager as well as behind the scenes management by the territory office. SPEC partners must ensure that each VITA site has a site manager and an alternate. The site manager or alternate must be present whenever the site is open.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Example:

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

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

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

    Example:

    If AARP is sponsoring a site, AARP will be responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for the volunteer or taxpayer. If AARP volunteers are attending an IRS conducted training class, IRS would be responsible for providing reasonable accommodation for a volunteer if requested.

Request for Reasonable Accommodation Funds
  1. Refer to W&I Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for interpreter services, look on under "Disability" and click on "Interpreter Services Procedures."

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

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

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

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

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

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

  3. Our process will be monitored to ensure these Taxpayers with Disabilities are being serviced and to determine the impact

Ordering Materials and Supplies for VITA

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

  2. All ADP components for computers will be purchased by the VITA and TCE Depot.

Preparing Returns at Volunteer Sites

  1. SPEC Partners are responsible for recruiting and retaining volunteers to deliver the free tax preparation program they support. Volunteers are required to complete training and become certified, using the IRS approved 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 a Virtual VITA/TCE Model. Having the taxpayer present to answer questions will ensure that a complete and accurate return is filed. Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet must be used. If there is insufficient information to complete the return, all documents must be returned to the taxpayer with a request that they be brought back with the missing information needed to complete the return.

  3. VITA/TCE volunteers must not accept balance due payments. If there is a balance due, the taxpayer must schedule an electronic payment through the tax software or mail the payment with the return. Taxpayers must visit www.irs.gov for available payment options.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Return Preparation Criteria
  1. Certified volunteers sponsored by various organizations receive training to help prepare basic tax returns. All volunteers and site coordinators, who answer tax law questions, instruct tax law classes, prepare or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns must, at a minimum, be certified in tax law at the Basic or Advance level annually. 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. Form 8453 , U.S. Individual Income Tax Transmittal for an IRS e-file Return is used to transmit supporting documents that are required to be submitted to the IRS.

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

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

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

  2. A current year Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet, must be used to determine the scope and tax law certification level of the return.

  3. Volunteer preparers and quality reviewers must hold current certification(s) at the appropriate level(s) required for the return. For more difficult returns, comparable certifications are required, (i.e., HSA, military, etc.). If expired tax provisions are still applicable to a prior year return, Advanced certification will be required.

  4. Required reference materials include:

    • Applicable Publication 17, Publication 4012, and Volunteer Tax Alerts

    • Taxpayer’s supporting documents

    • Taxpayer’s documented income, expenses, deductions

  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 your resource materials for additional information.

  6. Quality Tips

    1. Quality Site Requirements must be followed

    2. Clients must not be referred to an IRS office for tax return preparation assistance

    3. Publication 4012 has guidance for prior year and amended returns

    4. IRS does not process Direct Deposits or Direct Debits (electronic funds withdrawals) for prior year or amended returns

    5. Refer to Fact Sheet: Amended and Prior Year Return Preparation located on The Point for additional guidance.

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 if the motive is to secure 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 gain 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. Taxpayer may also call, 1-844-545-5640, to schedule an appointment to visit their local Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) to deliver the completed return and/or full payment for balance due returns

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

  2. The issuance of an ITIN does not:

    • Entitle the recipient to Social Security benefits

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

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

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

    Note:

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

    • Passport

    • National identity card

    • Drivers license (U.S.)

    • State identification card (U.S.)

    • Military identification card

    • School photo ID

    • VISA

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

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

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

  5. The taxpayer is not eligible for the EITC. If the taxpayer becomes a permanent resident of the United States and secures a valid SSN at a later date, he/she may claim the EITC on returns due after the taxpayer receives the valid SSN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Note:

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

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

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

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

  2. Examples of topics for information sharing include:

    • Direct Deposit

    • Savings Bonds

    • 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

    • Providing assistance in opening bank accounts, purchasing U.S. Saving Bonds and credit counseling

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

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

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

  3. SPECTRM will be utilized to record partner involvement regarding financial education and asset building. Relationship Managers will be expected to record partner/coalition involvement financial education and asset building activities as well as prepare Forms 13315, Partner Outreach Activities, to record all outreach around financial education and asset building. Territory Managers will ensure that all financial education and asset building activities for partners and coalitions are appropriately captured (as with other programs in SPECTRM), and will report accordingly.

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

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

    • Monitoring performance through the use of SPECTRM reports

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

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

    • Updating SPECTRM as needed to capture partners FEAB activities

National Partnerships
  1. National Partners will take ownership of incorporating FEAB programs into everyday partner relationship management by sharing information with internal and external stakeholders.

  2. National Partnerships will:

    • 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 as appropriate

    • Promote best practices

Area Responsibilities
  1. The Area office provides oversight, analysis and support of FEAB strategies. The Area Director assigns program responsibilities to an Area analyst. All Area analysts will provide guidance and support of any FEAB activities.

  2. The Area Office will:

    • Maintain updated information regarding FEAB activities in their territories

    • Provide monthly reports to Area Directors regarding the results of territory activities involving FEAB

  3. The Area office will conduct conference calls as needed with Territory staff and Managers to:

    • Monitor progress

    • Provide data as requested

    • Encourage and support territory participation

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

    • Share best practices

    • Discuss road blocks or resistance issues raised by partners, tax consultants or HQ

    • Coordinate Area Filing Season Readiness Training to include a FEAB segment annually

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

Territory Responsibilities
  1. Territory Managers will be expected to take ownership of the FEAB effort by communicating expectations to Relationship Managers via territory meetings, monthly briefings and conference calls. Territory Managers will also be expected to support this effort by participating in Area/HQ conference calls to promote and share successes and best practices. Each Territory Manager will be expected to support their staff by assisting them in the development of strategies for partners. Territory Managers will meet with external stakeholders at coalition and partner events/meetings to encourage participation and collaboration, both with highly successful financial education and asset building partners, and with those partners new or in the early stages of financial education and asset building.

  2. Territory Managers will:

    • Take ownership of FEAB efforts

    • Gather FEAB information from tax consultants regarding their partnerships

    • Address FEAB in briefings and territory conference calls

    • Promote best practices

Relationship Managers Responsibilities
  1. Relationship Managers will familiarize themselves with internal FEAB resources. They will be expected to educate and share best practices with their partners in the arena of financial education and asset building.

  2. Relationship Managers will:

    • Take ownership of FEAB

    • Analyze partners’ current status with regard to FEAB activities

    • Work with partners to encourage growth in FEAB programs

    • Incorporate FEAB discussions in all partner planning meetings

    • Capture specific partner information in monthly briefing reports

  3. Relationship Managers will interact with the National Relationship Manager to:

    • Provide data as requested

    • Communicate and develop best practices

    • Communicate anomalies and change

    • Assessing 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

    • Entering 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

    • Monitoring FEAB activity of SPEC partners through field site visits

Identifying VITA and TCE Returns

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

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

Toll Free Assistance

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

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

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

Quality Review Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Field Site Visits

    • Internal/External Referral Review

    • SPEC Shopping

    • Grant Financial Reviews

    • Grant Administrative Visits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Quality Site Requirements

    1 Certification: Prior to working at a VITA/TCE site new volunteers must complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Training. Returning volunteers are encouraged to review the VSC Training as a refresher. ALL VITA/TCE volunteers must pass the VSC certification test with a score of 80% or higher. All returning volunteer instructors, preparers, coordinators and quality reviewers are not required to take Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training but must certify by passing the associated certification test.

    Note:

    New volunteers in these same positions are required to take the Publication 5101, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training, and pass the certification test through Link and Learn Taxes and/or Form 6744, VITA/TCE Volunteer Assistor’s Test/Retest.

    Volunteers who answer tax law questions, instruct tax law, prepare or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns are required to be certified in tax law annually. If the site uses a screener and the screener addresses or provides assistance with tax law-related issues, the screener must be certified at the level of the complexity of the return. All coordinators must complete SITE Coordinator Training annually.
    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,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.
    Quality Review Process:
    All returns prepared by a volunteer preparer must be quality reviewed and discussed with the taxpayer. Quality review must be conducted as a Designated or Peer-to-Peer review. Self-review is no longer an approved option.
    3 Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN): Coordinators are required to have a process in place to confirm taxpayer identities. This process must include using acceptable documents to confirm taxpayer identities by reviewing:
    • Photo identification for primary and secondary taxpayers; and

    • 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,Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 17,Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA), must be available at the site within five days of RS issuance.

    5 Volunteer Agreement: All volunteers ( coordinators, IRS tax law-certified volunteer preparers, designated or peer-to-peer quality reviewers, greeters, client facilitators, interpreters etc.) are required to annually complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) certification. In addition, volunteers must certify to their adherence of the VSC by signing and dating Form 13615, The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement –VITA/TCE Programs, prior to working at a VITA/TCE site. By signing and dating Form 13615, volunteers are agreeing to the requirement to follow the VSC. Form 13615 must be certified (signed and dated) by the coordinator, sponsoring partner, instructor, or IRS contact, verifying the volunteer has completed the required VSC certification This includes passing the test, confirming the volunteer’s identity using a photo identification, and ensuring the volunteer has signed and dated Form 13615, before the volunteer ca work at the site.
    6 Timely Filing: All sites must have a process in place to ensure every return is electronically filed or delivered to the taxpayer in a timely manner. For e-filed returns, Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization, is required to be signed by the taxpayer. This gives the site permission to e-file their tax return.
    7 Civil Rights: All VITA/TCE sites are required to display a current Publication 4053/4053 (SP),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: It is critical that the correct Site Identification Number (SIDN) is included on ALL returns prepared by VITA/TCE sites.
    9 Electronic Filing Identification Number: The correct Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) must be used on every return prepared.
    10 Security, Privacy and Confidentiality: All security, privacy and confidentiality guidelines outlined in Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality, and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, are required to be followed. A copy (paper or electronic) of this publication must be available at every site and used when referring to security, privacy , and confidentiality.


  5. The QSR can also be found in the following locations:

    • Publication 1084,IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 5166, VITA/TCE Quality Site Requirements

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

    If ... Then ...
    a site is identified as non-compliant as reviews and/or field site visits are conducted, the primary goal is to work with the coordinator and assist them in becoming compliant as soon as possible. If possible, corrective action(s) must be taken immediately. Provide the assistance and support necessary to meet the QSR. This may involve discussions, counseling, and/or mentoring assistance with the coordinator within a reasonable period. Withdrawing support and/or closing a site must be the last resort.
    follow-up actions are required after a site review, the relationship manager is responsible for completing the action(s) within seven calendar days after the initial visit. The territory manager will be notified of any non-compliant QSR.
    withdrawal of IRS support is warranted, the physical safety of all parties at the site will have the highest priority. If the environment becomes confrontational while the SPEC employee is in the process of discontinuing a relationship or removing government property from a site, the SPEC employee must immediately leave the premises, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and their territory manager, and wait for their assistance and/or guidance on how to proceed. The territory manager will notify the area office who will notify the director, headquarters operations.
Volunteer Certification
  1. New volunteers must complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Training. Returning volunteers are encouraged to review the VSC Training as a refresher. ALL VITA/TCE volunteers must pass the VSC certification test with a score of 80% or higher. All returning volunteer instructors, preparers, coordinators and quality reviewers are not required to take Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training but must certify by passing the associated certification test.

    Note:

    New volunteers in these same positions are required to take the Publication 5101 and pass the certification test through Link and Learn Taxes and/or Form 6744.

  2. Volunteers who answer tax law questions, instruct tax law, prepare or correct tax returns and/or conduct quality reviews of completed tax returns are required to be certified in tax law annually. If the site uses a screener and the screener addresses or provides assistance with tax law-related issues, the screener must be certified at the level of the complexity for each return.

  3. Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update allows volunteers with the professional designation of attorney, CPA and EA, to recertify on new provisions and tax law changes. Prior to taking the Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update certification, volunteers are required to certify in the VSC and Intake/Interview & Quality Review. Volunteers with the Circular 230 certification can prepare or quality review all returns within the scope of the VITA/TCE Programs. The new Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update test is optional. Volunteers may choose the traditional certification paths (Basic, Advanced, etc.) available to all new and returning volunteers. SPEC Partners may have additional certification requirements; volunteers and coordinators will need to check with the sponsoring partner. Volunteers with professional designations must have an active license and be in good standing.

  4. All IRS tax law-certified volunteer preparers are required to only prepare returns within the scope of the VITA/TCE Programs. The definition of scope refers to VITA/TCE permissible tax law topics applied to a volunteer prepared tax return. Scope does not refer to income levels. A Scope of Service Chart is located in Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide. Volunteers must refer taxpayers to a professional return preparer when a tax return is identified as out-of-scope for tax law. Volunteers are required to only prepare returns for which they are certified. . If a taxpayer’s return is within the scope of VITA/TCE Programs, but if there are no volunteers with appropriate certification to assist the taxpayer, the taxpayer must be referred to another VITA/TCE site for assistance by searching www.irs.gov and entering VITA sites in the Keyword Search box to find VITA/TCE sites near your location. All instructors must be certified, at a minimum, at the Advanced level. The instructor’s certification level must be equivalent or higher than the level they are instructing.

  5. All designated or peer-to-peer quality reviewers must certify, at a minimum, at the Basic level or higher (including specialty levels) based on the complexity of the tax return. SPEC encourages the quality reviewer to be the most experienced volunteer at the site in tax law application.

  6. Volunteers who assist in various roles (for example, greeters, client facilitators, receptionists, equipment coordinators, interpreters, etc.) do not have to certify in tax law if they do not provide tax law assistance. However, all volunteers must certify in VSC prior to working at a site.

  7. Coordinators must complete annual Site Coordinator Training prior to the site opening. You can access this training via Link & Learn Taxes or obtain this from your SPEC Relationship Manager. However, your partner will determine how coordinators will receive this training. Coordinators must have a method to verify certification the day the volunteer reports to the site and must develop a process to ensure volunteers are preparing and/or quality reviewing returns based on their appropriate level of certification.

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

    • Basic

    • Advanced

    • Military

    • International

    • Foreign Student/Scholar

    • Puerto Rico I

    • Puerto Rico II

    • Health Savings Accounts

      Note:

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

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

    • IRS electronic test through Link and Learn Taxes

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

    • The VSC test in Publication 4961, Volunteer Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Training,.

  10. Volunteer training may consist of classroom, self-study, and/or Link & Learn Taxes. The chart that follows illustrates the certification process.

  11. Listed below are volunteer positions and the IRS required certification applicable for each position. However, a sponsoring partner may require higher standards for certifications.

    Volunteer Position Volunteer Standards of Conduct , Publication 4961 Site Coordinator Training, Publication 5088 Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training & Certification, Publication 5101 Tax Law Certification
    *Site/Local Coordinator (SC) and back-up site coordinators Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Required Training Required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Required- If SC prepares returns, corrects rejects, quality reviews or provides tax law assistance. Certification level is based on the complexity of the return prepared.
    *Instructor Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Not Required Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Required -Advanced level required or higher based on level of course instruction, or Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update
    *Return Preparer Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Not Required Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Required - Basic level or higher required, or based on level of complexity of returns prepared, or Circular 230 Federal Tax Law Update.
    *Quality Reviewer Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Not Required Required Required - Basic level or higher required based on complexity of returns reviewed.
    *Screener (answers tax law questions) Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Not Required Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Required - Level is based on complexity of questions answered.
    *Greeter/Interpreter (does not answer tax law questions) Training required for new volunteers
    Certification required for all volunteers
    Not Required Not Required Not Required.

    *IRS-SPEC requirements may be different from your partners’ expectations. Partners may require a higher level of training. However, partner expectations can never be lower than IRS requirements. For example, some partners require their site coordinators to be certified at the Advanced tax law certification level even if they are not providing tax law advice, preparing or correcting tax returns. This is an acceptable practice, however, partners cannot remove the requirement for site coordinators to take the Intake/Interview & Quality Review PowerPoint Training.

  12. All SPEC Partners must submit a list of their volunteers using Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar document containing the same information.

  13. Partners are required to send Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, or similar listing to their local SPEC territory office by February 3rd but no later than February 15th. Partners are only required to update this form if a new volunteer is added to their program, due by the 3rd business day of each month. Instructions for preparing a volunteer listing is included on Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.3.6Number of Volunteers (Form 13206), Volunteer Assistance Summary Report).

Volunteer Certification Non-Compliance
  1. A noncompliant issue occurs:

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

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

    If certified at the appropriate level, the IRS reviewer at the site must quality review the returns prepared by the uncertified volunteers. Care must be given when informing the remaining taxpayers that the site will have to close for that day. An alternative to closing the site could be to solicit the assistance of IRS certified volunteer preparers from other sites. If this is not possible, the remaining taxpayers must be given other local VITA/TCE site locations that will assist them in their tax return preparation. The site cannot reopen until the volunteers are certified in tax law and the VSC and tax law at the appropriate level(s).
    Volunteers are certified but the verification has not been provided, If there are IRS certified volunteer preparers, but verification has not been provided, the volunteer preparer may be allowed to complete the return they are currently preparing or reviewing, and an IRS tax-certified volunteer must review the return for accuracy. The volunteer preparer may not prepare or quality review any other returns until certification verification of Form 13615 is provided to the partner relationship manager.
    Volunteers are not fully certified based on the complexity of the return,

    Note:

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

    Volunteer preparers must complete the return they are preparing and an IRS certified volunteer preparer with the appropriate level of certification must review the return for accuracy. IRS certified volunteer preparers cannot complete any returns above their certification level. If the return does not fall within the volunteer preparer’s certification level, refer the taxpayer to another IRS certified volunteer preparer with the appropriate certification level or to another site that prepares returns at that certification level.
    Volunteer preparer, quality reviewer, site coordinator, or instructor has not viewed the Intake/Interview and Quality Review Training PowerPoint VAll volunteer instructors, preparers, coordinators and quality reviewers are required to certify in Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training by passing the associated certification test with a score of 80% or higher. Uncertified volunteers and their site coordinators must be directed to the Link and Learn Taxes located on www.irs.gov, to assist them with certification in Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training. Form 6744 also contains the Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training. Publication 5101 also contains this training certification test. The volunteer preparer may not prepare or quality review any other returns until certification verification of Form 13615 is provided to the partner or relationship manager.
  2. Recommended Follow-Up Action: The relationship manager will initiate follow-up action immediately or within seven calendar days to ensure all volunteers have completed VSC training and are certified in tax law if preparing or reviewing tax returns. Immediately request written confirmation from the partner and/or site coordinator confirming if either uncertified volunteers have now passed the IRS test and have been certified, or if the uncertified volunteers are no longer preparing or reviewing returns. Confirmation must also be requested to verify that volunteers have completed the required VSC training. A due date must be established for receipt of written confirmation.

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

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

  3. The Intake and Interview process includes:

    1. Determining the certification level of the tax return and having a process for assigning tax returns to the appropriate volunteer preparer

    2. Ensuring the return is within the scope of the VITA/TCE Programs and the volunteer is certified to prepare the assigned tax return

    3. Verifying the identity of all taxpayers and spouses using a photo ID according to rules listed in Publication 4299

    4. Confirming Social Security Numbers (SSN) and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) according to rules listed in Publication 4299

    5. Explaining to the taxpayer how to complete Form 13614-C, pages one and two

    6. Verifying all questions in Parts I-VI are completed and "Unsure" answers have been addressed and changed to "Yes" or "No"

    7. Reviewing all supporting documentation provided by the taxpayer (Forms W-2, 1099, 1095, payment receipts, etc.)

    8. Making filing status and dependency determinations by using the resource tools and, if applicable, completing the volunteer section for individuals listed in Part II Question 2

    9. Explaining the tax preparation process that includes encouraging questions throughout the interview process

    10. Exercising due diligence by using probing questions to ensure complete information is gathered .

  4. Resources for IRS certified volunteer preparers:

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

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

    • Publication 17,Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts or AARP Cyber Tax Messages

    • Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA)

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

    Note:

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

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

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

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

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

    • Engaging the taxpayer’s participation in the quality review to solicit their understanding and agreement to the facts of the tax return.

    • Using a completed Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, supporting documents and other information provided by the taxpayer to confirm identity, exemptions, income, expenses, adjustments, deductions, credits, and payments were entered correctly on the tax return.

    • Using available source documents to confirm identity (photo ID), income, expenses, credits, and deposit/debit information on the tax return. If income or expenses are listed on the tax return that do not require a source document and one was not provided, Form 13614-C must be documented to indicate the taxpayer’s verbal response.

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

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

Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN)
  1. Coordinators are required to have a process in place to confirm taxpayer identities. This process must include using acceptable documents to confirm taxpayer identities by reviewing:

    • Photo identification for primary and secondary taxpayers; and

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

  2. Volunteers must validate taxpayers’ identities and identification numbers prior to preparing the tax return. Please refer to Publication 4299 for more information on what is considered an acceptable document for photo identification and / or what documents can be used to confirm TIN. Publication 4299 also provides exceptions for taxpayers known to the site.

Confirming Photo Identification and Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when IRS tax law-certified volunteers are not confirming taxpayer identities using acceptable documentation when exceptions are not met, 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. Recommended Follow-up Action: The SPEC RM will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days after the initial review/visit. To ensure that the site is confirming taxpayers’ identities and TIN for everyone listed on the tax return refer to Publication 4299 for acceptable documentation and exceptions for taxpayers known to the site.

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

    • Publication 4012, Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals

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

    Note:

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteer Agreement
  1. New volunteers must complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VC) Training. Returning volunteers are encouraged to review the VSC Training as a refresher. All volunteers (site coordinators, certified volunteer preparers, designated and peer to peer quality reviewers, non-certified and certified greeters, screeners, etc.) must pass the VSC test with a score of 80% or higher and certify to their adherence to the VSC by signing and dating Form 13615,The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs , prior to working at a VITA/TCE site each year. Form 13615 must be signed and dated by the partner organization verifying the volunteer has completed the required VSC certification, and the volunteers' identity has been checked using a photo ID, before the volunteer can work at the site.

  2. Copies of Forms 13615, or Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report , or similar listing containing the same information, must be available at the partner or site location with the required information for each volunteer to verify certification and agreement to the VSC. If these forms are not available at the site, the coordinator is required to have a method in place to track volunteer certification levels and be able to provide this information upon request.

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

    • Follow the QSR.

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

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

    • Not prepare false returns.

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

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

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

  5. Partners are not required to maintain Forms 13615 once the volunteer and partner have signed the completed Forms 13615; transferred all required data to the Form 13206, or similar listing with the same information; and forwarded the form or listing to the local SPEC Territory office. If Forms 13615 are not maintained, then the Form 13206, or similar listing containing the same information, must be located at the partner or site level.

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

    • Terminating the partnership between the IRS and sponsoring organization

    • Discontinuing IRS support

    • Inclusion in the IRS Volunteer Registry to bar future VITA/TCE activity indefinitely

    • Revoking or retrieving the sponsoring organization’s grant funds

    • Deactivating VITA/TCE EFIN

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

    • Removing all taxpayer information

    • Disallowing use of IRS-SPEC logos

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

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

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

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

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

  6. The relationship manager and/or territory manager must address any inappropriate actions or violations with the site coordinator and/or partner. If a potential VSC violation is identified, the RM will immediately contact the territory manager and begin the Internal Referral Process by completing Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. The territory manager will determine what immediate actions must be taken at the site and/or partner level. The territory manager will notify their AD and forward the completed Form 14511. If the AD concurs they will notify the Chief of OPQ and sign and forward Form 14511 to HQ. In consultation with HQ, the AD will determine whether it is appropriate to withdraw support from the site and/or refer the issue to TIGTA and/or Criminal Investigation. The SPEC Director will decide whether to include the partner/site/volunteer on the Volunteer Registry. If necessary, the field will follow the Discontinuance of IRS Support guidance.

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

  2. Timely delivery of returns must include:

    • Ensuring that stockpiling of tax returns does not occur at the site. Stockpiling refers to waiting more than three calendar days to submit the tax return to the IRS once the site has all necessary information to e-file the tax return.

    • Retrieving acknowledgements timely (preferred within 48 hours of transmission).

    • Promptly working rejects that can be corrected by the volunteer.

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

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

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

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

    • $50 to "Total Income" or "AGI"

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

  4. Refer to Publication 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns for further guidance on working rejects.

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

Timely Filing of Tax Returns Non-Compliance
  1. A non-compliant issue occurs when the site does not have a process in place for:

    • Timely submission of e-filed returns

    • Timely retrieving e-file acknowledgements

    • Promptly working rejects

    • Timely contacting taxpayers with unresolved rejects

    • Providing taxpayers with the correct mailing addresses

    • Promptly notifying taxpayers of problems concerning timely return processing

  2. The reviewer will provide the site coordinator with the correct procedures depending on the situation. The reviewer must refer to the appropriate sections in 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 relationship manager will initiate follow-up actions immediately, or within seven calendar days, to confirm the processes for timely filing returns are understood and being followed. If the necessary procedures for timely filing returns are not being used at the site, the matter must be elevated to the territory manager for resolution.

Civil Rights Information is Provided to All Taxpayers
  1. Civil rights information must be displayed or provided to taxpayers at all VITA/TCE sites.

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

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

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

    • Poster, Publication 4053/4053 (EN/SP, EN/VN, EN,KN, EN,CN and/or EN/RU)),Your Civil Rights are Protected

    • Publication 4454,Your Civil Rights are Protected

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

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

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

  2. E-file administrators must set up computer defaults to ensure the correct Site Identification Number (SIDN) automatically appears on each tax return.

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

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

Invalid SIDNs
  1. SPEC will identify Site Identification Numbers (SIDN) that appear in the SIDN Workbook but is not in SPECTRM. Information in the SIDN Workbook is based on returns processed with the TaxSlayer software. The information entered in TaxSlayer must match information in SPECTRM to ensure volunteer sites receive credit for the returns processed at their location. Headquarter staff will send the area analysts the Invalid SIDN report at least seven (7) times during the year (Feb, Mar, Apr, May, Jul, Sep, Nov). All invalid SIDNS with a minimum of 1 return will be pulled. Area analysts will share this information with their territories to make corrections in TaxSlayer , if necessary. Any Invalid SIDNs that cannot be fixed or are suspected of unscrupulous activity will be referred to the RPO for further action.

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

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

  2. IRS e-file applications must be submitted online via e-services. Users must successfully register for e-services to apply to the program. A separate EFIN must be requested for each physical location. E-file administrators must set the computer defaults to ensure the correct EFIN automatically appears on the tax return. Please refer to Publication 4396-A, Partner Resource Guide, for further EFIN procedures..

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

Security, Privacy, and Confidentiality Guidelines
  1. All security, privacy, and confidentially guidelines outlined in Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights - A Public Trust, are required to be followed. A copy (parer or electronic) of this publication must be available at every site and used when referring to security, privacy, and confidentiality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Publication 4491,VITA/TCE Training Guide

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

    • Publication 4600,Safeguarding Taxpayer Information

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

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4473, Welcome to the IRS Computer Loan Program

    • Publication 4390, VITA/TCE Computer Loan Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    3. Notify the GPO at 470-639-2935 if a grant recipient operates the site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. All sites must:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    9. Discontinue using IRS or SPEC logos.

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

    • 100 Percent Quality Review

    • 100 Percent VITA and TCE Grant Partner Review

    • Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews

    • Field Site Visits/Remote Site Reviews

100 Percent Site Quality Reviews
  1. All VITA and TCE sites are required to use Form 13614-C, Intake Interview and Quality Review Sheet, to complete each tax return and conduct the quality review.

Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) Reviews
  1. The mission of the Quality Program Office (QPO) is to promote and measure compliance with Quality Site Requirements (QSR) for the goal of providing top quality service and accurate tax returns to VITA/TCE taxpayers.

  2. The Chief, QPO, reports to Chief, Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ). Tax analysts assigned to QPO conduct QSS reviews.

  3. A QSS review consists of a site review and return reviews. The review process validates accuracy of tax returns and compliance with QSR and Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC). These reviews also provide opportunities to identify problems, training needs and best practices.

  4. QPO works with Statistics Office of Income (SOI) to ensure we have a valid accuracy measure that is properly weighted so that QSS review results can be projected to the entire VITA/TCE population. Chief OPQ, will determine 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) determines the sample size and randomly selects the sites for review based on criteria established by SPEC. To promote an unbiased appearance, the sites for review are selected by a third party.

  2. Sites for QSS review are selected from a prior year site listing provided to SOI pulled from SPECTRM by OPQ.

  3. All QSS reviews are unannounced and the Territory Manager (TM), Relationship Manager (RM), and Area Quality Analyst will not be notified prior to the actual site review.

Validation of QPO Statistic of Income (SOI) Site Sample Data
  1. The Chief QPO will assign the SOI selected sites to QSS reviewers based on geographic locations of the sites and the QSS reviewers in order to optimize cost savings to the government.

  2. Because SOI selects site based on prior year filing season data, QSS reviewers must use the following validation process to ensure their assigned sites will be open in the current filing season prior to traveling to the sites:

    1. Search by SIDN - If the selected site is present and open for the current year in SPECTRM with the same name and same SIDN, it will be reviewed.

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

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

    4. If the selected QSS site is not present by SIDN or site name in SPECTRM, it will not be reviewed and must be referred to Chief QPO. These sites will be marked as closed on the QSS Review Schedule located on the Quality Share Drive.

Chief Quality Program Office (QPO) Responsibilities
  1. Approve requests for travel, travel vouchers, travel compensatory time, regular compensatory time, and credit hours, as required by QSS reviewers to complete review assignments.

  2. Conduct at least one field performance review for each employee. The Chief OPQ will notify the QSS reviewer of the site selected to conduct the performance review. The review will consist of observing employee's adherence to QSS policy and guidance, tax law determinations, and site review file documentation.

  3. Chief OPQ will provide verbal feedback once an employee’s field performance review is completed, and after the employee site review file is uploaded. The employee performance review will be documented on Form 14506, QSS/Shopping Performance Review Sheet, and placed in the employee’s EPF.

Requirements for QSS Reviewers
  1. In order to successfully accomplish the quality review process, QSS reviewers are required to complete the following training and certification tests with scores of 80% or higher:

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

    • Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) test

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review test

    • Tax law certification at the Advanced level, Military level and Health Savings Account (HSA)

    • Site Coordinator Training

    • Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) CPE

    • Tax Preparation software training

  2. This list may change based on tax law changes and/or updated SPEC requirements.

QSS Continuing Professional Education (CPE)
  1. If necessary, QPO will conduct CPE. QSS CPE is a critical part of preparing to conduct reviews in a consistent manner. It is particularly necessary for new QSS reviewers. It encompasses changes to policy, procedures, and products that effect QSS reviews. SPEC expectations and tax law updates for the current filling season are presented and discussed by reviewers.

Site Data Research
  1. Once QSS reviewers receive their review assignments, they are required to conduct extensive preliminary research. Research will reveal if the site is active for the current year, site operational information, and contact information. The data is recorded in Form 14512, History Sheet, and used to appropriately plan for the reviews. Resources include:

    • SPECTRM – to verify the SIDN, EFIN, days/hours of operation, the primary contact person at site (this could be the site/local coordinator), site coordinator training, and identify the TM and RM contact information

    • AARP Tax-Aide Locator- to locate AARP sites

    • NPO-ELF 1541 Report - to verify the production information for the site

    • SERP/IRS.gov - to verify that SERP and irs.gov match SPECTRM

    • Third Party Data Store (TPDS) - to verify EFIN status and ensure at least one responsible official is listed

    • TaxSlayer Production Reports

Planning for Reviews
  1. Based on data in SPECTRM, the QSS reviewer will determine if a site is still open for the upcoming filing season. If research identifies a QSS selected site will not open for the upcoming filing season, the Chief QPO must be promptly notified. All site visits must be scheduled and entered into the Quality Share Point in the Filing Season library - under QSS Review Schedule. Due to unforeseen circumstances, rescheduling may be required (i.e., inclement weather, unscheduled site closure, etc.). QSS reviewers are responsible for any changes in their schedules and must keep the review schedule updated on a weekly basis.

  2. To secure funding for the scheduled site visits, QSS reviewers will post their travel requests using an Excel worksheet located at the Quality Share Point under Quality Reviewer Travel Requests. Once travel request is approved, an authorization must be completed in ConcurGov.

  3. Non-traditional VITA/TCE sites require special attention. If a site is identified as a Virtual VITA/TCE sites, contact Chief QPO for further guidance before scheduling the review. Since Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) sites involve taxpayers preparing their own tax returns, those sites are not selected for QSS reviews because the focus for QSS is only on returns prepared by volunteers.

Initial Site Contact
  1. QSS reviewers are expected to conduct reviews in a courteous and professional manner. Upon arrival take a moment to observe the general atmosphere and activity that’s taking place. The reviewer will introduce themselves to the Site/Local Coordinator and provide their IRS identification, a business card, and Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return.

  2. To ensure the site coordinator understands the QSS review process, explain Publication 4675 to the site coordinator. Ask to be walked through the site’s return preparation process from start to finish. The reviewer will need to request a work station with access to an electrical outlet and with two chairs if possible. Make sure your computer is secured at all times which could mean taking it with you as you walk around the site. After setting up work station, the reviewer will be ready to randomly select the first return to be reviewed.

  3. In the event of disruptive events such as software outage, loss of internet, or lack of qualified quality reviewers, the site coordinator may elect to implement a contingency plan to keep the site operating. If this occurs during a QSS visit, the reviewer must assess the process being used to determine if QSS return reviews can be conducted. If the QSS review is not possible, the reviewer must contact Chief QPO. These contingency plans are not applicable to all sites.

Selecting Returns for Review
  1. The QSS reviewer will randomly select a return, including amended and prior year return, he/she observes is completed. The site coordinator is not allowed to decide which returns will be reviewed.

  2. Since the site must have a quality review process, be prepared to select a return for review from the quality reviewer. However, if a site does not use a quality review process, the return must be selected 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, a copy of Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Tax Return, will be presented and explained to the taxpayer. A copy of Publication 4675 must be attached to the taxpayer’s tax return. This is necessary especially if questions are raised about your review after the fact. In addition, your business card must be attached, or your name must be hand written on Publication 4675. This allows us to prove that you performed a valid review and that the taxpayer was not a victim of ID theft based on these reviews.

  5. Publication 4675 emphasizes all Personally Identifiable Information (PII) will not be kept as part of the quality return review. Taxpayers are not required to participate in the QSS review process so if they refuse to participate, move on to randomly select another return for review.

  6. After the first return review is completed, follow the above process to select remaining returns for review. The random selection policy includes selecting every tax return. This includes returns with no income, not meeting either WHO MUST FILE or WHO MUST FILE, within scope for VITA/TCE and AARP, that will be e-filed or mailed to the IRS. If a selected return has no income, additional returns must be added to the sample and reviewed.

  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. SOI may select sites using the Virtual VITA/TCE Model for QSS reviews. Prior to performing the review, research SPECTRM. If SPECTRM indicates the site uses the Virtual VITA/TCE Model, or if you determine the site uses a virtual process that is not designated in SPECTRM, follow these procedures to conduct return reviews:

    • QSS reviewers can select a return for review that has been prepared and quality reviewed using the virtual process. When visiting a site that uses both traditional and virtual processes of tax preparation, attempt to select virtually prepared returns before selecting returns prepared using traditional VITA/TCE method.

    • Ask the site representative if there are tax returns prepared virtually that are ready to be shared with the taxpayers.

    • Randomly select a tax return from these tax returns.

    • Verify the taxpayer has agreed to allow the review of their tax return by examining Form 14446, Virtual VITA/TCE Taxpayer Consent, to determine if the taxpayer checked the applicable "Yes" box.

    • If the "Yes" box is checked, you can include the return in the review.

    • If the "No" box is checked or blank, then randomly select another tax return prepared virtually, or select a traditionally prepared tax return (face-to-face), until you are able to select 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 when the taxpayer, preparer and quality reviewer are present.

    • If there is a need to clarify any information then call/contact the taxpayer, preparer or quality reviewer as needed, to verify the questionable information.

    • If the information cannot be clarified during the time you are at the site, then explain the issue to the site representative so it can be resolved before the return is filed. You must then randomly select another tax return for review.

    • During the Virtual VITA/TCE return review, provide Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Federal Tax Return, to the site representative to provide to the taxpayer when the taxpayer picks up the return.

Conducting Return Reviews
  1. QSS reviewers must not review returns that are out-of-scope for the VITA/TCE Programs. Reviewers must be aware of scope differences between VITA and AARP. For a complete list of additional in-scope tax law topics, refer to the fact sheet, Quality Site Requirements Applicable to AARP Sites. Reviewers must ensure volunteers are only preparing and/or 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’ 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 above documents must be reviewed in the presence of the taxpayers to validate the information on their return. Once validated it must be immediately returned to the taxpayers.

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

    • Tax Return, schedules, and worksheets

    • ACA worksheet and applicable Forms 8965/8962

    • Tax statements such as Forms W-2, 1099, 1095 A, B and/or C 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

  3. After securing the above information, the next step is to verify Form 13614-C is complete. Comparing the tax return to a completed and/or corrected Form 13614-C and the taxpayers’ statements is the basis for determining if a tax return is correct. If any information is missing or needs clarification, the reviewer will retain the tax return and request the necessary information for a correct assessment.

  4. Accordingly, having all the questions answered on Form 13614-C is imperative for an effective return review. If Form 13614-C requires correction(s), the QSS reviewer will mark "QSS" on Form 13614-C and add or correct the information.

  5. The 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, is used to determine the accuracy of the selected return. If necessary, the related job aid must be used to clarify how to respond to each question.

  6. If an error is found on the tax return the reviewer will retain the original return and the site must make the correction(s). Copies of the corrected return will be provided to the taxpayer and the QSS reviewer.

  7. A tax return is considered accurate when tax law is applied correctly and the completed return is free from error based on current tax law, the completed Form 13614-C, and taxpayer’s supporting documents.

  8. A return is considered accurate for purposes of the QSS or return review as long as the tax law is applied correctly, all income is reported on the correct Form 1040 line, and the error does not cause a change:

    • Of more than $50 to "Total Income" or "AGI"

    • Of more than $14 to "Total Tax" , "Federal Income Tax Withheld" , "Refund" , or "Amount You Owe"

    • To any of the credits shown on the return.

  9. Tolerance does not apply to the Label section of the return which contains the name(s), address and TIN(s). An error in a name, TIN or address makes the return inaccurate.

  10. In the case of an error within tolerance, the QSS reviewer will require the site to correct the return so the taxpayer is provided 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 will meet tolerance criteria, as long as 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. An integral part of the return review process is to scan all 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 names, social security numbers, bar codes, phone numbers, EIN, addresses, local business names, and any other identified PII must be redacted (removed) from the scanned returns and supporting documents. However, the date of birth (DOB) for all persons listed on the return must not be redacted.

  2. If the reviewer is unable to redact the PII from the return and supporting documents due to time limits, the un-redacted returns must be secured in a Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) folder on his/her computer prior to leaving the site. PII must be redacted prior to sending the site review file to headquarters or uploading to the SPEC Quality Share Drive.

  3. The Management Assistant (MA) in Quality Program Office (QPO) maintains the scanner inventory. The MA creates and maintains a spreadsheet that describes the scanner inventory in QPO. The spreadsheet, at a minimum, will include the bar code, any other identifying information, the reviewer it is assigned to, date assigned, condition of the scanner, and date returned. In addition, the spreadsheet will indicate whether the scanner works and if all parts are included, etc.

    • When indicated, the MA will select a scanner for a new or detailed reviewer, update the spreadsheet to indicate which scanner was assigned, and release or mail the scanner to the reviewer. If the reviewer is detailed to QPO, the MA will retrieve the scanner at the end of the filing season and indicate the date it was returned on the spreadsheet.

    • The MA will reconcile the spreadsheet annually to ensure accuracy.

Conducting the Site Review
  1. A site review is conducted to determine site adherence to Quality Site Requirements (QSR) and Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC), and to identify areas of improvement. Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, is used for this purpose. Usually, the return reviews are conducted first; however, the reviewer may address the site review questions if a return is not readily available for review.

  2. Completing Form 6729 is based on observing site operations, interviewing the coordinator, and reviewing required documents. Generally, the reviewer must rely more on observation rather than oral testimony. A job aid is available to assist in completing the form. The QSS reviewer is to use his/her judgment in determining if the site meets the QSR. The QSS reviewer will consider the seriousness of any identified issues and whether there is a systemic violation of a QSR when determining if the site is not within compliance of a QSR.

  3. Although Form 6729 asks more than one question for many of the QSR, each QSR section contains only one measurement question. The measurement questions are in bold and each question is valued at 10%. Accordingly, if the site meets all ten QSR, it will be rated at 100%. Additionally, marking an answer that is underlined will require an explanation in the comment section.

  4. Refer to Publication 5141, Job Aid: Form 6729, QSS Site Review Sheet, for more specific information about completing the form.

  5. If any Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) violation is identified, the Chief QPO will be immediately notified using Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report.

Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator and Volunteers
  1. The QSS reviewer is required to conduct feedback discussions with the coordinator prior to leaving the site. The discussion must include expressing appreciation, offering constructive feedback, identifying any corrective actions, and addressing coordinator’s questions and concerns. Explain the final results e-mail will be provided to the territory office and the relationship manager will share the final results with the site.

  2. The QSS reviewers must always thank every volunteer and acknowledge that without their participation in the VITA/TCE program, we would not be able to provide this valuable service to their communities.

Errors Identified After Leaving the Site
  1. After leaving the site, if an error is identified that changes the result of a tax return review, the QSS reviewer must return to the site, if possible. Explain the identified error to the coordinator and request a corrected tax return. If the QSS reviewer is unable to return to the site, notate corrective action taken on the history sheet and revise Form 6729-R. You must attempt to contact the coordinator to explain the identified error and advise the coordinator to contact the taxpayer.

Post Review Notification
  1. Within 24 hours after conducting a QSS review, the reviewer will notify the territory manager of the QSS review via a Post Review Courtesy E-mail or a Post Review Information Request E-mail, using the template developed for this purpose.

  2. The Post Review Information Request e-mail may request:

    • 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 territory manager has two business days to respond to the Post Review Information Request E-mail. If a response is not received, it will impact the final results of the review.

  4. These emails will not include the final results of the review. However, if the QSS reviewer has completed all review work and is able to issue the final results including copies of Forms 6729 and 6729-R (discussed below) within 24 hours, the Final Results email may be issued in lieu of the above notification emails.

Completing Site Quality Module (SQM) Database
  1. By Tuesday following the week of a review, the QSS reviewer must correctly enter Forms 6729, Site Review Sheet, and 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, into SQM in SPECTRM. The Quality Database User Guide provides instructions on how to access and input results into SQM.

  2. Prior to entering Forms 6729 and 6729-R into SQM database, a profile indicator of "QSS" must be added to the SPECTRM Site Module after each QSS site review is conducted. QSS reviewers must not request the QSS indicator before the actual visitation dates as it could compromise reviews being unannounced. To request the indicator an e-mail must be sent 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 is entered, the reviewer can enter Forms 6729 and 6729-R to the SQM database.

    Note:

    SQM requires Form 6729 must be entered and saved first because it becomes the “parent” form to which the related Forms 6729-R must be associated with when entered.

Final Results Email
  1. QSS reviewers are required to send the Final Results email no later than ten business days after the review. Copies of Forms 6729 and 6729-R must be attached to the email. To ensure consistency, reviewers must use the template developed for this purpose. The email must not be sent using secured messaging since it will be shared with national and/or local partners.

  2. Forward the final results to:

    • Territory Manager

    • Area Chief of Staff

    • Area Quality Analyst

    • Chief Quality Program Office

    • AARP National Relationship Manager (for AARP sites)

    • Grant Program Office (for Grant Sites)

  3. The final feedback will consist 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 E-mail, Territory Manager (TM) and Relationship Managers (RM) will review the information and forward the results and forms to:

    • Site Coordinator

    • Responsible Partner

    • AARP State Coordinator, if applicable

  2. Non-compliance to the QSR and VSC violations will be included in the final results e-mail to the territory office. In response to the reviewer’s recommended corrective and/or follow-up actions, the TM will contact the RM to initiate follow-up actions as soon as possible.

  3. The RM’s follow-up actions must be documented at the bottom of e-mail and forwarded back to the QSS reviewer and area analyst within seven business days. . If recommended corrective and/or follow-up actions were not performed, the reasons must be documented and forwarded within seven business days in the same manner listed above. If no response is received, the case will be closed and the history will be documented that a timely response was not received. It is the responsibility of the territory and/or area analysts to keep on top of these timely responses.

Uploading Electronic Files
  1. The QSS reviewer will upload the redacted site review files to the Quality Share Drive in a timely manner. The electronic files include:

    • Post Review Courtesy, Information Request, and Final Results emails

    • RM corrective/follow-up actions response

    • Form 14512, 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

Inter-Rater Reviews
  1. Inter-rater reviews provide a secondary review of the QSS return reviews used to establish the official SPEC accuracy measure. The inter-rater reviews validate that the QSS return reviews were prepared correctly and ensure that the case files provide adequate documentation to make an accuracy assessment. Inter-rater reviews also identify opportunities to correct problem areas or share best practices.

Inter-Rater Review Procedures
  1. Inter-rater reviews provide a secondary check of the QSS return reviews.

  2. Inter-rater reviews will be conducted by designated headquarters analysts. The inter-raters are required to conduct reviews, including a check of the completeness of selected case files and a check of the accuracy of Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, and selected Form(s) 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet, within the case file. The results of these reviews will be used to validate QSS return reviews.

Inter-Rating Training
  1. All analysts who conduct inter-rater reviews are required to complete the following training:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training

    • Intake/Interview & Quality Review Process Training

    • QSS training - all sessions

    • Tax law certification (at a minimum) at the advance and military level

    • Any specialty tax law topics

    • TaxSlayer training

Inter-Rater Certification
  1. All inter-raters must be certified at the advanced and military certification levels prior to reviewing and making appropriate tax law determinations.

Selecting Inter-Raters
  1. Inter-raters are selected annually from available headquarters tax analysts knowledgeable in tax law and certified at the advanced and military levels.

  2. Selected inter-raters are trained by headquarters analysts on the procedures used to review a completed case file. The team of inter-raters report to the chief of QPO.

Selecting Inter-Rater Reviews
  1. Inter-rater return reviews are selected using a random sample of all planned QSS return reviews. The site reviewed must be from the SOI sample. No substitutions are permitted.

QSS Case Files
  1. As the QSS reviewers complete a visit, they prepare a case file that contains the results of their site review and return reviews. They place an electronic version of the case files on to the Quality shared drive.

  2. The inter-rater will need to monitor both the QSS schedule of planned reviews and the Share Drive to determine when the file is complete and ready for inter-rater review.

  3. All selected inter-rater cases are to be completed within 7 days of receipt.

Assigning Reviews
  1. The Chief, Quality Program Office distributes cases to each inter-rater based on their availability. The inter-rater assigned to a case will review the site review, all selected returns, and the final results email. All selected inter-rater cases are to be reviewed within 7 days of receipt of either electronic or paper case file.

  2. The inter-rater assigned to a case will review all selected returns in the case. The inter-rater works cases one at a time, where possible, to minimize confusion.

Conducting the Inter-Rater Review
  1. The accuracy of returns and the correctness of the case file are recorded in the inter-rater results email. Prior to beginning the review, the inter-rater must review the case file to ensure all necessary documents are enclosed. The accuracy of returns is recorded in the inter-rater results email.

  2. The inter-rater begins by validating Forms 6729, Site Review Sheet, and QSS Return Review Sheet, in the in the case files with the SQM. The four-digit identification numbers at the bottom of all forms in the case file are verified with the respective numbers in the SQM. The inter-rater will review Form 6729 and Form(s) 6729-R to ensure the correct form is being reviewed. If they match nothing more needs to be done. If they do not match, then the inter-rater must bring the discrepancy to the attention of the Chief, Quality Program Office.

  3. Next the inter-rater ensures all documents that must be in the case file are included and in the proper order as described in the Case File Assembly Job Aid located on the Quality shared drive. If any of the documents are missing or incomplete the inter-rater will try to locate them on the Quality shared drive. This will not, by itself, result in an inaccurate review because the inter-rater may be able to make an accuracy assessment without it. If the return or any pertinent documents are missing or incomplete and cannot be located on the shared drive, and the inter-rater cannot make an accurate assessment without them, the inter-rater will call the QSS reviewer for the documents. If the QSS reviewer cannot provide the documents, the inter-rater will obtain concurrence from the Chief, Quality Program Office that the missing forms are pertinent. If any of the case file documents are out of order, the inter-rater will put them in the correct order. The inter-rater will redact any un-redacted PII.

  4. To determine the accuracy of the documents the inter-rater uses their tax law knowledge and available job aids to compare the intake/interview sheet, tax return, supporting documents, and Forms 6729-R, QSS Return Review Sheet. The inter-rater will also review Form 6729 with the final results email.

  5. If a return was originally identified as in-scope by the QSS reviewer, but is in fact an out-of-scope return, the inter-rater must do the following:

    • Review the return

    • Keep the return in the SQM

    • If the inter-rater cannot review the return because it is beyond their level of training, bring the case to the Chief, QPO for reassignment

    • The inter-rater who reviews the return must indicate in the inter-rater results email that there were other findings and provide a comment that the return is out-of-scope and the reason why

    • The inter-rater must also have Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, changedto indicate that the site is preparing out-of-scope returns and add a comment regarding what topic the return dealt with that was out-of-scope.

      Note:

      A return is out-of-scope if deemed so by the VITA/TCE Program. A list of in-scope tax law topics are provided in Publication 4012, Volunteer Resource Guide. The preparer’s certification level is not a determining factor.

  6. Once the inter-rater review is completed it is included, along with any emails sent by the inter-rater, in the case file according to the Case File Assembly Job Aid located on the SPEC Quality shared drive.

Correcting the Site Quality Module
  1. If an error is found on either Form 6729 or Form 6729-R, the inter-rater will work with the QSS reviewer and SPECTRM Help Desk to correct the database.

Providing Written Feedback
  1. If the results of the inter-rater review indicates the QSS made an error, the results of the inter-rater review must be shared with the Chief, Quality Program Office and the QSS reviewer before any other actions are taken.

  2. If the inter-rater identifies errors made in the QSS reviewer’s case file that do not change the overall QSS reviewer’s determinations, a notice of change will not be issued outside of the QPO. After concurrence has been obtained from the QSS reviewer and the Chief, QPO, a feedback e-mail will only be sent to:

    • The assigned QSS reviewer

    • The Chief, QPO

  3. If the inter-rater wants to change the outcome of a QSS reviewer determination due to insufficient case file documentation resulting in an inconclusive outcome, the inter-rater will work with the QSS Reviewer to obtain the necessary documentation. If the documentation cannot be obtained, the inter-rater will obtain concurrence from the QSS reviewer and the Chief, QPO, for a final decision. A notice of change will not be issued outside of the QPO. In this case, the change(s) will be made to these forms in the SQM. A feedback email will be sent to:

    • The assigned QSS reviewer

    • The Chief, QPO

  4. However, if the inter-rater wants to change the outcome of a QSS reviewer’s determination due to an invalid tax law determination, the inter-rater will contact the QSS reviewer for their concurrence. Next, the inter-rater will obtain concurrence from the Chief, QPO. The change(s) will be made to these forms in the SQM. In addition, a notice of change to the final results email will be issued. This notice must be sent by unsecured e-mail with the corrected forms to:

    • QSS Reviewer

    • Territory Manager

    • Relationship Manager

    • Quality area analyst

    • Area, Chief of Staff

    • Chief, QPO

    • If applicable, AARP Program Office

    • If applicable, GPO

  5. The RM will send the notice change and corrected forms to their site coordinator and partner.

Performance Reviews
  1. The Chief, Quality Program Office will review at least one case file for each analyst who conducts an inter-rater review.

Maintaining the Case Files
  1. Once all sampled returns in a case file have been reviewed by the inter-rater and feedback is issued, the inter-rater will upload their final results (and any other emails relating to their review to the Quality share drive. Headquarters will maintain the case files for three years.

  2. The inter-rater will maintain the electronic file on their computer through September 30 of the current calendar year.

Closing the Case File
  1. Electronic site review files will be uploaded no later than seven business days from reviewer’s last day to edit forms (Wednesday after the review) in the SQM database. Once the site review file is uploaded to the Quality Share Drive, the file is closed. The QSS reviewer will maintain the electronic files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30th.

  2. If paper site review files were created due to scanner failure, the QSS reviewer will mail the hard copy of the file to Chief QPO no later than seven business days from reviewer’s last day to edit forms (Wednesday after the review) 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. Field Site Visits will be conducted to assess the extent to which volunteer preparation sites adhere to the Quality Site Requirements and Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC).

  2. Field Site Visits (FSV) consist of one return review and one site review.

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

  4. QSS reviews, SPEC shopping reviews, and FSV/RSR are all included when determining if sites were visited during a 5-year period.

  5. Every effort must be made to include one day, ad hoc, roving, and mobile sites when planning field site visits.

  6. Additional or supplemental ad-hoc field visits may also be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate by the territory manager.

  7. Remote site reviews must be coordinated in advance with partners. FSV must be unannounced.

  8. No reviews must be conducted the first week the site is open.

  9. FSV/RSR must be conducted on the traditional VITA/TE portion of FSA Fusion sites, however, TCs must also review the FSA process. If the site os not adhering to the QSR in the FSA process, the site will be rated as not met for that QSR on the site review.

  10. When an FSV cannot be conducted on the intake, tax preparation, and quality review stages for Virtual VITA/TCE sites, TCs will need to review the agreement or Memorandum of Understanding for Virtual Sites to determine which site will have an FSV and which will need and RSR to complete the review.

  11. Each FSV will include a site review and one return review. Results from the FSV will be reported on Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet. The return review will be captured on form 6729-C, Return Review Sheet.

  12. SETR Code and Internal Order Code will be provided by headquarters.

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

  2. When selecting sites for FSV/RSR, keep in mind that partners often have sites which are close in proximity to each other. These sites are often operated by the same coordinator and volunteers. Whenever possible, do not select multiple sites operated by the same coordinator/volunteers for review in the same year.

  3. Criteria for selecting sites for field visits include:

    • New sites during their initial year of operation

    • Problem sites - complaints or negative feedback received regarding operation and/or volunteers (current or prior year), poor 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 participating in the CAA program

    • TM’s discretion

  4. FSA-Only and Remote FSA sites are not included in the criteria for selecting sites for FSV.

  5. Most FSV will be conducted during the filing season (January through April 15). However, FSV must be conducted at sites which remain open after April 15 to ensure adequate oversight throughout the year.

Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Field Site Visits
  1. Site visits must be unannounced when return(s) will also be reviewed during a field visit. A minimum number of field site visits will be pre-planned by the territory to ensure a minimum number of territory sites receive a site field site visit. In addition, supplemental or ad-hoc visits may be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate by the territory manager. Field site visits may be conducted by anyone on the territory staff, whether the primary relationship manager or not. There is no grade restriction on who may conduct a visit, although employee experience level must be considered.

  2. QSS reviews, SPEC shopping reviews, field site visits, and remote site reviews conducted in previous years are all considered when selecting a site for a field site visit. Every effort must be made to include one day, ad hoc, roving, and mobile sites when planning field site visits. Additional or supplemental ad-hoc field site visits may also be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate by the Territory Manager (TM).

  3. Headquarters will provide the percentage of the minimum number of reviews required each year.

Assigning Sites
  1. The TM will assign all FSV/RSR. Generally, FSV/RSR are conducted by the Relationship Manager (RM).

Preliminary Research
  1. Once the Tax Consultant (TC) receives their assignments, the TC must conduct extensive preliminary research.

  2. TC can use Form 14512, History Sheet, to capture the results from your preliminary research and the site/return reviews. Form 14512 or similar document must be included in your FSV/RSR case file.

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

    1. Site information must be verified through SPEC/SERP reports. During field visits, tax consultants need to verify the information entered into SPECTRM with the actual data for accuracy. Verify the address, dates/hours of operations, contact information, and services provided are correct.

    2. Volunteer information can be validated using Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, or partner developed form containing the same information. Validate the site coordinator attended Site Coordinator Training. Ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects site coordinator training information.

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

    4. Review the Volunteer Registry to ensure volunteers in your area are not barred from the VITA/TCE Programs.

Planning the Review
  1. Based on SPECTRM data, TC will determine if a site is still open. TC must keep their review schedule updated. No reviews must be conducted the first week the site is open.

  2. Visits must be planned to maximize available travel resources. This may include scheduling more than one FSV on the same day in a specific area.

Unannounced (FSV) versus Announced (RSR) Reviews
  1. FSV are generally unannounced because they include a return review. TC must only announce an upcoming FSV if pre-arrangements are necessary. For example, if you need to access a military base.

    Note:

    Ensure you have your SmartID when visiting a military base.

  2. RSR are generally announced so the review can be scheduled at the coordinator’s convenience.

  3. No reviews must be conducted the first week the site is open.

Conducting Field Site Visits
  1. Visits must be planned to maximize available travel resources (e.g., several site visits in a particular area in one day).

    Note:

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

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

  3. Tax consultants will use the 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. Results from these reviews must be entered in the Quality Module 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, follow-up by email to the site coordinator (and state coordinator, if AARP) within 7 business days of the visit. The TM may allow additional business days based on the TC workload.

  5. If a TC is unable to meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM immediately. Published deadlines are provided for:

    • Entering the results in the Site Quality Module

    • Issuing the final results

    • Completing the cse file.

  6. A copy of Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet, must be generated from the SPECTRM Site Quality Module and attached to the results email. E-mail templates are provided to assist with reporting the results of the visit.

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

    • Publication 1084,Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4299,Privacy , Confidentiality and Civil Rights

    • Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conducting the Review
  1. TC must begin the review by thanking the coordinator for their participation in the VITA/TCE Programs. Advise the coordinator that the review will include both a site review and a return review (FSV only).

  2. The TC must explain that:

    • The purpose of the site review is to determine if the site is adhering to all QSR and ethical standards as described on the volunteer agreement.

    • The purpose of the return review is to validate return accuracy. Explain you will provide the taxpayer a copy of Form 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Return, when selecting a return for review.

    • You will provide preliminary results after you have completed your reviews and can answer any questions then.

  3. TC will immediately identify and select the return to be reviewed. Whenever possible, conduct the return review first so you have a true and unbiased snapshot of the site’s return preparation process. If you have to wait until the next available return completes the Quality Review Process, use time wisely by beginning the site review.

  4. TC cannot answer any tax law questions until after the return review has been completed.

Field Site Visit 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)

    • A complete Form 13614-C

    • Comparing 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, receipts, etc.)

  2. The TC will capture the results of the return review on Form 6729-C, FSV Return Review Sheet.

  3. Whenever possible, conduct the return review first to obtain a true and unbiased snapshot of the site’s return preparation process. If a return is not available when the TC enters the site, the TC will begin the site review.

  4. If the TC is unable to review a return while at the site, the TC must advise the TM to determine the site will need to be revisited for the return review. The revisit to the site must be unannounced . Indicate in the case file if a return review is not complete. The case file must explain why the return review was not completed as well as results of the discussion with the TM.

  5. Prior to beginning the review, ensure all of the documents used to prepare the return are provided. If there are missing any documents or an incomplete Form 13614-C, request the missing information while keeping the return. Do not begin the review until all necessary documents are provided.

  6. The TC cannot answer any questions until after the return review has been completed.

  7. Only the TC conducting the FSV selects the return for review. Coordinators, volunteer preparers, and quality reviewers cannot select the tax returns for your review.

    1. Select the first return that just completed the site’s Quality Review Process. Prior year returns can be selected for review.

    2. Select the return after it has gone through the Quality Review Process, but before the taxpayer has signed either the return or Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization.

  8. If the site does not have a Quality Review Process, randomly select a return for review when the return is considered ready for the taxpayer’s signature.

  9. Once the TC has identified himself, the TC will ask the taxpayer for permission to review their return. Give the taxpayer a copy of Publication 4675, Request to Quality Review Your Tax Return, and explain the return review process.

  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 return review process os complete to answer any questions that may arise during the review.

  12. If the TC determines a return entry is incorrect, the TC must include a comment on Form 6729-C. Form 6729-C will be shared with the partner and coordinator, and comments will provide information that can be used to improve their training or operational processes.

Conducting the Return Review for Field Site Visits
  1. Once the TC has the taxpayer’s permission to review a return:

    1. Confirm the taxpayer’s proof of 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. Determine if Form 13614-C is complete. Conduct the return review once you determine you have a complete Form 13614-C.

    6. If the volunteer did not use Form 13614-C or used an unapproved intake/interview sheet or an incomplete Form 13614-C, retain the tax return and if Form 13614-C was incomplete:

    • Circle all incomplete items and ask that a volunteer complete the form with the taxpayer.

    • Notate what was incomplete/missing in Comments on Form 6729-C.

    • Repeat the process if Form 13614-C is still not complete when it is returned to you.

    • If an intake/interview sheet was not used or an unapproved intake/ interview form was used.

  2. If an intake/interview sheet was not used or an unapproved intake/ interview form was used:

    1. Give the coordinator a copy of Form 13614-C and ask that a volunteer complete the form with the taxpayer

    2. Notate in Comments on Form 6729-C that the site did not use a Form 13614-C or used an unapproved form.

  3. If the TC identifies discrepancies or conflicting information between the tax return, source documents, and Form 13614-C:

    1. Ask the coordinator to clarify the discrepancies with the taxpayer.

    2. Keep the tax return until your questions are answered.

    3. Clearly explain the discrepancies on Form 6729-C.

  4. If the TC cannot be certain the return is accurate based on supporting documentation:

    1. Return Form 13614-C to the coordinator and ask for clarification for the item(s) in question.

    2. Keep the tax return until your questions are answered.

  5. Identify corrections to Form 13614-C by writing "SPEC" near the correction.

  6. Complete Form 6729-C after reviewing the tax return.

  7. The TC will compare the completed Form 13614-C to the tax return and supporting documents.

  8. Review the tax return line-by-line against the information provided on Form 13614-C and source documents.

  9. Report all errors on Form 6729-C (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 based on the results of the return review.

Out of Scope Returns
  1. TC must not review returns that are out-of-scope for the volunteer VITA/TCE Programs, including the additional topics for AARP sites. Although these additional topics are considered in-scope for AARP sites, TC cannot review these returns unless they are certified in tax law for these topics.

  2. TC must ensure volunteers are only preparing returns within their certification level. Tax consultants will review returns that are beyond the certification level of the volunteer preparer as long as they are within scope of the VITA/TCE Programs.

  3. If the TC identifies a return is out-of-scope for VITA/TCE programs, the TC will:

    1. Advise the coordinator that the return is out-of-scope, and the taxpayer may need to seek the assistance of a professional return preparer.

    2. Have the coordinator destroy or delete the return from the software.

    3. Return all supporting documents to the taxpayer.

    4. Advise the coordinator/partner to implement a process to identify out‑of-scope returns early in the return preparation process.

  4. Include the out-of-scope issue in "Comments" on Form 6729-D. If the TC determines the return was prepared incorrectly and the corrected return is out-of-scope, the TC can still use the return to complete the review. The site coordinator will still tell the taxpayer their return cannot be prepared at the site and they may need to see a professional return preparer.

The Site Review
  1. A site review is conducted to determine site adherence to the QSR and VSC. Site reviews also offer the TC an opportunity to assist the coordinator and improve site efficiencies.

  2. Generally, TC will conduct a return review prior to conducting the site review. However, a site review may be begun immediately if a return is not available for review when you enter the site.

  3. Generally, TC will complete Form 6729-D based on observations and a review of documents. Oral testimony by the coordinator is only acceptable if the TC is unable to review documentation or observe a specific operational aspect. Ask additional questions to ensure a complete understanding of the coordinator’s process.

  4. If an issue is identified during a FSV/RSR, TC must assist the coordinator in identifying and taking the steps necessary to resolve the issue.

    Note:

    Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, provides more detailed information on each QSR and corrective or follow-up actions.

Conducting the Site Review
  1. Begin the site review after completing the return review.

  2. TC must begin observing 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. Ensure these posters and/or publications are the latest revisions.

  3. Begin by asking the coordinator to:

    • Identify all volunteers at the site.

    • Confirm the certifications for each volunteer.

      Note:

      Confirm the certification levels immediately so you have this information for the return review.

  4. Ask 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 additional questions if the coordinator does not address all aspects of each QSR.

  5. Ask about reference materials.

  6. Ask the coordinator how they provide VolTax and Civil Rights information if the TC did not see the posters when entering the site or if an outdated version is posted.

  7. Have the coordinator describe security measures taken to protect taxpayers’ privacy.

  8. Ask how volunteers verify:

    • The taxpayer and spouse’s identity through photo identification.

    • Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TIN) for everyone named on the return using appropriate documentation.

  9. Confirm the site has the required reference materials. Check that the site has:

    • At least one copy (paper or electronic) of Publication 4012.

    • At least one copy (paper or electronic) of Publication 17.

    • 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 are signed/dated by both the volunteer and partner/partner-designee.

  11. Ensure the site has VolTax information including Publication 4836, VITA and TCE Free Tax Programs, or Poster D143, AARP Foundation Tax Aide (for AARP sites), is displayed in a visible location at the site.

  12. Ask 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 a reject cannot be corrected within 24 hours

    • Ask how the site handles Form 8879, IRS e-file Signature Authorization

    • Ask how the site handles Form 8453, Individual Income Tax Transmittal, when the taxpayer has supporting documents which are not included in the electronic records submitted to the IRS

  13. Confirm the site is displaying 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 Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and/or Vietnamese Limited English Proficient (LEP) taxpayers must also post Publication 4053 in these various languages.

  14. Confirm the SIDN and EFIN by having the coordinator provide the SIDN and EFIN used at the site.

  15. Have the coordinator 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. Identify every volunteer involved with the submission of a return from the preparation stage through e-file acceptance. The coordinator must indicate that volunteers’ permissions in the software are limited to those needed for their duties at the site.

  17. Dispose of sensitive material at the site. Measures must include security while the site is open, when the site is closed, and after the filing season. Protect all electronic equipment.

  18. Ensure the site is adhering to IRC Section 7216 requirements. Sites with a relational EFIN are required to use consent notices. See Publication 4299 for more information regarding IRC Section 7216 and the consent notices Publication 5166 provides more detailed information on each QSR and corrective or follow‑up actions.

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

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

    Note:

    Refer to Publication 5166, VITA/TCE Quality Site Requirements, for additional guidelines on conducting follow up visits.

  3. Ultimately, the decision of how to conduct the follow-up (phone, RSR, or FSV) will be made by the TC and TM. Follow-up must be conducted within seven days of the initial review. If the site has not corrected the identified issues, consult with the TM to determine what further action must be taken. Remember, all VSC violations must be elevated through your TM.

    Note:

    Refer to Publication 5166, VITA/TCE Quality Site Requirements, for additional guidelines on conducting follow up visits.

Virtual VITA/TCE Sites
  1. SPEC will conduct reviews at Virtual VITA/TCE sites.

  2. Your review will include all stages of the virtual process. If TC cannot visit the intake, return preparation, and quality review locations for the virtual process, TC must call the coordinator or volunteer at the other location(s) to complete the site review. TC will obtain concurrence from the TM on which sites(s) will be visited and which will be contacted virtually.

  3. At times, TC will not be able to conduct a FSV at both the intake and tax preparation sites. TC will review the approved program plan to determine which site will have a FSV and which will need a RSR to complete the review. TC must seek guidance from the TM when uncertain how to conduct the FSV/RSR for a Virtual VITA/TCE site. Ensure the site is adhering to the pre-approved agreement.

  4. You will select a return for review after the return has gone through the Quality Review Process.

  5. All QSR must be followed and all proposed exceptions to the QSR must be approved by the SPEC Director.

  6. You will complete only one Fom 6729-D for Virtual VITA/TC sites based on data obtained from both locations.

  7. You will also need to ensure all security guidelines detailed in Publication 4299 are being followed.

Reviewing a VITA/TCE Grant Site
  1. The review will focus on the site’s quality operations and return accuracy only. Elevate any findings which do not relate to the QSR or VSC to the Grant Program Office (GPO). Do not discuss any findings relating to the GPO with the coordinator during the review. In addition, Grant Program related findings are not included on your final results or entered in SPECTRM.

Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) Sites
  1. The FSV/RSR must be conducted on the traditional VITA/TCE portion of FSA Fusion sites. However, TC must include the FSA process in their review.

Preliminary Feedback Discussion
  1. Prior to leaving the site or ending the virtual contact, discuss the review results with the coordinator.

    • Express appreciation to the coordinator and volunteers for volunteering and for their time during the review.

    • Discuss best practices and provide constructive feedback.

    • Identify issues and corrective actions.

    • Verify the coordinator’s e-mail address.

    • Advise the final written results will be provided with 14 calendar days.

    • Ask if the coordinator has any questions or concerns.

  2. Do not leave a copy of the Form 6729-D including your review results with the coordinator on the day of the visit.

Site Review Results
  1. Throughout the filing season, data collected is available for territory office analysis. The analysis will help SPEC and its partners assess the sites’ current and future performance, and validate the consistency of operation as compared to the Quality Site Requirements. This will also allow SPEC and its partners a way to effectively predict the continued success of the volunteer site. The IRS territory office will analyze the data for trends or patterns and compare how a process or activity is performing before and after a solution has been put in place.

  2. The data is available in SPECTRM at the territory, area and National levels for analysis and for sharing with partners. The data is available in reports for specific weeks of activity or cumulatively for the Filing Season. On a national level the data collected will be used to calculate accuracy measures, to inform policy or process changes and to update publications, forms and volunteer training for the upcoming filing season.

Errors Identified After Leaving the Site
  1. If the TC identifies errors that affect the results of the return review after leaving the site, the TC must contact the coordinator to explain the identified error and advise the coordinator to contact the taxpayer.

  2. TC will need to edit the review results in SPECTRM Site Quality Module (SQM) if the error was identified after entry. If TC can make the change before the deadline, correct the SQM. If the deadline has passed, TC must seek assistance from the Area Quality Analyst. See Enter and Edit dates for Data Entry into SPECTRM handout.

Post-Review Notification
  1. Generally, the TC will be able to complete the FSV while at the site.

  2. Occasionally, the TC may need to request additional information to complete Form 6729-D. A Post Review Information Request template is available for use when requesting additional information.

  3. Allow the partner/coordinator two business days to provide the additional information.

Completing the Database
  1. TC will need to record the results of the FSV/RSR in SQM and provide the results to the partner/coordinator.

  2. You must enter the results of the review into the SQM as soon as possible, but no later than the Tuesday following the review week.

    Note:

    TC must enter Form 6729 D in the SQM before Form 6729-C to ensure that the return review is properly associated with the correct site review

  3. Use the SPECTRM SQM Database Job Aid for instructions on how to access and enter the review results.

Rating the Site Review
  1. SPEC uses Form 6729-D to measure the site’s adherence to the QSR and identify areas of improvement. Sites are rated based on the percentage of QSR that are met. Although Form 6729-D asks more than one question for many of the QSR each section contains only one measurement question.

  2. Provide the overall QSR adherence rate to the partner. This rating is located at the top of the SPECTRM-generated Form 6729-D.

Final Written Results
  1. TC are required to send the Final Results E-mail within seven days, but no later than fourteen calendar days after the review.

  2. The Final Results E-mail must:

    • Include Form 6729-D (FSV/RSR)

    • Include Form 6729-C (FSV only)

    • Include the percentage of QSR that were met

    • Not be sent using secured messaging since it will be shared with national and/or local partners.

  3. TC will access Business Objects to obtain the computer-generated Forms 6729-D and 6729-C.

  4. Forward the Final Results E-mail to:

    • Partner/coordinator (State, district, and local coordinators for AARP)

    • TM

    • RM, if appropriate

  5. This written feedback will include the results of the site and return reviews and :

    • Thank the coordinator and volunteers for their commitment to VITA/TCE Programs

    • Accentuate the positive/QSR met

    • Recap assistance provided

    • Identified best practices

    • Area(s) of weakness

    • QSR non-compliance

    • VSC violations

    • Corrective actions provided to the coordinator

    • Recommended follow-up actions for the territory

Issues Arising from Field Site Visits
  1. Findings related to any of the QSR must be resolved using the QSR corrective actions guidance. Findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those identified in the Internal Referral Process, must be referred to headquarters.

Noncompliance and Corrective/Follow-up Actions
  1. If a non-compliant QSR is identified, the primary goal is to assist the site in becoming compliant as soon as possible. Provide any corrective action(s) necessary to meet the QSR and assist the coordinator, partner, and volunteer, as appropriate, in completing the corrective action (s). Include all identified areas of non-compliance in the Final Results E-mail.

  2. Refer to the IRM or Publication 5166 for a detailed explanation of the QSR, noncompliant issues, and corrective and/or follow-up actions.

  3. If you determine that the site is still not following the QSR during follow-up, elevate your findings to your TM for resolution. As a last resort, procedures must be followed for closing a site. These procedures are located in IRM 22.30.1.8.13.1.11 , Discontinuance of IRS Support.

Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC) Violations
  1. If you identify a VSC violation, you must immediately notify your TM using Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report. Every VSC violation identified during a review must be elevated to HQ through the Area Office.

  2. If the environment becomes confrontational, immediately leave the premises. Be sure to document all your findings.

  3. Remember, QSR non-compliance is not automatically a VSC violation. If you identify QSR non-compliance during a review you must explain the QSR requirement and assist with implementing corrective actions. If the volunteer(s) agrees and begins to comply with the QSR, they did not violate the VSC. If the volunteer refuses to adhere to any or all of the QSR, they have violated VSC 1.

Case File Assembly
  1. TC will assemble a case file for each site, including all documents related to the visit. Do not include any Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

  2. Case files must include:

    • Results of the preliminary research

    • Form 6729-D (from Business Objects)

    • Form 6729-C (from Business Objects)

    • Any unapproved intake/interview and quality review sheets, if applicable

      Note:

      Forward any unapproved intake/interview and quality review sheets to Quality Program Office.

    • Feedback provided to the coordinator

    • Post-Review Information Request, including the response from the partner, if applicable

    • The Final Results E-Mail

  3. FSV/RSR case files, in either electronic or paper format, must be completed within five days of issuing the Final Results E-Mail. These files will be maintained in the Territory Office.

Case File Maintenance
  1. If a TC is unable to meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM immediately. Published deadlines are provided for:

    • Entering results in the SQM

    • Completing the case file

  2. The notification must include:

    • The reason for the delay

    • An estimated date of completion/submission

    • A request for assistance to prepare documentation for submission within a reasonable time frame, if needed.

  3. Territory offices will maintain FSV/RSR case files for three years.

Roles and Responsibilities
  1. Territory Managers (TM) will:

    • Assign FSV/RSR to TC

    • Perform at least one employee performance review on each TC as they conduct FSV/RSR. TM will notify the TC of the FSV/RSR selected for the performance review. The review will consist of observing the TC determine adherence to QSS Policy, tax law determinations (FSV only), and case file documentation.

    • Provide verbal feedback once a performance review is completed. When the case file is completed, the review can be documented on Form 14526, FSV/RSR Employee Performance Review Sheet.

    • Determine if a TC needs to return to a site to complete a return review, when appropriate.

    • Assist TC in determining which Virtual VITA/TCE site(s) will be visited and which will be contacted virtually.

    • Assist TC in determining the appropriate method of conducting follow-up.

    • Forward Form 14511 to the Area Office, when appropriate.

  2. Territory Offices will:

    • The Territory is responsible for identifying a minimum number of sites for RSR/FSV per guidance provided by HQ. In addition, supplemental or ad-hoc FSV/RSR may be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate.

    • For Filing Season 2017, HQ indicated every site will be visited every five years with 10% of field reviews being conducted as FSV and 10% as RSR.

    • The Territory is responsible for ensuring the planned FSV/RSR reports are kept updated with changes and tracking progress towards established goals. The Territory must also ensure sites are not visited multiple times, unless warranted. Whenever possible, Territories must not visit multiple sites operated by the same coordinator/volunteers in the same filing season. If multiple sites with the same coordinator are scheduled, the first visit must be a FSV. If appropriate, the other sites operated by this coordinator can be conducted as RSR. The Territory must provide updates and changes to the Area Office.

  3. Area Offices will:

    • The Area will work with Territories when planning FSV/RSR. The area will use SPECTRM and Business Objects Reports to identify sites for FSV/RSR.

  4. Headquarters Office will:

    • HQ will provide policy and procedures governing the FSV/RSR Programs. In addition, HQ will provide SETR and Travel (Internal Order) Codes.

    • HQ will make final determinations for all elevated Internal/External Referrals, including the decision of whether a volunteer is added to the Volunteer Registry.

Remote Site Reviews
  1. SPEC territory offices are required to visit a minimum number of the total sites located within their territory boundaries to promote the IRS relationship with site coordinators and volunteers and deter any wrongdoing. SPEC’s ability to travel is limited which requires us to be as efficient as possible while still providing the highest level of service to our partners and taxpayers.

  2. Conducting remote site reviews (phone, email, and correspondence) is an alternative way to accomplish our goal of ensuring quality service to all taxpayers when face-to-face visits are not possible. Remote Site Reviews (RSR) provide oversight of site operations and assess site adherence to the Quality Site Requirements (QSR).

  3. Results from these visits provide valuable information regarding oversight of the VITA/TCE Programs and consistent site operation procedures, which ultimately leads to preparing accurate returns.

  4. All SPEC oversight visits are designed to ensure taxpayers receive top quality service at VITA/TCE sites and volunteers are following the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC).

  5. Form 6729-D, Remote Site Review Sheet, will be used during the review. Relationship Managers will work with partners to best accommodate partner needs and reduce partner burdens .

  6. Remote site reviews do not include a return review.

  7. No reviews must be conducted the first week the site is open.

  8. SETR codes and Internal Order Codes will be provided by headquarters.

Expected Goals
  1. Expected goals from remote site reviews include:

    • Increasing IRS presence

    • Improving site efficiency

    • Improving partner communications and customer satisfaction

    • Monitoring implementation of the Quality Site Requirements and other policies

Remote Site Review Benefits
  1. The benefits of RSR include:

    • Providing an alternative way to ensure quality service to all taxpayers when face-to-face contact is not possible

    • Providing oversight opportunities to sites which would not otherwise receive a FSV

    • Ensuring SPEC can continue to focus on maintaining quality standards, as well as 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 when the coordinator is less busy

    • Screening sites to determine if a FSV is warranted.

Methodology for Scheduling a Minimum Number of Remote Site Reviews
  1. Remote site reviews must be coordinated in advance with partners. A minimum number of field site visits and remote site reviews will be pre-planned by the territory per guidance issued from Headquarters to ensure a minimum number of sites are reviewed. In addition, supplemental or ad-hoc field site visits or remote site reviews may be conducted as needed or deemed appropriate by the Territory Manager. Remote site reviews may be conducted by a tax consultant who may not be the primary Relationship Manager. There is no grade restriction on who may conduct a review, although the level of employee experience must be considered.

  2. QSS reviews, field site visits and remote site reviews are all included when determining if sites were visited during a 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 operated by the same Site Coordinator who has had a face to face review (with no issues identified) at another location

    • Sites which have been previously reviewed with no issues identified

    • 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 Remote Site Review in the last five years

    • Use of the online software tax product is preferred, but not required

    • Sites not reviewed the last five years

    • Sites located a distance from the Territory

    • Territory Manager's discretion

      Note:

      FSA-Only and FSA sites in remote locations will not be included in the criteria for RSR.

Conducting the RSR - Key Points
  1. TC will conduct the RSR using the most effective available virtual option.

  2. When conducting the RSR, ask additional open-ended or follow-up questions for clarification or if a key point for a QSR was not explained. In some instances, you may need to talk to the partner, e-file administrator, or another volunteer to complete the review.

  3. TC will complete Form 6729-D based on the results of preliminary research and the RSR.

    Note:

    See Publication 5166 and Document 13172 for more information.

  4. No reviews must be conducted the first week the site is open.

Conducting Remote Site Reviews
  1. To conduct a remote site review (RSR) a designee, not necessarily the assigned Relationship Manager (RM), from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Wage & Investment (W&I) Stakeholder Partnership Education and Communication (SPEC) office would contact, usually by phone, the coordinators for VITA/TCE sites. Once SPEC’s designee identifies him/herself the reviewer will then ask a series of questions about the site and the operation of the site.

    Note:

    The term reviewer and Relationship Manager are interchangeable throughout this section.

  2. Reviewers take into account the continuing operation of the site by being able to conduct the review when the site is closed. Most remote site reviews must be conducted between February 1 and April 15. However, reviews must be conducted throughout the course of the year for sites open after April 15.

  3. Reviewers must complete some preliminary research before conducting the RSR. Form 14512, History Sheet, can be used to record the results of pre-visit research and record notes during the review.

  4. If you are not the RM, notify the RM of the upcoming review.

  5. As part of pre-research, the Reviewer will look at:

    • Site information - verify the accuracy of data entered into SPECTRM by using SPEC/SERP reports and searching AARP's website to confirm site information for AARP sites.

    • E-file activity and accuracy reports - review the SIDN, NPO-1541, and TaxSlayer Summary reports to determine e-file activity and accuracy.

    • Volunteer information - validate using Form 13206, Volunteer Assistance Summary Report, Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct, or partner developed form containing the same information. Link and Learn Taxes Certification list must be secured prior to doing/conducting the review to validate volunteer certification. Also validate the site coordinator attended Site Coordinator Training and ensure SPECTRM correctly reflects the same.

  6. Reviewers will use Form 6729-D, Remote Site Review Sheet.

  7. Discuss the results of the review with the site coordinator. The feedback discussion contains the same elements as the feedback discussion for FSV.

  8. Send the results email to the partner and site coordinator (and state coordinator, if AARP) within seven business days. The TM may allow additional business days based on the TC workload.

  9. TC will enter Form 6729-D into the SPECTRM Site Quality Module (SQM) after completing the review. The Form 6729-D should be entered into SPECTRM no later than Tuesday of the week following the review.

  10. If a TC is unable to meet published deadlines due to unforeseen circumstances, the TC must notify their TM immediately. Published deadlines are provided for:

    • Entering results in the SQM

    • Issuing the final results

    • Completing the case file.

  11. Use the following references to assist with remote site reviews of VITA and TCE operations:

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator Handbook

    • Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights

    • Publication 4012, VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet

    • Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements

    • Interactive Tax Assistance (ITA)

    • Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA), AARP Cyber Tax Messages (ACTM), and Quality Site Requirement Alerts (QSRA)

    • www.irs.gov

  12. Reviewers must discuss the site’s activities, processes, and procedures while conducting the review. The site coordinator or their representative may be asked for clarification/proof of site processes.

  13. In all cases, reviewers must take the opportunity to express gratitude and appreciation to the Site Coordinator and volunteers at the site.

  14. The Territory Manager will make the determination of who will conduct remote site reviews. Generally, remote site reviews are conducted by the Relationship Manager or the person designated as the Territory’s remote site reviewer.

  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 Territory Manager assigns the remote site review to a reviewer other than the assigned Relationship Manager, the reviewer will provide immediate verbal feedback to the assigned relationship manager. Feedback includes providing positive comments and/or reporting any identified problem areas and providing recommended corrective actions.

  17. The Quality Area Analyst must work with each territory during the planning stages to ensure all procedures are followed. Territory Offices must implement and adhere to a process that ensures adequate oversight of all volunteer sites.

  18. Remote Site Review files will be maintained at the territory level.

Follow-Up to Remote Site Reviews
  1. When a remote site review reveals a finding on how the site operates, the reviewer will discuss the issue and its resolution with the site coordinator prior to concluding the review. A follow-up field site visit may be required to ensure adherence to a requested change in operations. These follow-up visits must be looked upon as a way to provide assistance to site coordinators to improve site operations or adopt other best practices to alleviate pitfalls they may have encountered. Follow-up visits must be conducted as soon as possible after the initial remote site review.

  2. The timing of a follow up visit may be strongly influenced by the issues to be resolved. For instance, a site needs to make changes in its electronic filing transmission process but they only transmit once a week. It would not be of benefit to visit the site when they are not transmitting. In the event the review reveals a site disregarding the QSR or any other requirements, the coordinator must be instructed on how to bring the site into compliance.

  3. A follow up visit must be conducted to ensure the site has corrected the concerns. If the site has not made the necessary corrections, consult with the Territory Manager to determine what further action must be taken. As a last resort, the Territory must follow the procedures for closing a site. Findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those identified in the Internal Referral Process, must be referred to headquarters.

    Note:

    Refer to Publication 5166, Quality Site Requirements, for additional guidance on conducting follow up visits and QSR corrective actions.

Remote Site Review Results
  1. Data is collected 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 validate site operation consistency in conjunction with the Quality Site Requirements. It also allows SPEC and its partners an ability to effectively predict the continued success of the volunteer site. The IRS territory office will analyze the data for trends or patterns and compare how a process or activity is performing before and after a solution has been put in place.

  2. Data is available in SPECTRM at the Territory, Area and National levels for analysis and for sharing with partners. The data is available in reports based on either specified weeks of activity or cumulatively for the Filing Season. On a national level, the data collected will be used to calculate accuracy measures; modify policy or process guidance; and update publications, forms and training for the upcoming filing season.

Issues Arising from Remote Site Reviews
  1. Findings related to a violation of the VSC must be reported on Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violation Report, which is submitted to headquarters through the Internal Referral Process.

  2. Findings related to any of the QSR must be resolved using the QSR corrective actions guidance. Findings not covered in the QSR or corrective actions, such as those identified in the Internal Referral Process, must be referred to headquarters.

Internal/External Referrals
  1. SPEC employees or managers may identify "potential" problems at the site or individual volunteer level while completing QSS or field visits that they determine require additional, independent scrutiny. For this purpose, SPEC developed an internal referral process to provide an opportunity for referral of sites, partners or volunteers to headquarters. Based on the internal referral to OPQ, the Chief OPQ will determine if a request to add the partner and/or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry IRM 22.30.1.8.13.12 will be forwarded to the SPEC Director. Only the SPEC Director makes the determination whether a partner or volunteer is added to the Volunteer Registry. Chief OPQ can also recommend a referral review be conducted by headquarters. Rather than a "random" based visit, these reviews will focus on sites where potential problems may exist and thus will be a very strong deterrent in the overall process. Unlike QSS where progressive action is taken to mediate an identified error, the reviewer will take immediate actions if the allegations included in the referral are accurate.

  2. Similar to the internal referral process, there is an external referral process providing taxpayers, volunteers, site coordinators, etc. an opportunity to report a problem encountered at a VITA and TCE site. To facilitate this process, taxpayers are encouraged to report problems by sending an email to wi.voltax@irs.gov.. The reviewer will take progressive actions to mediate an identified error, if the allegations included in the referral are accurate.

Internal Referral Process
  1. The purpose of the internal referral process is to provide employees guidance on what to do when an external stakeholder (SPEC partner, VITA and TCE site, or individual volunteer) exhibits behavior which could jeopardize the integrity of the VITA and TCE programs. This process was developed to ensure that taxpayers using the services offered through the VITA and TCE programs could be confident they are receiving accurate return preparation.

  2. Partners, VITA and TCE sites, or individual volunteer behavior must be compliant with the fundamental foundation of the SPEC VITA and TCE programs to ensure their continued growth and instill taxpayer trust. Behavior of volunteers or partners that diminish taxpayer trust may endanger the integrity and effectiveness of the VITA and TCE programs, and therefore must be quickly identified and removed from the program.

High Risk Attributes
  1. SPEC created the Internal Referral Process to allow our employees to report partners, sites, or volunteers who exhibit high-risk attributes . When these or other similar actions are exhibited in part or in whole, a referral must be made to SPEC headquarters for further review/assessment of the allegations.

    • Violations to the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (VSC)

    • Disregard of partner, site or volunteer adherence to SPEC’s QSR

    • Lack of organizational oversight to site operations

    • Poor or no communications with the SPEC territory office

    • Carelessness or lack of partner, site, or volunteer to protection of taxpayer data and/or adherence to SPEC’s security requirements

    • Charging of fees for services offered at VITA and TCE sites

    • Actions that indicate partner or volunteer lack of ethical standards

    • Violation of IRS electronic filing rules and/or standards as defined in Publications 3112, IRS e-file Application and Participation and/or 1345, Handbook for Authorized IRS e-file Providers of Individual Income Tax Returns

    • Frequent complaints received from taxpayer’s visiting the site

SPEC Response to an Internal Referral
  1. When an internal referral is made to headquarters, Chief OPQ will determine if a referral review is warranted to confirm the allegation. A scenario will be used during the review that will be designed to validate the specific allegation. Chief OPQ will also determine if a recommendation to add the partner and/or volunteer to the Volunteer Registry will be forwarded to the SPEC Director. Only the SPEC Director can add partners and/or volunteers to the Volunteer Registry.

Making an Internal Referral
  1. To make an internal referral, SPEC employees must notify their manager immediately and complete Form 14511 Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report, Include enough information in the referral to identify the “high risk” behavior exhibited by the partner, site, and or volunteer that prompted the referral. Include any actions taken by the territory office to deter this behavior. Information such as the site identification number (SIDN), the name and location of the site, and the name(s) of the volunteer and/or partner must be included.

  2. If the referral is being made by a tax consultant, he/she must notify their territory manager immediately and complete Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. The territory manager will determine what immediate actions must be taken at the site and/or partner level. The territory manager will notify their Area Director and forward the completed Form 14511 to headquarters. If the AD concurs, he/she will notify the Chief of OPQ and sign and forward Form 14511 to headquarters. The Chief OPQ will review the situation and determine the next course of action; which could include a referral review. Chief OPQ will notify the SPEC Director.

  3. If the referral is being made by a headquarters employee or QSS reviewer, he/she must notify their manager immediately and complete Form 14511,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. The manager will notify the Chief, QPO, who will then notify the Chief OPQ. The Chief, OPQ will review the situation and determine the next course of action; which could include a referral review. Chief OPQ will notify the SPEC Director.

Internal Referral Review Planned Actions
  1. Once a referral is received, the Chief, OPQ will review the allegations and will determine if a referral review warrants further investigation. All referral reviews will be conducted by headquarters staff. Referral reviews can be conducted year-round. The referral reviews will be designed to validate the specific allegations.

  2. Once the referral review is completed, the reviewer will provide their findings and mitigation recommendations to the director of SPEC, the director of headquarters operations, the Chief, OPQ, the Chief, QPO, and the appropriate area director.

  3. The actions taken by headquarters will be representative of the referral review findings and will be determined by the parties above. Actions taken can include up to removing the partner/site/volunteer from the VITA and TCE program.

External Referral Process
  1. Resembling the internal referral reviews, the scenarios used to evaluate the site will be designed to uncover the specifics of the allegations or reason for the referral. Notification to the territory manager and area director will be made prior to the referral review being conducted.

External Referral Territory Responsibility
  1. Territory offices are responsible for ensuring all VITA and TCE sites are aware of the new products developed for the referral process and ensuring compliance.

  2. Publications 4836 EN/SP), VITA and TCE Free Tax Preparation Program, provide information for reporting problems and includes the above toll-free telephone number. The toll free number is also included on Publication 703 and Form 13614-C Poster. All VITA and TCE sites are required to display Publication 4836 (EN/SP) in a visible location to facilitate taxpayer awareness of the opportunity to make a referral.

External Referral Review
  1. Once a referral is received, the Chief, OPQ will review the allegations and will determine if a referral review is appropriate. All referral reviews will be conducted by headquarters staff. Referral reviews can be conducted year-round. The referral reviews will be designed to validate the allegations.

External Referral Review Planned Actions
  1. Once the referral review is completed, the reviewer will provide their findings and mitigation recommendations to the director of SPEC, the director of headquarter operations, the AD, the Chief, OPQ, and the Chief, QPO.

  2. All findings and actions to mitigate the identified risks will be shared with the partner.

  3. The actions taken by headquarters will be representative of the referral review findings and will be determined by the parties above. Actions taken can include up to removing the partner/site/volunteer from the VITA and TCE program.

VolTax Referrals
  1. SPEC has processes in place to help deter opportunities for fraudulent behavior through increased IRS visibility at VITA and TCE sites. Additionally, appropriate measures are taken to ensure that volunteers and site coordinators understand the process of posting proper signage to alert taxpayers of the process to report improper activity they may witness or experience at sites. These processes provide reasonable assurance that intentionally unethical or illegal acts are not occurring at sites.

  2. The VolTax referral process provides an email address where volunteers and taxpayers have the opportunity to contact the IRS must they want to report site operating issues or inappropriate behavior witnessed at sites. Volunteers and taxpayers can send an email to wi.voltax@irs.gov.

  3. Publication 4836, VITA and TCE Free Tax Programs, is required to be displayed at the site in a visible location to facilitate awareness of the opportunity to make a referral. Form 13614-CIntake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, and Publication 730,Important Tax Records Envelope, also include the email address.

Headquarters Responsibility for VolTax
  1. Referrals received through the wi.voltax@irs.gov mailbox in SPEC headquarters will be reviewed by an OPQ Analyst to determine if fraudulent or inappropriate behavior indicators concerning volunteers or sites are present. Inquiries received will be addressed within 7 seven business days of receipt by the headquarters analyst.

  2. For inquiries related to tax law or tax account issues, the taxpayer will be directed to irs.gov or 1-800-829-1040. For inquiries related to refund issues, the taxpayer will be directed to Where's My Refund on irs.gov or 1-800-829-1954.

  3. For inquiries related to rude or unprofessional behavior by volunteers, or specific site issues such as long wait times, incorrect returns, site closed, etc. headquarters will send information to the Area Analyst with a carbon copy to the chief of staff and area director as feedback for the territory manager to share and discuss with the site within seven business days of the notification. For these type issues, no response to headquarters will be necessary.

  4. For inquiries related to volunteer/site ethics, including illegal activity, immediate action will be taken. The analyst will advise the Chief of OPQ of the allegation. If the allegation warrants a visit to the site/partner location, the manner in which the visit will be handled will be appropriate to the allegation. For instance, if the allegations warrant shopping the location, the headquarters analyst will make the necessary arrangements within seven business days. The area director and chief of staff may be contacted by headquarters and asked to investigate the inquiry further and/or contact the taxpayer if necessary.

  5. The Chief, OPQ will notify the director of SPEC, AD and territory manager of the review. Where appropriate, Chief, OPQ will consult with Chief, Quality Program Office (QPO) and director SPEC to determine if support must be withdrawn and the relationship with the partner dissolved and/or if the matter must be referred to either the Criminal Investigation Division (CID) or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). A close-out report of all actions taken to correct or resolve the alleged issue is to be provided to Chief, OPQ and OPQ Analyst within 30 business days unless additional time is requested. The procedures for addressing non-compliance to SPEC Quality Site Requirements will be used as a guide in determining the appropriate corrective actions.

Area/Territory Responsibility for VolTax
  1. When necessary, the OPQ Analyst may refer the inquiry to the appropriate area and territory for a response. It will be the responsibility of the receiving office to take corrective actions or conduct a Field Site visit if appropriate within 7 business days of receipt and notification. A copy of the actions taken to correct or resolve the issue must be sent to the OPQ Analyst and the Chief, QPO within 10 business days of completion of the corrective action taken. It will also be the responsibility of the receiving office to provide the inquirer with the appropriate resolution or response if warranted.

Volunteer Return Preparation Program Preparer Misconduct
  1. Return preparer misconduct generally involves the orchestrated preparation and filing of false income tax returns (in either paper or electronic form), including Form 1040X, by unscrupulous preparers who may 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:

    The preparer’s clients may or may not have knowledge of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on their tax returns.

  2. Taxpayers may become aware of misconduct through taxpayer initiated contact (Toll-Free, Field Assistance, Taxpayer Advocate Service, etc.) or through IRS enforcement investigative processes (Revenue Agent (RA) or Tax Compliance Officer (TCO) contact, Automated Underreporter (AUR) correspondence, campus examination correspondence, Revenue Officer (RO) contact, Criminal Investigation (CI) inquiries, etc)

  3. This section of the IRM provides general information and guidance to address Return Preparer Misconduct (RPM) at Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites where taxpayers failed to receive the refund they requested and/or an additional refund amount was misdirected to another account without their knowledge or consent. These procedures must be used to assist taxpayers who may be victims of return preparer misconduct.

Headquarters Responsibility
  1. The Identity Theft Victims Assistance (IDTVA) function under WI:CAS:AM may receive claims from taxpayers regarding RPM at a VITA/TCE site. These cases will be referred to SPEC Headquarters for review and forwarding to the appropriate Area Chief of Staff for action by the Territory Office and completion of the IDVTA Referral Sheet. The Area will return the referral sheet to HQ for review and response to IDVTA within 7 business days. Headquarters will forward the completed referral form to IDVTA within 10 business days.

Territory Responsibility
  1. If a VITA/TCE partner alerts a SPEC employee of potential RPM at a VITA/TCE site, the territory must determine if the error was:

    1. Unintentional (a mistake) - if so, refer to IRM 22.30.1.8.13.7.3.3Partner Responsibilities

    2. Intentional (without the taxpayer’s knowledge or consent) - if so, refer to 22.30.1.3.13.7.3.5.

  2. If IDVTA alerts SPEC of potential RPM at a VITA/TCE site, the territory must contact the partner to determine if they are aware of the infraction and if they have made the taxpayer whole.

  3. The Area/Territory will have seven business days to follow-up with the appropriate partner and forward the completed IDVTA Referral Sheet to Headquarters.

  4. If warranted, the Area/Territory must follow normal procedures provided in IRM section 22.30.1.3.13.7.1, Internal Referrals, to report incidents of partner, site, or volunteer misconduct. To make an internal referral, SPEC employees must notify their manager and complete Form 14511, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Violations Report. Form 14511 must be submitted to the Headquarters Analyst for a final determination by the Director of SPEC.

Partner Responsibility
  1. When a volunteer mistakenly enters the incorrect bank account number on the taxpayer’s account, the partner must advise the taxpayer of 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 ad submitting it.

    2. If the return has not already posted, the taxpayer can ask the IRS to stop the direct deposit by calling 1-800-829-1040, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

    3. If the financial institution designated on the return has accepted the deposit, the taxpayer must work directly with the financial institution to recover their funds.

    4. Generally, if the financial institution recovers the funds and returns them to the IRS, the IRS will send 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 will need to file Form 3911, Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund to initiate a trace. This allows the IRS to contact the bank on the taxpayer’s behalf to attempt recovery of the refund.

  2. If the taxpayer is unable to recover their refund or the financial institution does not return the refund to the IRS, SPEC VITA and TCE partners are encouraged to provide relief to a taxpayer when a volunteer mistakenly enters the incorrect bank account number on a taxpayer’s return that ultimately causes the refund to be deposited into the incorrect account resulting in a taxpayer not receiving his/her refund. This scenario is not considered to be return preparer misconduct.

IRS Responsibility
  1. The IRS may provide 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 portion or all of a refund.

  2. The following are a couple of scenarios that could result in the IRS providing relief to a taxpayer:

    1. A correct return is filed except the VITA or TCE volunteer income tax preparer intentionally misdirects the refund by placing the volunteer’s bank account on the tax return without the taxpayer’s knowledge or consent.

    2. Items on the tax return are inflated after the taxpayer signs Form 8879, IRS e-File Signature Authorization, and the taxpayer receives his/her refund but later becomes aware of inflated items and did not receive the inflated amount of the refund.

Taxpayer Responsibility
  1. The following procedures must be used by taxpayers alleging preparer misconduct at VITA/TCE sites. Taxpayers who claim to be a victim of return preparer misconduct at a VITA/TCE site must submit a complaint and the required documentation to the IRS to request assistance and relief.

  2. In order for the taxpayer(s) complaint to be considered, the taxpayer(s) must submit the following:

    1. Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit in its entirety and sign under penalties and perjury. If the filing status is Married Filing Joint, at least one signature is required. Taxpayers may refer to page 3 of Form 14157-A for specific instructions on additional documentation requirements.

    2. Form 14157, Return Preparer Complaint, in its entirety. Information provided on this form will be shared with SPEC and the Return Preparer Office (RPO) to report misconduct. The taxpayer must not send a duplicate copy to RPO.

      Note:

      Section A of Form 14157 must be completed for consideration.

  3. The completed Form 14157-A must be placed on top of all other required documentation and mailed as follows:.

    1. If the taxpayer is submitting the information in response to a notice or letter received from the IRS, the completed forms, documentation and a copy of the notice or letter must be mailed to the address contained in that notice or letter.

    2. If the taxpayer did not receive a notice from the IRS, the completed forms and other documentation must be mailed to the IRS address where the taxpayer normally mails Form 1040. To locate the proper mailing address, go to irs.gov key word search Where to File Addresses and then link to Taxpayers and Professionals- Where to File Individual Tax Returns .

  4. Refer to IRM 25.24 for additional information on Return Preparer Misconduct Victim’s Assistance Program.

Post Filing Season Reviews
  1. As a part of post filing season oversight, the QPO conducts post filing season QSS reviews. These reviews are based on Statistics of Income (SOI) selected sites and can run until the end of the fiscal year.

  2. SPEC Shopping may also continue as a part of post filing season oversight. For additional information on SPEC Shopping Reviews IRM 22.30.1.8.13.10SPEC Shopping Reviews.

Partner Reviews
  1. All partners are strongly encouraged to conduct Site and Return reviews at their volunteer sites to help in ensuring consistency in site operations and affirmation of accurate return preparation. The partner organization must establish a schedule to visit the sites in their areas, using a standardized approach including establishing a frequency of review, a method in conducting reviews and performing follow-up reviews.

  2. The partner will determine who and how these reviews will be performed. Reviewers who conduct partner reviews must be certified in tax law to the level of certification needed for returns prepared at the site.

  3. To assist partners with these reviews, Form 6729-P, Partner Return Review Sheet, can be used to capture results of return reviews, and Form 6729-D, Site Review Sheet can be used to capture the results of the site review. Publication 5140, Job Aid: Partner Site and Return Reviews, is available to guide the partner through evaluating QSR compliance, determining return accuracy and completing the forms. Since these partner tools are optional, partners may use other forms they have developed for this purpose.

  4. During pre-filing season meetings and discussions relationship managers (RM) must encourage partners to conduct site and return reviews. RMs must offer assistance in setting up a review schedule, discuss the components of a site review, and promote the available resources (Forms 6729-D & 6729-P, Publications 1084, 5166, 5140, 4299, 4396-A).

SPEC Shopping Reviews
  1. SPEC shopping reviews are designed to test the volunteer’s understanding of the taxpayers experience, tax law accuracy, and adherence to the VSC and QSR.

  2. SPEC shopping reviews will include headquarters and area tax analysts posing as a taxpayer using predefined scenarios to have their federal tax return prepared by a certified volunteer preparer. Scenarios used for the reviews are based on several factors including:

    • Characteristics of returns prepared

    • New legislation

    • Prior TIGTA findings

    • SPEC organization findings, etc.

  3. The Quality Program Office (QPO) will provide oversight of the SPEC shopping review program. Shopping reviewers are required to plan and conduct all reviews.

Purpose
  1. The purpose of SPEC shopping reviews is to gauge the taxpayer experience at VITA/TCE sites. All reviews are unannounced. Most of the reviews are conducted during the filing season, however some may occur during the post filing season.

  2. The SPEC shopping review consists of the following:

    • 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 reviewers will have a pre-defined taxpayer scenario and will 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 quality review has been completed 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 will conduct a post shopping site review immediately after the shopping return review. The post site review will measure the site’s adherence to the and Quality Site Requirements.

  5. Since these are not statistically valid sampled reviews, they are not a measure of accuracy for the VITA/TCE Programs and will not be used to measure the accuracy of returns prepared by VITA/TCE volunteers. QSS reviews will continue to be used as the measure of accuracy for the VITA/TCE Programs.

Unannounced Review – Manager Responsibilities
  1. All shopping reviews are unannounced. The reviewer will not notify the territory manager, relationship manager, or area quality analyst.

  2. Chief QPO is responsible for selecting shopping reviewers. Chief QPO will ensure the shopping reviewer is adhering to SPEC shopping review policy and guidance, taw law determinations, and case file documentation. Chief QPO will approve all travel requests.

Training and Certification
  1. The shopping reviewers are required to complete the following training/certifications:

    • Filing Season Readiness (FSR) training and Knowledge Check

    • VSC certification

    • Intake/Interview and Quality Review certification

    • Site Coordinator Training

    • SPEC shopping review CPE – all sessions

    • Tax law certification (at a minimum) at the Basic level

Selecting Sites for Review
  1. Each year the Statistics of Income (SOI) Office determines the number of shopping reviews and makes the selection based on criteria established by SPEC. QPO provides SOI with the prior year site listing and prior year return information from SPECTRM.

VITA/TCE Site Selection
  1. The shopping reviewer will research the site identification number (SIDN) in SPECTRM from the SOI listing. If the SIDN or site name is different from the Statistics of Income (SOI) list, follow these instructions:

    • First (search by SIDN): If the selected site is present and open in SPECTRM with the same name and same SIDN, it will be reviewed.

    • Second (search by SIDN): If the selected site is present and open in SPECTRM with the same SIDN but the name and/or address is different, it will be reviewed. The review will be based the SIDN listed on the SOI list and the updated information in SPECTRM.

    • Third (search by Site Name): If the selected site is present and open in SPECTRM with the same name but the SIDN has changed it will be reviewed. The review will be based on the site name if the SIDN does not exist in SPECTRM.

    • Last: If the selected site is not present by SIDN or site name in SPECTRM, it will not be reviewed and must be referred to Chief QPO. These sites will be marked as un-open on the SPEC Shopping Review Scheduling Worksheet located on the quality shared drive.

Assigning Sites
  1. Chief QPO will distribute and assign the SOI selected sites to each shopping reviewer. The distribution of sites is based on geographic location of both the site and the shopping reviewer to optimize the most effective cost savings to the government.

Assigned Scenario
  1. The shopping reviewer will be provided a briefing paper describing their assigned scenario; a completed Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet describing how the intake sheet must be completed, if requested; 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

    • VMIS Locator (for AARP sites)

    • 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 will determine if a site is still open. Reviewers must prepare to visit both primary and back-up sites and complete three shopping reviews during the selected week. If any selected sites are appointment only for either a primary or back-up site, appointments must be made as early as possible. All primary and back-up sites must be scheduled and entered into the quality shared drive. Shopping reviewers are responsible for any changes in their schedules and must keep the shared drive updated on a weekly basis.

  2. QPO will issue Form W-2 and Form 1099 income statements and provide a fictitious employer identification numbers (EIN) for the income statements. Identification numbers must be safe-guarded and, upon completion of all of the shopping reviews, dispose of the remaining source documents and any information containing PII. Statements will remain the same throughout the filing season even if multiple states are visited. QPO will mail original documents however, if additional documents are necessary, 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

    • Form W-2,Wage and Tax Statement,Form 1099-MISC,, and Form 1099-R, etc

    • Receipts, if any

  2. The shopping reviewer must begin observing 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. It is critical to be familiar with the scenario Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet, prior to the shopping review. Documents must be shared when requested by the greeter, volunteer preparer, or quality reviewer. Complete Form 13614-C, Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet or the intake/interview sheet given, using the assigned scenario.

Completing the Interview
  1. Shopping reviewers must allow the certified volunteer preparer to control the interview. All documentation must be provided to the volunteer preparer to complete a tax return.

Denial of Service
  1. If denied service, the SPEC shopping reviewer will not reveal his/her identity at that site. Instead, select a back up site to review in the area.

Preparing/ Quality Reviewing and Signing the Return
  1. After the tax return is prepared, quality reviewed, and the shopper is asked to sign the return, the SPEC shopper must reveal his/her identity and present their IRS Smart Card.

    Note:

    If the return is prepared, the shopper may be asked to sign the return prior to the quality review. The shopper must ask the volunteer if they are finished after they sign the return. If yes, the process is complete, the shopper must identify him/herself. However if the volunteer states, the return has to 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 is before you sign 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 or any other Intake/Interview Sheet and Quality Review Sheet used, and all supporting documents. If the tax return was completed using electronic preparation software, shopping reviewers are responsible for ensuring the return is deleted from the system. Follow the provided instruction to ensure the return is deleted and erased from the software. This will ensue the return cannot be retrieved after the shopper leaves the site.

Conducting the Post Shopping Site Review
  1. After verifying the tax return is deleted, conduct a SPEC post shopping site review using Form 6729,Site Review Sheet, and job aid. A post shopping site review must be conducted to determine site adherence to the QSR and VSC. A completed copy of Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, (database copy from the SPECTRM Reports manager) must be added to the shopping case file.

Verbal Feedback with Site Coordinator
  1. After the post shopping site review, the shopping reviewer must explain that the relationship manager will email the final results within two weeks. However if areas of non-compliance to the QSR and/or VSC are identified, corrective actions will be recommended to the site coordinator prior to leaving the site and included in the written feedback to the territory manager.

Post Review Notification
  1. Within 24 hours after leaving the site, the shopping reviewer will send a feedback email to the territory manager indicating that a shopping review was conducted using a standardized template.

  2. This email may be delayed if the shopping reviewer has other sites with the same partner in the same territory. This ensures shopping reviews with the same partner within the same territory are not compromised.

Feedback to the Site Coordinator and/or Partner
  1. The territory manager and/or relationship manager will share the final results of the shopping review with the partner/site coordinator within seven business days from the date the final results email is issued. The territory must keep a copy of the results in the partner file and must include all identified corrective actions and/or follow-up actions conducted and/or planned for the site. In addition, the email may contain a request for the territory to provide information, such as verification of volunteer certification or to complete follow-up actions for non-compliance of the Quality Site Requirements. This email will not provide any results from the shopping review. It will only provide notification a shopping review was conducted and that results from the review will be provided later.

Completing Form 6729-B, Shopping Review Sheet
  1. Shopping reviewers must complete Form 6729-B,Shopping Review Sheet, after completing each shopping review. The purpose of this form is to document the shopping review. A job aid is also available and provides guidance on how to answer the questions in a consistent manner. Form 6729-BShopping Review Sheet, must be completed after leaving the volunteer site. This form must not be completed during the shopping review or at any time while at the site.

Return Accuracy
  1. Shopping reviewers must review the tax return for accuracy. A return is accurate when tax law is applied correctly and the completed return is free from error based on the taxpayer interview, their supporting documentation, and the completed Form 13614-C,Intake/Interview and Quality Review Sheet.

Scanning and Redacting the Return
  1. Once each shopping review is completed, scan all of the required documents. Names, social security numbers, bar codes, phone numbers, EIN, addresses, local business names, and any other identified PII must be redacted (removed) from the scanned return and supporting documents. If the reviewer is unable to scan and/or redact the PII from the return and supporting documents due to time limits, the un-redacted returns must be secured in a Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) folder on his/her computer. PII must be redacted prior to sending the case file to headquarters or uploading to Doc-IT.

    • DO NOT REDACT Date of Birth

    • DO NOT SCAN Social Security cards or photo IDs

Entering Form 6729 into SPECTRM Quality Database (SQM)
  1. The shopping reviewer will enter the post shopping site review results, using Form 6729,Site Review Sheet, in the SPECTRM Quality Database (SQM) the following Tuesday after the week of the shopping review. Prior to entering Form 6729, Site Review Sheet, in the SQM, a profile item of “QSH” designation must be added to the SPECTRM Site Module for the site.

Entering Form 6729-B into SQM
  1. After entering the Form 6729,Site Review Sheet, in the SQM, the shopping reviewer must enter the completed Form 6729-B,Shopping Review Sheeting the SQM.

Final Results Email
  1. Final results email must be sent to the territory manager 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 SQM copy of all Form 6729 and Site Review Sheet, Form 6729-B, Shopping Review Sheeting downloaded from SPECTRM Reports, must be sent with final results email. This email must not be sent using secured messaging since it will be shared with national and/or local partners.

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

    • Identified best practices

    • Areas of weaknesses

    • QSR non-compliant issues

    • VSC inappropriate activities

    • Corrective actions provided to the site coordinator

    • Recommended follow-up actions for the territory

Electronic Case Files
  1. Shopping review case files will be maintained electronically. After the information is entered into the SQM, an electronic case file for each site must be assembled.

Uploading Electronic Files
  1. Shopping reviewers will upload electronic case files to a designated site folder on the Quality shared drive. Electronic case files must be uploaded to Quality no later than Thursday following the week of the review.

Closing the Case File
  1. Once the case file is uploaded to the Quality shared drive, the case is closed. The shopping reviewer will maintain the redacted electronic files on their computer in an encrypted folder until September 30.

Closing the Paper Case Files
  1. If paper case files were created due to scanner failure, the shopping reviewer will mail a redacted hard copy of the case file to 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.

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

  2. These files will be scanned and added to the Quality shared drive.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Shopping Review
  1. At TIGTA’s discretion, they may choose to conduct Shopping Reviews at a sample of volunteer sites during a filing season. The reviews are conducted by a cadre of TIGTA Auditors (Shoppers). The TIGTA Shopper has a pre-defined taxpayer scenario and assumes the role of a taxpayer requesting services from a VITA or TCE site.

  2. Sites selected for review are based on a judgmental sample. TIGTA Shoppers must remain anonymous to the site during the review.

  3. The overall results from TIGTA Shopping Reviews are used to implement changes to products and volunteer training.

Volunteer Registry
  1. During recent filing seasons, the TIGTA partners and SPEC territories uncovered unacceptable practices by partners and volunteers at a few VITA/TCE sites. As a result of these actions, SPEC will maintain a Volunteer Registry.

  2. The purpose of the registry is to identify partners and volunteers that we have removed from the VITA and TCE Programs due to egregious actions. The registry will include partner or volunteer names and locations.

  3. Partners and volunteers who commit certain unethical actions will be removed from the VITA/TCE Program indefinitely. As a part of oversight of the VITA/TCE program, we will make all determinations about indefinitely removing a volunteer or partner. The Volunteer Registry has been established to provide a central listing of all removed partners and volunteers. All requests for inclusion in this registry must be approved by the director of SPEC or his/her designee. Notification of this registry is included on Form 13615,Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs and the VSC training.

  4. 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 deemed to cause negative impact on the VITA/TCE Program

  5. There are no appeal rights for requesting removal from the Volunteer Registry.

  6. All removed partners and volunteers will be added to the IRS/SPEC Volunteer Registry located in SPECTRM. The Volunteer Registry is located in the partner and Contact Modules of SPECTRM and is identified as “Discharged Partner” or “Discharged Volunteer” profile items. Once the SPEC director approves a request for addition to the Volunteer Registry, the designated headquarters analyst will add the partner’s or volunteer’s name and associate the appropriate profile item.

  7. When a partner or volunteer is added to the Volunteer Registry, the area and territory manager will be notified. The area director will issue notice of being placed on the registry to the applicable partner or volunteer.

  8. Territory managers and tax consultants are required to review the volunteer registry reports as the territory receives Form 13533, Sponsor AgreementsForm 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Reports, or similar listings containing the same information. If a partner or volunteer appears on both the Volunteer Registry and Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report orForm 13533,Sponsor Agreements, the partner or volunteer must be notified that they can never participate in the VITA/TCE program. If the partner or volunteer makes another attempt to participate after this notification, TIGTA must be contacted.

Performance Reviews
  1. Territory managers conduct Performance Reviews during Field Site Visits to ensure tax consultants are obtaining the necessary information during the visits to complete Form 6729,Site Review Sheet.

  2. Territory managers must perform at least one field review on each tax consultant who conducts field site visits or assistance visits. Form 14526,Field Site Visit Employee Performance Review Sheet, was developed to provide territory managers a tool to ensure all critical steps are addressed during the field site visits. The use of Form 14526 is optional. The territory manager and the tax consultants must sign and date the Employee Performance Review Sheet. Signing the form indicates the review has been shared with the tax consultant. The documentation must be shared as soon as possible, but no later than 15 workdays after the date of the review.

Volunteer Tax and Quality Site Requirement Alerts
  1. The purpose of issuing Volunteer Tax Alerts (VTA) is to update, correct, or clarify tax law topics. VTA messages have proven to be a useful educational tool and are most valuable when delivered immediately to their intended audience, SPEC VITA and TCE partners and their certified volunteers. VTAs must be distributed as quickly as possible to sites and volunteers.

  2. The purpose of Quality Site Requirement Alerts (QSRA) is to update, correct, or clarify site operational procedures and/or processes as they generally relate to the ten QSR. QSRAs are a useful educational tool and need to be delivered immediately to their intended audience (VITA and TCE partners and their certified volunteers).

Distribution of Alerts
  1. "Alerts" (VTA and QSRA) are prepared by SPEC headquarters.

  2. Alerts are input into GovDelivery.

  3. Alerts are distributed as follows:

    • Emailed directly to employees and partners via GovDelivery

    • Posted on the vendor resource center on IRS.gov

    • Posted on the SPEC intranet site

  4. VTA messages will only include tax law updates. QSRA will not contain any tax law updates or changes to SPEC processes and/or policies. SPEC process and/or policy changes will be distributed to SPEC employees via QQRA.

  5. Headquarters will aid partner and volunteer education efforts regarding Alerts and/or how to receive them including information in the following products:

    • Publication 4396, Partner Package

    • Publication 1084, IRS Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

    • Publication 4012, VITA and TCE Volunteer Resource Guide

    • Publication 4491/4555,VITA and TCE Training Guide

    • Volunteer Roles and Responsibilities

    • LLT (online Training Module)

Quality Reviewer Alerts
  1. The purpose of QRA is to update, correct, or clarify policy or guidance for conducting site reviews during the filing season. Quality Reviewer Alerts have proven to be a useful educational tool and are most valuable when delivered immediately to their intended audience, SPEC employees.

Foreign Student and Scholar Program

  1. International students and scholars are W&I customers. 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 form with the IRS as long as they remain nonresident aliens for federal income tax purposes.

  2. SPEC's role in the foreign student/scholar program is to encourage universities and colleges to establish self-sufficient VITA sites specializing in the preparation of Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return;/ Form 1040NR-EZ, Income Tax Return for Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents; 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 will:

    1. Develop relationships with partners who are willing to provide assistance to foreign students and scholars.

    2. Encourage established VITA sites to expand their service to include assistance to foreign students and scholars

    3. .Provide statistical information relating to activities performed in relation to this program.

    4. Provide partner self sufficiency.

    5. Provide assistance with ordering and supplies for the VITA sites as necessary

    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 area analyst.

    7. Volunteers with international questions can visit http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Students-and-Scholars . The answer to many general international federal tax matters impacting individual taxpayers can be found by visiting the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters at Frequently Asked Questions About International Individual Tax Matters.

    8. Conduct periodic visits to VITA sites.

    9. Other activities performed relative to the foreign student/scholar population are at the discretion of the territory manager.

  2. The SPEC area office will:

    1. Develop, coordinate, and monitor 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 maintain reporting requirements.

    4. Request reports, i.e., statistical, as needed from the territory offices.

    5. Provide reports on a National level to interested functions.

    6. Conduct periodic visits to VITA/TCE sites.

Technical Inquiries
  1. Volunteers are prohibited from using the "VITA Hotline" to obtain assistance regarding topics related to the preparation of the returns/forms mentioned in (1). The answer to many general international federal tax matters impacting individual taxpayers can be found by visiting the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters refer to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About International Individual Tax Matters

Electronic IRS - Overview

  1. The concept of Electronic IRS is to provide a central source for all online transactions that can be accomplished electronically with the IRS. The Electronic IRS is a gateway to the many electronic options available to individual and business taxpayers, tax professionals, software companies, and tax exempt organizations. Electronic IRS encompasses electronic filing options, electronic signature methods, electronic payment options, Services (online application) and Direct Deposit, to name a few.

SPEC and Electronic IRS
  1. SPEC is impacted by the following Electronic IRS components:

    • Electronic Filing (e-file)

    • Federal/State E-File

  2. IRS e-file is a process by which tax returns are submitted to the IRS by way of data communications and processed electronically through front-end edits. Tax return data is transmitted over telephone lines in the form of electronic records to a designated Submission Processing Center. Returns filed may 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 irs.gov Filing 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 additional information concerning the 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 3.42.5.11, Federal/State Electronic Filing for additional information.

Electronic Signature Options
  1. EROs (including volunteers) are required to use either the Self-Select PIN or Practitioner PIN method to electronically sign an individual tax return.

  2. The Self-Select PIN method is a paperless signature by a taxpayer who uses a five digit PIN that they selected. The Practitioner PIN method is where the taxpayer authorizes 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 3.42.5.9, General Information and Overview of Signatures for IRS e-file Returns for additional information on electronic signature options.

Online Application
  1. The IRS e-file Application must be completed online. Users must create an IRS e-services account and then submit 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 will create a profile by selecting a username, password, site phrase, and site image that will be needed to log in. Users must pass the Secure Access Authentication online or they will be unable to register and submit the IRS e-file application. Applications can be started and saved in progress and modifications to the applications can be made quickly and easily without restarting the process. The delegation of authority feature allows principals, or responsible officials of the firm/organization, to delegate e-services to their employees.

Direct Deposit
  1. Taxpayers have the option 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 also 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. There are several publications that support the IRS e-file Program. 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:

    These documents can be downloaded from http://www.irs.gov using the key search words "e-file publications."

e-Help Desk
  1. The e-Help Desk is staffed with assistors that are 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. The toll-free number for the e-Help Desk is 1-866-255-0654. SPEC personnel have been given the authority to contact the e-Help Desk when SPEC is "representing" the customer.

Third Party Data Store
  1. The Third Party Data Store (TPDS) is a secure repository comprised of relational tables that store data taken from various fields found on the e-services applications (Online e-file Application to participate in IRS e-file), TIN Matching, and the Transcript Delivery System (TDS). TPDS tracks activity using the EFIN of the e-file provider.

  2. Access to data stored in TPDS is through the applicable e-services application. External trading partners can access e-services through the Integrated Enterprise Portal (IEP)..

  3. Permission to access TPDS is a two-step process:

    1. Register for Employee Portal Portal access using the User Registration

    2. Register for Product access using the Online 5081

  4. An employee must complete both processes, and obtain managerial approval before they can access TPDS.

Online Resources
  1. There are a variety of on-line tools available for researching information that will assist an employee with marketing/promotion of electronic products and services.

    1. IRS Web Site -Visit irs.gov for all tax related information.

    2. Electronic IRS - Visit Information for IRS e-file Providers to find out about all available electronic products and services. There are links to 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. This tool can be used by both employees and the public.

    3. QuickAlerts Messaging - QuickAlerts is a web-based solution with the capability to disseminate mass messages within seconds to all subscribers. It is a "push" technology (pro-active) system that is used to communicate messages to Authorized IRS e-file Providers (EROs, Software Developers and Transmitters). Subscribers will receive communications concerning 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, and/or QuickAlerts Messaging System Brochure to learn more about subscribing.

    4. QuickAlerts Messaging for IRS Employees -The option to receive QuickAlerts messages is available to all IRS employees. Visit QuickAlerts “More” e-file benefits for Tax Professionals to learn more about subscribing.

    5. 1040 Central - Visit 1040 Central This is the 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 replicates the content found on the 1040 Central page of irs.gov, but also includes items of special interest to IRS. For example, there is a Filing Season Quick Reference guide for employees that has helpful reminders and highlights new, important topics, and tax law changes that impact the taxpaying public. The guide also has important telephone numbers and key filing season messages.

    7. Web News Center - Visit IRWeb for a multitude of media/communications products..

SPEC Total Relationship Management (SPECTRM)

  1. SPECTRM is a database that resides in a network environment with SPEC employees in each territory office having access to the application. SPECTRM is the management information system (MIS) for SPEC.

  2. The SPEC territory offices are responsible for input, validation and continued monitoring of the system to ensure it accurately reflects current data within all modules. This is key to SPEC having good information as SPECTRM is used for a multitude of reporting activities.

  3. It integrates a number of different modules to provide an overall management information system. They are:

    • Partners Module - The partners information module includes contact information for the organization, contacts of the organization (people), the partner profile providing a view of partner’s abilities to meet SPEC objectives 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 contains 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.

    • Equipment Module - The equipment module provides inventory tracking for equipment used in the VITA and TCE programs.

    • Production Module - The production module is 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 eliminate the need to maintain separate systems with similar data.

  4. SPECTRM has a number of web-based reports that can be generated using the data input into the various SPECTRM modules. Pre-designed web-based reports can be accessed 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 located on The Point.

SPECTRM Partners Module
  1. Partner information is required for all partners (includes coalitions) that deliver leveraged production. Without linking activity to a partner for tax preparation production, tax preparation production will be shown as "direct" activity.

  2. A partner is any intermediary (individual, organization, or coalition of organizations) that shares common goals and resources to facilitate and/or deliver SPEC Programs. The intermediary must contribute or provide support to sites that contribute quantitative business results for SPEC.

  3. All sites must be linked to a partner unless it is a direct site.

  4. Partner information captured in the partners module is also used to administer the annual Partner Satisfaction Survey. Information in the module must be kept up-to-date to ensure statistical validity of the sample and the information necessary to communicate with our partners. A contact with the Partner Survey role must be linked to each partner in SPECTRM. The annual Partner Survey will be sent to this 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 received federal financial assistance and whether they certify they will not discriminate against potential recipients of the assistance.

  7. The partners module also captures local affiliation with national organizations. Through linking local partners to national partners, NP is able to provide their national partners with the impact of their involvement with SPEC.

  8. When the partner is involved in tax return preparation activities, the partners must be linked to equipment loans to provide 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 provides valuable information of partner performance.

Documenting Potential Partners in SPECTRM
  1. Relationship Managers can input potential new partners into the SPECTRM Partner Module.

  2. Potential partners must be left inactive by selecting “Active-NO”.

  3. Any activity, meetings, and results of the recruitment effort must be input into the comments section.

  4. After the partner and SPEC finalize an agreement, the partner record must be made "Active-Yes" in SPECTRM.

  5. You can pull a report on Inactive Partners and any comments made will appear in the Partner Report titled "Partner Listing for Export" .

SPECTRM Contacts Module
  1. The contact module manages all volunteer information. Not all volunteers are required to be added to the module. However, those that serve in a position requiring interaction with SPEC such as site coordinator, primary partner contact, software and equipment contact or outreach contact must be recorded in SPECTRM.

  2. Information captured includes street and email addresses, phone and fax numbers, and designations of the roles the contact performs. These roles include primary contact, information provider or volunteer.

  3. Volunteer 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 be updated to reflect the delivery of site coordinator training and the delivery method.

  4. It provides the opportunity to list a contact once even though they may serve in multiple roles such as partner contact, equipment contact, site contact, or production contact.

  5. It provides key information for ensuring continued contact with those individuals which support our program. By having these contacts recorded in the system, continuity in relationships is assured even when the key relationship manager changes.

  6. It provides a method for capturing email addresses to allow for the push out of messages more quickly through email over other methods.

  7. Contact information included in this module is used by all other modules and for some reports – partners, sites, equipment, tax software orders, and production. Information must be kept current to facilitate this use. It is especially important that proper capitalization is used for the generation of Property Loan Agreements (PLA). Entering someone as "jane doe" will result in the generation of a loan agreement with "jane doe" . For a professional product, it must be input as jane doe.

  8. Contacts must only be deleted from SPECTRM once determined they are not the person in control of IRS resources (e.g., printers and computers).

SPECTRM Site Module
  1. The sites module allows the user to input tax preparation site information into SPECTRM for documenting the number, type, and location of sites providing free return preparation.

  2. Information maintained in the database is also shared with the Servicewide Electronic Research Program (SERP) used by IRS toll-free assistors to inform the public of available locations, times, and special assistance offered at sites that are open to the general public. Sites not open to the general public are not shared with SERP. The VITA Site Locator, accessible from IRS.gov, provides an internet accessible, searchable list of non-AARP volunteer tax preparation sites open to the public. The sites on the VITA Site Locator are also drawn from the SPECTRM Site module. Only complete site records meeting the SPEC criteria for listing on SERP or the VITA Site Locator posting are shown. Missing or incomplete information will prevent 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. Any special services provided at a site must be input.

  4. It is imperative that all leveraged sites are linked to the Primary partner that is operating the site. The sites not linked to a partner are considered direct sites in SPECTRM and will not be counted as leveraged activity in the production reports. Grant related sites must also be linked to the appropriate Supporting Partner considered to be the Grant partner for the site. This may or may not be the Primary partner, depending on the partner receiving the grant.

  5. All VITA and TCE non-AARP sites must be input into SPECTRM by the territory, even if they will not be open to the general public. Sites not open to the general public may include sites on military bases limited to base personnel or sites open to residents of a housing complex.

  6. Basic AARP site information is provided by National AARP Tax-Aide and imported to SPECTRM. For AARP sites, territory office relationship managers 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 partner (if applicable) to the Site record in SPECTRM.

  7. If a site operates in different locations, then each location must be entered 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 are only considered active sites for the current year once the box “open for XXXX” is marked as “Yes”. XXXX is the current year, e.g., 2011, 2012, etc. If the data is not confirmed, do not check the “open for XXXX” box.

    Note:

    If the “open for XXX” box is checked but the site does not open, uncheck the “open for XXXX” box. You do not need to update the Open and Close dates.

  9. For all non-AARP sites, if the site is not an appointment only site, the schedule section must be input. It is imperative that each day of the week a site is open is entered separately in the Days, Time, E-file, and Other fields. If a site is open three days, then three entries must be made showing each individual day of the week. The Time field must be entered as HH:MM. The designation for AM or PM is also required. If you input, "Yes" to e-file, then each day e-file is offered must be indicated.

  10. Once data is input into this section and the record has been saved in SPECTRM, it will populate the “gray box SERP Information” section with a continuous “string” of the days, hours, and other operation information. This is the information that is displayed in SERP for non-appointment only sites. If a site is marked appointment only, no information from this section goes to SERP. The VITA Site Locator only displays the days and hours from this section, not the other comment information.

  11. Days and hours information is not required on "appointment only" sites but a phone number is required. Be sure this is input when appointment only is checked.

  12. It is not necessary to re-input all VITA and TCE site information each year. Site information need only be updated once the information is provided by the partner. New non-AARP sites must be entered in SPECTRM.

  13. All required input fields must be input by January 15 for all sites opening in the upcoming filing season when we have good information. A field for tax software used was added to the system. This information must be confirmed annually and is used to project the number of software licenses needed.

  14. When reviewing site information for accuracy, ensure that the:

    • Zip code is correct because it is used to align sites to the territory and to populate the county information in SPECTRM and on SERP

    • Open and closed dates are correct. An incorrect open or closed date may eliminate the site from SERP

    • Appointment number is in SPECTRM for appointment only sites

    • Languages offered at the site are input in the Site Profile Section

    • Open for XXXX (Year) is marked as “Yes”

Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet
  1. The purpose of Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet is to provide a consistent method for securing accurate site information for input in SPECTRM.

  2. Site information from transfers to SERP will be posted on irs.gov. The data is used by CAS and TAC employees to provide taxpayers with volunteer site locations in local communities and is available for taxpayers searching for a free tax preparation site. It is imperative that all site information is timely and accurately input into SPECTRM.

  3. VITA and TCE non-AARP sites must use Form 13715, SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet, to notify SPEC of their site information.

  4. Relationship Managers are responsible for securing Form 13715 and inputting accurate site information into SPECTRM. This can be accomplished by:

    • Mail

    • E-mail

    • Fax

    • Hand Delivery

    • Phone Call (the Relationship Manager can complete Form 13715 through contact with the partner)

      Note:

      It is critical that partners know site and appointment information will be available on IRS.gov. If the site coordinator’s information includes a personal residence, due to security risks, established security guidelines must be used to safeguard personally identifiable information.

  5. When using Form 13715, a partner, site coordinator or SPEC employee will take action based on the site. If a new site then:

    1. Complete a new Form 13715

    2. Input the new information into SPECTRM

    3. Print the form from SPECTRM

    4. Provide form to Territory Manager for approval

    5. Check the box Open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM

    6. Maintain copy of Form 13715 in a territory file

  6. For existing sites with no updates:

    1. Send form with existing site information to the partner or site coordinator. The partner or site coordinator will review. If there are no changes, mark No Changes on the printed form

    2. Provide form to Territory Manager for approval

    3. Check the box Open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM

    4. Maintain copy of Form 13715 in territory file

  7. For existing sites with updates required:

    1. Print out existing Form 13715 from SPECTRM.

    2. Send form with existing site information to the partner or site coordinator. The partner, site coordinator, or SPEC employee must make necessary changes on the form

    3. Input new information into SPECTRM

    4. Print the form from SPECTRM

    5. Provide corrected form to territory manager for approval

    6. Check the box Open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM

    7. Maintain a copy of all Form 13715,SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet, in a territory file

  8. For site information updates/changes during the filing season:

    1. Update Form 13715 with new information and date

    2. Input the new information into SPECTRM

    3. Print the corrected form from SPECTRM

    4. Provide corrected form to territory manager for approval

    5. Maintain copy of all Form 13715,SPEC Volunteer Site Information Sheet changes in territory file

      Note:

      If a site is marked open for [applicable year] but the site does not open, un-check the box open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM to signify the site is not active for the current filing season. If a site is marked open for [applicable year] and the site does open but closes early/unexpectedly, do not un-check the box in SPECTRM. Change the Close Date to match the date the site closed.

  9. SPECTRM must be updated as Forms 13715 are completed. For sites that will open on or before February 1 of the current year, Form 13715 must be entered, updated and marked open for [the applicable year] in SPECTRM no later than January 15.

  10. If the site days, hours and location of operation are not known by January 15, the site information must be secured as it is finalized to ensure timely input.

  11. All updates/corrections to site information must be made immediately but no later than three (3) business days of receipt.

  12. Territory Managers are responsible for validating the accuracy of the information entered into SPECTRM by signing (approving) the bottom of Form 13715 and checking the box open for [applicable year] in SPECTRM to signify the site is active for the current filing season.

  13. SPEC Territory Offices must retain all Forms 13715 and any attachments (such as SPECTRM site information prints) until December 31 of the relevant tax year. After December 31, follow procedures for appropriate disposal of sensitive information.

  14. AARP is not required to use Form 13715. AARP Tax Aide site information is sent to SPEC HQ directly from the AARP Tax Aide National Office and is transferred into SPECTRM.

  15. AARP is responsible for the accuracy of its site information. If corrections are required to AARP sites, the Relationship Manager must notify the appropriate local AARP Representative. Continuous discrepancies with AARP site information must be elevated through the Area office to the SPEC HQ AARP national relationship manager for resolution.

SPECTRM Site Module Validation
  1. The information in SPECTRM is used for many purposes such as measures, site statistics, populating SERP for toll-free research, irs.gov, volunteer tax preparation software and equipment ordering. It is important that timely and accurate information is provided for all these uses. The following areas must be validated after October 1, and no later than January 15 for the filing season.

  2. Sites open to the public will only appear on the SERP VITA/TCE/AARP Site Search page if they are accurately reflected in SPECTRM. The Site Search page will only display sites currently open, or opening in the following three (3) weeks of the time the search is executed. All non-AARP sites marked Open for the prior tax year will be un-checked and changed to say “Open for (current tax year) is “No”. This update of non-AARP sites is executed near the beginning of the fiscal year. AARP sites will be updated based on an extract from AARP.

  3. For sites opened to the public after September 30, SPECTRM will need to be updated to reflect that the site is still open. To do this, territories will indicate “Yes” “Open for 20XX” (XX equals the upcoming filling season) in SPECTRM, so that the site information is populated to the SERP Site Search web-page, and the VITA Site Locator”. Complete this action by October 25 of the current year.

  4. Only the territory manager or his/her designee is allowed to make the selection to indicate a site is open. If the site has already closed, no action is necessary. This action impacts sites open to the public between Oct. 1 and December 31, so that information is readily available for the SERP Site Search web-page, and the VITA Site Locator.” With the sites posting to the VITA Site Locator on IRS.gov, it is critical that the site information be accurate.

  5. Items that must be verified for the site operations before certifying the accuracy of the data by changing the “Open for 20XX” (XX equals the upcoming filing season) box to “Yes”. Territories must ensure that all non-AARP sites are accurately reflected in SPECTRM no later than February 15 for inclusion in the official site count.

  6. All tax preparation sites are counted including sites open one-day, by appointment only, and sites closed to the general public, etc. All sites must be recorded in SPECTRM in order to demonstrate service available during the year. Territories must work with partners to secure information on sites for recordation in SPECTRM. If a site is an appointment-only site, it must include the phone number.

  7. Site identification numbers are unique identifiers used to recognize the volunteer tax preparation site and are entered 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. It is imperative that the SIDN is shown on all paper and e-filed returns.

  8. Ensuring sites are linked to the correct partner is critical for SPEC measures. It is critical that sites affiliated with partners are linked to those partners in SPECTRM. If not linked correctly, the sites will be considered a direct site.

  9. Once the annual announcement is made for the new VITA Grant partners, territories will need to update the sites covered by the grant to reflect the proper VITA Grant designation and VITA Grant partner. Territories will also need to 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. Its is important that the program type is correct. When a new site is added 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 retain 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. The program field in SPECTRM is used to stratify our production results, software and equipment orders, etc., and must be correct. See 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. A site is defined as a physical location. As the volunteer e-file program continues to grow, SPEC finds itself needing additional funding. In order to support funding requests, SPEC needs accurate data. To accurately project product needs and license requirements, SPEC needs an accurate count of all the products it provides. This field is used to capture that information.

  12. The civil rights indicator must be entered in the partner profile section in SPECTRM by January 15 for each SPEC partner. There are two fields to complete in the partner profile/partner information section in SPECTRM for each partner: • Yes - partner has a civil rights requirement (receives federal funding) • No - partner does not have a civil rights requirement (does not receive federal funding)

  13. Form 14099,SPEC Partner/Site FEAB Assessment Tool, is designed to guide the relationship manager in determining the FEAB services offered, and to assess the Engagement Activity of the partner/site locations. The data will be captured in SPECTRM. This assessment must be done on all non-AARP partners and sites listed in the partner and site module. Each partner must be linked to the appropriate national partners and sites must be linked to their Primary and Secondary (if a grant related site) partner.

SPECTRM Annual Review
  1. Area offices will perform a sample review on the data of one (1) percent of the active sites in SPECTRM as directed by headquarters. This sample review will also validate information posted to irs.gov and SERP is accurate:

  2. Area Offices must randomly select the sites for the review. In addition, sites selected must be in proportion to the number of walk-in and appointment only sites in the area. For example, if the area is required to review 115 sites and 55% of the sites in the area are appointment only sites, 63 of the sites review must be appointment only and 52 sites must be walk-in. T

    Note:

    The prior year site counts must be used to determine the number of site to be reviewed. For example, the number of sites to review for the current filing season must be based on the site counts from the previous filing season.

  3. Area Offices will review the Form 13715, SPEC Site Information Sheet, for each non-AARP site included in the review.

  4. Area Offices will compare the site information from AARP website to the information in SPECTRM. The areas will document their findings/actions in a Word document (including a screen shot of the site information from AARP’s website), pull a copy of the Form 13715 from SPECTRM, and retain this documentation (in paper or electronically) in accordance with the current 13715 guidelines (until the end of the year).

  5. Test calls to appointment only sites will be included in the review.

  6. Headquarters will provide guidance on the SPECTRM review by January 15.

  7. Area offices will perform this review annually by March 15.

  8. If corrections are required to SPECTRM information:

    • VITA/TCE Non-AARP- The area office must advise the appropriate territory office of the necessary changes. Territory offices are expected to correct the data in SPECTRM immediately.

    • AARP- The area office must advise 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 their system, but it has not been updated in SPECTRM, forward the discrepancies to the SPECTRM Help Desk for resolution.

  9. Report all SPECTRM and SERP VITA/TCE/AARP Site Search problems to Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) through the SPECTRM Help Desk.

  10. Area offices must forward results of reviews to the Oversight, Products and Quality (OPQ) SPECTRM analyst by April 1.

  11. OPQ will prepare an accuracy report of the review by May 1.

SPECTRM Equipment Module
  1. The Equipment Module in SPECTRM provides inventory information for tracking equipment used in the VITA and TCE programs and is used to place orders form laptops for shipment from the VITA and TCE Depot.

  2. Equipment on loan must be linked to a contact and partner and may be linked to a site. Information included in the module is 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 requirement to provide annual inventory certification for KISAM.

  4. All computers and printers used to support the VITA and TCE volunteer return preparation effort must be controlled on SPECTRM.

  5. The system allows for linking equipment to the contact information recorded in SPECTRM to eliminate the need to maintain separate systems with similar data. While equipment is on loan, it must reflect the appropriate contact and partner information to allow SPEC to easily locate the equipment if needed. Users may also link the equipment to a site. Although not required, this is recommended because it will provide valuable information for Relationship Managers in assessing the productivity of the site in relationship to the equipment we loan.

  6. The system provides for electronic generation of the PLA. Once equipment is assigned to a contact, the user may print the PLA for that session. Subsequent loan of other equipment will generate a different loan agreement for the additional equipment.

  7. The system will allow the reprint of a PLA and provides the user an option to display all equipment loaned or only equipment loaned on a single loan agreement.

  8. Effective controls on equipment provide territories and areas key information used to make decisions on whether to partner when technology resources are required to support the initiative.

SPECTRM Production Module
  1. The Production Module contains one form:

    1. Form 13206,Volunteer Assistance Summary Report - Used to input volunteer counts

SPECTRM Tax Software Orders Module
  1. The tax software orders module provides for 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 an order can be placed, the site must be in the sites module and must be identified as an e-file site. The site name, address, program type, SIDN, EFIN and transmitting EFIN are populated from the sites module.

  3. No changes to this information can be made in the tax software orders module. If any information is missing or inaccurate, the changes must be made in the sites module.

  4. The shipping address, shipping name, phone number, and email address, are populated from the contacts module. It is very important that the email address provided with the software order is accurate. This email address is automatically loaded in the vendor’s email group code and is used to provide shipping and update information to the individual. For this reason, do not use the IRS SPEC relationship managers email address unless the site is managed by the IRS SPEC Relationship Manager.

  5. The territory offices are responsible for the order accuracy and the input of all orders in SPECTRM.

SPECTRM Change Request
  1. When SPECTRM users identify and request potential improvements to SPECTRM functionality and/or Reports, a “SPECTRM Change Request Sheet” (SCRS) must be completed for consideration.

  2. The SCRS must:

    • Clearly identify SPECTRM module or report for which change is requested.

    • 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 impacts employees’ ability to perform their job if the suggestion is approved.

    • Describe how the suggestion impacts employees’ ability to perform their job if the suggestion is NOT approved.

  3. The suggestion originator must complete the Change Request section of the SCRS.

  4. The suggestion originator emails the SCRS to his/her manager for review. The manager must verify the issue and recommendation is clearly stated.

  5. The SCRS must be forwarded to the SPECTRM Help Desk @ WI.spectrm.help@irs.gov by the area’s COS or designated approver.

  6. SPECTRM Help Desk will acknowledge receipt of the suggestion with a tracking number within two (2) business days.

  7. SPECTRM Help Desk will forward the suggestion to SPEC headquarters OPQ.

  8. SPEC Products, Systems and Analysis (PSA) and QPO will evaluate the suggestion.

  9. PSA will contact the originating area office with the status of its suggestion within forty-five (45) days of submission.

  10. PSA will keep the originating area office informed of the status of the suggestion whether it is adopted or not, and if it is adopted the implementation plan and time-line.

Volunteer Programs: Security, Equipment, and Software

  1. In support of return preparation activities, SPEC may provide equipment (computers and printers) and tax return preparation software to partners for electronic filing of returns. By providing these resources, SPEC is supporting the IRS goals concerning electronic filing and providing tools for our partners that improve the quality of the returns filed. They also provide a service to the customers served by the program by making refunds available sooner. These resources are limited so SPEC must make wise business decisions on where they will be placed. 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, serves as the central document for providing guidance covering privacy, confidentiality and security of all information received at VITA and TCE sites. To maintain program integrity and provide for reasonable protection of information provided by the taxpayers serviced through the VITA and TCE program, it is essential that partners and volunteers adhere to the strictest standards of ethical conduct and the following key principles be followed:

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Form 13533, Sponsor Agreement, and Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs, are included with this Publication. These forms are used to acknowledge receipt of and/or agreement to maintaining key principles around privacy and confidentiality of the VITA and TCE programs. A Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs must be signed by every volunteer agreeing to adhere to the VSC and each form must be validated by the partner before the volunteer can work at the VITA/TCE site. Forms 13615 or a list with verification of receipt and validation of the Forms 13615 (Form 13206, or similar listing with the same information) must be kept at the partner or site level.

  3. The Sponsor Agreement is requested from every partner each year. It reiterates the key principles of privacy and confidentiality found in the Publication By signing this agreement, the sponsor agrees to ensure their volunteers are aware of the standards of conduct and privacy and confidentiality key principles. The signed form is maintained in the local SPEC office. The IRS may terminate this agreement, effective immediately, for disreputable conduct that could impact taxpayers’ confidence in any VITA and TCE program operated by the partner or the partner’s coalition members.

  4. The Form 13615, Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement - VITA/TCE Programs is often referred to as the "standards of conduct" and is solicited annually during or subsequent to training. It serves the following purposes:

    1. Obtain the volunteer’s agreement to the standards of conduct for the VITA and TCE programs

    2. Provide the IRS and/or partner a place to record the level of training received and the corresponding test scores used to determine whether a IRS volunteer is certified to provide return preparation and/or tax law assistance

    3. Record necessary information for Enrolled Agents or Other Tax Return Preparers to receive Continuing Education credits, if all requirements are met.

  5. In addition to this publication, privacy, confidentiality, and security are also mentioned in these other SPEC products:

    • Publication 1084, Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook

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

    • Publication series 4491, VITA and TCE training materials

    • Publication series 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions

    • Link and Learn Taxes

    • Publication 4473, Welcome to the IRS Equipment Loan Program

  6. Other IRS resources provide help for ensuring privacy, confidentiality and security as well and include:

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

    • Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data

    • Publication 4600, Safeguarding Taxpayer Information

Territory Responsibilities
  1. When identifying new partners, territories are to discuss the privacy, confidentiality, civil rights and security requirements of the program to ensure new partners understand their responsibilities. Using Publication 4299 as the basis for this discussion, the territory is to walk partners through the key principles. This publication provides general guidelines and does not specify how each aspect is to be accomplished so as to allow maximum flexibility for the partner in designing their site operations and security processes.

  2. Once the partner agrees to the expectations established in the Publication 4299, the territory must solicit and maintain a Form 13533, Sponsor Agreement for each new partner. New sponsor agreements will be requested annually. Territories must also obtain a new sponsor agreement when key personnel changes in the partner’s organization to ensure the new individual is aware of the agreement in place as it relates to privacy, confidentiality and security requirements of the VITA and TCE program.

  3. Some partners sign the Sponsor Agreement at their national level or through their grant application process. All military branches are represented by the Armed Forces Tax Council and they sign a Sponsor Agreement on behalf of all military branches. The military relationship manager in PSA will maintain this agreement. In addition, National partners will be required to sign a MOU. National Partnerships will be responsible for communicating this requirement and securing MOUs. All TCE grant applicants complete a Sponsor Agreement as part of the application package. These agreements are maintained nationally with the grant files.

Helping Partners Assess Risk and Develop a Security Plan to Protect Information
  1. The Electronic Tax Administration developed Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business to assist businesses in understanding their responsibilities around the protection of taxpayer data. Although this publication was designed for businesses, many of the aspects discussed will assist the volunteer partner in ensuring they have adequately addressed security.

  2. Territories are to become familiar with Publication 4299 and Publication 4557,Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business so that they can provide assistance to partners must questions arise around certain practices. Many of the security controls are already second nature for the partner and/or the program. They would include such things as:

    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 containing taxpayer information before throwing it in the trash

    A more comprehensive list of items that must be considered are included in the Publication 4557,Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide for Your Business which also contains many references and best practices used to safeguard taxpayer data.

Privacy Act Requirements
  1. SPEC employees are required to adhere to the Privacy Act of 1974. Privacy Act - 5 USC 552a, provides safeguards for individuals 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 maintain information about individuals.

  2. A Privacy Act notice must be provided to each individual asked to supply information, on the form used to collect the information or on a separate form that can be retained by the individual. This notice is a statutory requirement, whether the person being asked to supply 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 will be modified to include the privacy statement. For an example of a Privacy Act Notice, see Publication 4391, Privacy Act Notice.

  3. The Privacy Act also applies to all records maintained by the TIGTA that contain information about an individual and are maintained in a system of records, i.e., records organized so that they are retrievable by some identifying characteristic of the individual, e.g., name, Social Security Number, type of coding, etc.)

  4. Listed below are some definitions that pertain to the Privacy Act:

    Definitions

    Term Meaning
    Record Any item, collection, or grouping of information about an individual that is maintained by an agency and that contains [that individual's] name, or the identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular 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 individuals who are deceased. Corporations, partnerships, estates, organizations, and other entities are not "individuals" for Privacy Act purposes. However, court opinion has determined that an individual acting in an entrepreneurial capacity (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 that has been published in the Federal Register.
    System of Records A group of records under the control of any agency from which information is retrieved by the name of the individual or by some identifying number, symbol, or other identifying particular 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 maintained by the agency.


  5. Additional information may also be found in IRM 11.3.14, Privacy Act General Provisions.

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 is working in a Government designated office, traveling, or working from home on behalf of SPEC in volunteer income tax assistance and/or outreach programs.

  3. Many SPEC outreach and volunteer income tax assistance programs require collection of 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 and keeps the information in a system of records from which it is retrieved 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 be informed in a written statement, known as a Privacy Act Notice, that 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 purposes for which the information is intended to be used

    • The routine uses to be made of such information

    • The effects, if any, of not providing the information

  5. Refer to Publication 4391, Privacy Act Notice. The SPECTRM database, individual information recorded on paper files and cards filed alphabetically by individual’s names all qualify as a system of records.

  6. SPEC employees must be aware of information technology security issues which are addressed 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.

Identity Theft
  1. The IRS has taken numerous steps to combat identity theft and protect taxpayers. We continually look for ways to increase data security and protect taxpayers' identities with assistance from our Identity Protection Specialized Unit (IPSU).

  2. When an employee or a VITA/TCE volunteer becomes aware of a taxpayer who is a victim of identity theft outside of the tax system or believe the taxpayer may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., advise the taxpayer to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 1-800-908-4490. The IPSU will ask the taxpayer to fill out the Form 14039,IRS Identity Theft Affidavit.

  3. If a taxpayer’s tax return is rejected because the Taxpayer Identification Number has already been used, provide the taxpayer two copies of his/her tax return. The IPSU will advise the taxpayer to mail the tax return to IRS.

  4. For additional information, refer to irs.gov. Type key word “Identity Theft” in the search window. You can also review the Identity Protection PIN frequently asked questions at Identity Protection.

Computers for Volunteers

  1. Although SPEC encourages partners to become self-reliant, some partners may not be able to provide the technology necessary to electronically file tax returns. To encourage electronic preparation and transmission, SPEC has a core group of printers and computers it loans in support of VITA and TCE Programs.

  2. Printers may be stored at the territory office or maintained by partners. Printers are for partner use only and are not to be used by IRS employees. Computer inventory is maintained centrally and disbursed from the Brookhaven Equipment ("Depot" )

  3. SPEC territory offices are responsible for determining where computers (VITA and TCE Non-AARP) and all printers are placed, ensuring loan agreements are secured, and inventory control exists on the equipment while on loan.

    Exception:

    AARP Tax-Aide determines where computers are placed for their sites.

  4. Foremost in SPEC’s equipment strategy is the placement of equipment where it will provide the most value. Territory offices must consider past performance, hours of access, and availability of volunteers when making equipment allocation decisions. New partners must be encouraged to provide this resource, however, some hard to reach customer segments may need equipment upon start up. This is acceptable.

  5. Accountability for equipment is the responsibility of the territory office. The territory offices use the SPECTRM database to provide effective and consistent controls of computers and printers.

  6. The formation of a Depot supported by the End User and Equipment Services, Modernization and Information Technology Services provides the central point for asset control. The Depot manages the laptop computers used in the SPEC volunteer program. The table below outlines the responsibilities of the Depot:

    The Depot will.... which involves...
    set-up the laptops loading the operating system, tax preparation software (current year available), drivers, security protocol, etc.
    package and ship the laptops packaging and shipping the laptops to the needed location from the depot
    store the laptops providing storage while not in use and for new replacement laptops.
    inventory the laptops controlling laptops in their possession, SPEC will control while in use.
    refresh the laptops establishing a continuous cycle whereby higher end laptops from refreshment replace lower end laptops.
    quality review the laptops establishing a process to review laptops for adherence to data deletion and software use provisions.
    provide customer support and break/fix establishing a technical support group to answer questions and replace broken computers. SPEC territory offices will continue to be responsible for all aspects of maintaining printers. The Depot is responsible for Knowledge Incident /Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM) control on 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. Headquarters is responsible for:

    • Working with the Depot to share SPEC needs, solicit agreement to proposed measures and answer or facilitate the answer of any questions they have of SPEC.

    • Providing guidance for equipment orders, return of equipment and SPECTRM equipment maintenance with the area offices.

    • Placing all equipment orders with the Depot in a mutually agreed format.

    • Providing information to the area analysts relating to the Depot, equipment, annual inventory actions, orders, problems, etc.

    • Communicating changes/corrections needed in SPECTRM to the area offices.

    • Facilitating any changes to SPECTRM concerning equipment at the Depot.

    • Facilitating the National purchase of printer cartridges annually.

    • Ensuring publications, forms and documents related to the computers for volunteer program are updated as needed.

Area Responsibilities
  1. The area is responsible for:

    1. Ensuring the territory offices timely place and complete equipment orders and notifying SPEC headquarters analyst of any anomalies with orders and/or shipments made to the territory or partner.

    2. Communicating between headquarters and the territory.

    3. Ensuring information relating to the Depot, equipment, annual inventory actions, orders, problems, etc. is shared with the territory.

    4. Ensuring headquarters is kept abreast of any problems or concerns raised by the territory or partners/volunteers relating to equipment, orders, use, etc.

    5. Ensuring area directors are notified of problems or concerns relating to equipment orders, use, etc.

    6. Reviewing equipment controls in SPECTRM against Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, when conducting territory reviews.

    7. Ensuring territories respond to headquarter and area requests for action.

    8. Ensuring territories complete annual equipment certification actions, and maintain evidence of completion.

    9. Shifting equipment among its territories to ensure greatest return on investment while balancing service coverage. This includes ensuring equipment is used only for its intended purpose.

    10. Ensuring the territory offices timely place and complete printer cartridge orders and notifying SPEC headquarters of any issues encountered.

Territory Responsibilities
  1. The territory offices are responsible for:

    1. Determining the technology needs of its partners and ensuring sufficient equipment resources exists within their control to fill needs.

    2. Working with the area office to obtain additional resources when needed and/or sharing existing resources with others when not needed.

    3. Ensuring equipment is utilized at an optimum level to show balance with return on investment and service coverage.

    4. Ensuring that VITA and TCE equipment is only used for the program.

    5. Placing all equipment orders as requested.

    6. Confirming order information and delivery with SPEC partners/volunteers to ensure accurate delivery of the equipment.

    7. Ensuring SPECTRM correctly reflects contact information to ensure accurate completion of documentation of shipments by the Depot.

    8. Ensuring SPECTRM correctly reflects the location of equipment at all times.

    9. Communicating important information relating to the use of equipment to partners/volunteers, such as passwords, use of equipment, etc.

    10. Responding promptly to area/headquarter questions or concerns relating to the equipment.

    11. Securing Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, on loaned equipment and providing to the Depot in accordance with Annual Certification procedures. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures.

    12. Reporting, securing and maintaining documentation on lost and/or stolen equipment.

    13. Ensuring adherence to Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, by partners/volunteers through site visits and reviews.

    14. Ensuring the area analyst is kept abreast of any problems relating to equipment, orders, inventory, use, etc.

Equipment Ordering (Laptops)
  1. Territories will use the SPECTRM database for submitting laptop orders.

  2. Area and headquarters will approve the orders in SPECTRM as well. This will help to improve accuracy of information submitted to the Depot and reduce lost orders.

  3. Orders will be balanced weekly beginning in August and ending in January. Headquarters will advise the areas of the maximum number of orders per week.

  4. AARP Tax-Aide will continue to submit their orders through their headquarters and territories will create the order in the database ensuring the contact information is present in SPECTRM.

  5. Territories will continue to distribute the passwords.

  6. Territories will issue the Property Loan Agreement (PLA) with a return envelope. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.4, Form 13632,Property Loan Agreement for more information on the PLA.

  7. Territories will secure signed PLAs from volunteers.

  8. Headquarters will provide ordering guidelines in June.

Printer Cartridge Bulk Order
  1. In an effort to minimize cost, printer cartridges for the VITA and TCE program will be purchased through bulk ordering.

  2. In some cases an area/territory may exhaust their printer cartridge supply. Subject to funding, territories will be permitted to order printer cartridges on an emergency basis. The area office must coordinate with headquarters.

Form 13632 - Property Loan Agreement (PLA)
  1. A Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (PLA), must be issued by the territory when equipment is loaned to a volunteer or partner for their use in supporting volunteer electronic tax return preparation and electronic filing.

  2. Copies of the signed PLAs for all printers and laptops that cannot be acknowledged in SPECTRM, must be forwarded to the Depot during certification (see IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures.

  3. Territories will keep the signed agreement. A copy must also be provided to the recipient of equipment for their records.

  4. The PLA must be generated from SPECTRM reports except in very limited situations. If a loan agreement is generated outside of SPECTRM, it must be input into SPECTRM as soon as possible.

  5. The territory office is responsible for ensuring SPECTRM accurately reflects the loan of equipment, signed PLA, and return of equipment.

New Agreements
  1. A new PLA must be signed when equipment, partner organization, and/or volunteer changes.

  2. When a partner or volunteer retains control of laptop(s) or printer(s) beyond the filing season, an In Use Change Request (IUCR) is required to document the new expected return date. The IUCR will create a new PLA. If the original PLA was signed on or after October 1 of the current fiscal year, the partner is not required to sign the new PLA. Update the PLA acceptance date with the original signature date. File the new PLA with the original PLA. If the original PLA was signed before October 1 of the current fiscal year, a new signature is required. Update the PLA acceptance date with the new signature date.

  3. If a printer is loaned for more than one filing season because the partner is expected to continue in the program and has storage space for the printer, a new PLA signature must be secured on or after October 1 each year. The PLA will remain in effect for a maximum of one year.

  4. Laptops retained by volunteers after the filing season must be returned to the Depot no later than November 1 each year. An IUCR must be input to reflect the new expected return date. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.2.2, Extension For Returning Laptops.

  5. The territory office is responsible for ensuring the inventory system accurately reflects the loan of equipment, signed PLA and return of equipment.

Alternate Contact Information
  1. If the equipment is loaned to a partner representative and will be reassigned to another partner representative, the initial representative must complete the Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement (alternate contact recipient information section) and provide the updated information to the local SPEC territory office within 30 days. Territory offices are to input an In Use Change Request (IUCR) to reflect the change in responsible partner representative when a PLA is received with alternate contact information and appropriate signatures completed. The new PLA must be associated with the original PLA.

  2. The partner may reassign equipment to other individuals but elect to maintain control centrally. In this event, the PLA alternate contact information must not be completed and provided to SPEC. The partner (recipient) will be responsible for maintaining control over the equipment. He/she may use Form 13632,Property Loan Agreement, or other method for controlling the actual locations of the equipment. This section is not intended to require all equipment loaned be assigned to a specific volunteer at a site because equipment may be used by multiple volunteers to achieve maximum utilization. The partner representative responsible for equipment for the partner can continue to centrally control the equipment.

  3. The territory office is responsible for ensuring the inventory system accurately reflects the receipt of the loan agreement, as well as, the return of equipment.

Acknowledgement of Equipment Return
  1. When proof of receipt of returned equipment is requested by a volunteer, the signed PLA on file will be used to acknowledge the receipt of returned equipment. After the local SPEC territory employee has verified equipment has been received from a volunteer, the local SPEC territory employee will document the receipt by signing and dating the PLA in the location indicated. A copy of the document will be provided to the recipient of equipment for their records. The original document will be moved to an inactive file for one year once all equipment covered is returned.

  2. The territory office is responsible for ensuring the inventory system accurately reflects the loan of equipment as well as the return of equipment.

Maintenance of Agreements
  1. While equipment is with the partner Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, must remain in an active file. Once all equipment listed is returned or a new loan agreement is signed, the old agreement (and related property certification document) must be filed in an inactive file, and may be purged one year after the agreement ended. SPEC will maintain all PLAs.

  2. The territory office is responsible for ensuring SPECTRM accurately reflects the receipt of a loan agreement, signed PLA and return of equipment. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6, Annual Certification Procedures.

Equipment Return Procedures
  1. All laptops are required to be returned to the Depot in time to be received by May 15. SPEC employees must encourage partners to return equipment immediately after filing season activities cease and not to wait until later. Some of our partners keep equipment well beyond May 15 and only return it when territories make a follow-up request for the equipment.

  2. The territory office is responsible for determining whether printers on loan will be returned to the SPEC territory office for storage or will be retained by the partner. For printers retained by the partner, a current year (dated on or after October 1) Form 13632, Property Loan Agreement, must be on file.

Communicating Equipment Return Procedures To Partners
  1. Territories are responsible for ensuring partners understand the equipment return procedures.

  2. Territories may use email to facilitate communications with individuals who are loaned equipment. Unlike the distribution of the password, which includes address confirmation, no Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is necessary in general communications around this issue.

Minimum Communication Required to Be Sent To Partners
  1. Laptops are to be returned when filing season activities are over. They must be shipped to be received at the Depot no later than May 15.

  2. Instructions are located in Publication 4473, IRS Equipment Loan Program Welcome Package, for:

    • Backing up data on the computer

    • Deleting data from the computer

    • Requesting UPS return label and/or packing box

    • Packaging equipment

    • Including all computer components

    • Removing unnecessary items

  3. Partners must keep and share with local SPEC the UPS tracking information. SPEC territory offices must request the tracking information from partners if not received. For partners shipping multiple boxes, the barcodes and serial numbers for the laptops in each box must be requested.

  4. Policy of Inventory Review by the General Accounting Office IRM 22.30.1.9.2.6.3, GAO Review of KISAM.

  5. Territory expectation for printers (returned to territory or retained by partner) IRM 22.30.1.9.2.5.3PrinterReturn Procedures.

Laptop Return Procedures
  1. Territories must work with all their partners to ensure equipment is returned by May 15, and the tracking documentation is provided by the partner to the territory in the event the Depot does not acknowledge receipt of the asset in KISAM. This protects both SPEC and the partner. Partners must provide the UPS shipping label information along with the date shipped for each barcode.

  2. Check UPS.com if the equipment is not received by the Depot. If the tracking number is not found on UPS.com, verify the tracking number with the partner. Also verify the shipping date. If the equipment has not been shipped, verify the date it will be sent. Continue monitoring UPS.com until the equipment is received by the Depot.

  3. Territories may update SPECTRM with UPS tracking numbers on equipment shipped from partner locations. If SPECTRM is not used, it is very important that territories develop and maintain records to track equipment shipped from partners to the Depot. Although the incidence of non-return is small, this information may be needed to support a partner’s claim that equipment was returned to the Depot.

  4. The equipment will remain in the territory’s inventory until the equipment is opened at the Depot and the barcode is scanned into KISAM. SPECTRM will be updated 24 hours after the equipment is scanned into KISAM.

Laptop Follow-Up Actions
  1. Territories must periodically review their inventory beginning May 15 to identify any equipment that does not show returned and compare it to the documentation provided by the partner and to any exceptions granted. Areas are asked to monitor this area as well.

  2. For other records previously thought to have been returned, review documentation and confirm UPS receipt and/or contact the partner to discuss the non-receipt of the equipment at the Depot. Document the discussion.

  3. Ensure SPECTRM reflects the correct expected return date. Contact the partner only if the expected return date has passed.

Extension For Returning Laptops
  1. Because some sites will continue to operate after April 15, partners will be allowed to keep equipment they will continue to use for electronic filing of returns. The number of taxpayers expected to use the service and the number of volunteers operating the site must be considered if the partner is allowed a continued loan. This reduces our risk of stolen equipment yet still provides the partner with the needed resource.

    Example:

    A site is loaned five laptops. Beyond April 15, one volunteer will continue to schedule appointments and prepare returns until August 15. Based on prior experience, the site will file another 50 returns during this period. The territory and partner must assess the continued need for all equipment; and in this specific example, the partner must return four laptops, keeping only one.

  2. SPECTRM must be updated, for equipment (laptops) impacted by a decision to allow continued retention, to reflect the agreed upon date for the return of the laptops after May 15. For instance, in the above example, SPECTRM would need to be updated from an expected return date of May 15 (default date) to September 1. Partners must be able to finalize actions within two weeks of site closure and return the equipment.

  3. An IUCR must be input to document the expected return date in SPECTRM. If the current PLA was signed on or after October 1 of the current fiscal year, a new signature is not required. However, if the PLA was signed before October 1 of the current fiscal year, a new signature is required. The territory must document the decision to allow the continued retention of equipment and obtain area concurrence. Area offices are to define the method their territories are to 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 volume

    • Partner agreed upon return date

    • Confirmation that SPECTRM expected return date is updated

  4. Electronic returns can only be filed through October 15. All laptops, therefore, must be returned no later than November 1. We realize that some sites may continue to offer some services beyond this date, but the service the equipment is loaned for, electronic return filing, is not available.

Data Deletion Requirements
  1. With the implementation of the Depot, computers are returned annually for the update of software after they are no longer being used to support filing season activities. Because most partners cease operations around April 15, the majority of computers will be returned to the Depot during the months of May and June. Volunteers who use online versions of tax preparation software can return laptops to the Depot without disk wiping them because the software does not retain data on the laptop. Volunteers who use other versions of software (Desktop) and those who save taxpayer information such as lists containing PII (Personally Identifiable Information) etc. on the hard drive, are not exempt and are required to disk wipe 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. Computers in use after April 15 will be closely monitored to ensure the data is removed once the site ceases operation.

  3. Because the Depot will perform a 100 percent disk wipe of returned computers, a separate certification of data deletion is not required when the equipment is returned to the Depot.

Printer Return Procedures
  1. Printers returned to the territory office must be updated on SPECTRM to reflect assignment of in stock.

  2. Printers kept by partners must reflect assignment "in use" and show a current fiscal year October 1 through June 30 Property Loan Agreement. The Expected Return Date in SPECTRM must be updated to May 15 of the following year.

    Example:

    Fiscal year July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012, the Expected Return Date in SPECTRM must be updated to May 15, 2013.

Broken or Obsolete Equipment
  1. As equipment breaks, it must be disposed of and not held. This frees up room for storage and provides more accurate information on the resources available for use.

  2. Laptops must all be returned to the Depot for disposal. Laptop disposal must not occur at the local level. Use the current contractor for controlled shipping (e.g., United Postal Service (UPS) of equipment. Record information on the shipment including the tracking information from the shipper. File this documentation in your inventory records.

Procedures to Dispose of Broken or Obsolete Printers
  1. Once a printer has been identified as broken or obsolete, input an IUCR in SPECTRM to reflect disposal of the printer and transfer of the printer to the Depot.

  2. Initiate contact with the Enterprise Service Desk (ESD) to open a ticket for printer disposal. The ticket will be assigned to the Depot to resolve. To ensure proper ticket routing, the Depot’s group name, UNS-OSS-LM-BED, must be noted. Once the ticket is assigned, the Depot will contact the initiator to verify the address/location of the printer and send a UPS label and printer box (If needed). The Depot will follow the procedures in IRM 2.149.1, Information Technology (IT) Asset Management -Asset Management when the printer is received to complete final disposition.

Annual Certification Procedures
  1. Equipment loaned in the VITA and TCE programs will be included in the EUES (End User Equipment Services) asset certification process. It is critical that SPEC provide accurate information to EUES to facilitate the completion of the certification and to ensure the accuracy of controls over the equipment we loan.

  2. The certification process may require contact with all individuals loaned equipment so territories must begin the process early.

  3. The certification process will begin in October. All certification packages must be submitted to the Depot no later than three (3) weeks after the filing season ends.

  4. Certification packages will be forwarded to the Depot over a four (4) week period beginning the week of April 15. Headquarters and/or area offices will develop a schedule for the territories to forward their certification package to the Depot. Area offices may swap response dates among their own territories as long as delivery to the Depot is still spread among the different dates. Swaps must be communicated to headquarters and to the Depot as they are determined.

Annual Inventory Certification
  1. It is critical that SPEC provide accurate information to EUES to facilitate the completion of the certification and to ensure the accuracy of controls over the equipment we loan. SPEC does physical inventory certification for those assets that they distribute and/or store. Most of these are printers but since some laptops are sent to the territories and then distributed to a partner, physical certification can also include computers. Each time a computer or printer is handled it is counted as a physical touch. Territories must ensure documentation in SPECTRM is accurate. At least one physical touch is required 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 SPECTRM information is accurate for each record. Partners certify the basic equipment information through use of the Form 13632Property Loan Agreement. By signing the forms partners are self-certifying that the document reflects the correct information relative to the equipment received. Partners are not able to certify to the accuracy of the SPECTRM control, so the territory does this through their review efforts. Territories review SPECTRM and the paper documentation to provide certification documentation for the Depot. Documentation must be dated between October and June of the current year for the certification.

  3. SPEC and the Depot are committed to find the best process to accomplish the tasks associated with inventory certification. Therefore, the process is still fluid. Guidance on certification and on the documentation needed by the Depot will be provided annually to the areas for dissemination to territory offices.

Copies of Property Loan Agreements(PLAs)
  1. Copies of signed property loan agreements for all printers and laptops that cannot be acknowledged on SPECTRM are to be included in the final package.

  2. If the PLA did not include a PLA number because it was manually created, an In Use Change Request (IUCR) must be input to create a new PLA. If the PLA that was manually created was signed by the partner on or after October 1 of the current fiscal year, a new signature is not required. The territory can either write the new PLA number next to the barcode on the PLA or the new PLA can be printed (with the number) and attached. Write on the unsigned PLA "See attached PLA for signature" and attach the signed, unnumbered PLA. SPECTRM must update with the PLA acceptance date.

  3. The final package and all attachments must be sent 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

Required Information for Certification
  1. The territory offices will be required to compare the 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 Property Loan Agreement was signed

  2. The territory office is responsible for ensuring the inventory system accurately reflects the receipt of the loan agreement, as well as, the return of equipment. This is a process which must occur all year and not only during annual certification.

    Note:

    Territory personnel are not required to secure a new PLA for computers that were shipped from the Depot and printers shipped from the SPEC territory office before September 30th; they can simply update the PLA acceptance date in SPECTRM to October 1st of the loan year in question in order to meet certification for these assets. This is assuming that the computers will be returned to the Depot and printers to the SPEC territory office by May 15. If users intend on retaining the equipment in their possession after April 15 , a new PLA must be secured and the date in SPECTRM updated to reflect when they will be returned as outlined in IRM 22.30.1.4.2.5 and 22.30.1.4.2.5.2.2. .

Unable to Locate Equipment during Certification
  1. There may be an instance where the territory is unable to locate an asset charged to them on SPECTRM.

  2. If the asset cannot be located, after all research is completed, follow reporting procedures in IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8 Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.8.1Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment.

Final Territory Package Set Up for Depot
  1. The final printed certification package for the Depot will consist of:

    • Signed cover memorandum from SPEC TM to the VITA and TCE Depot summarizing action taken and any concerns or problems. Be sure to provide contact name for the Depot in the event they have questions.

    • Printed copy of spreadsheet. Print landscaped and with page numbers. Set up to repeat header information on each page. Make sure columns are in correct order and includes only those columns required by the Depot shown.

      Reminder:

      Delete the Personally Identifiable Information (PII) column

    • Signed copies of all Property Loan Agreements for printers and computers that cannot be acknowledged on SPECTRM.

    • Signed document for any assets being identified as lost.

  2. The final electronic certification package for the Depot will consist of the electronic copies of the cover memorandum and the spreadsheet. This must be emailed to the Depot and SPEC headquarters. Include in the email the tracking number for UPS so that the Depot can locate the information if misdirected at the campus.

  3. Only one package is to be sent from each territory. Territories with multiple post of duties are expected to combine their information into one package.

  4. Both the electronic and printed packages may be sent from the area office after review as long as they are provided by the expected due date.

  5. Area offices are expected to review the territory packages prior to submission to the Depot to ensure they are correct. Areas may adjust the response date for their territory to ensure sufficient time to review and/or correct. Every effort must be made to provide the completed certification packages to the Depot so they are received on or before the due date.

Knowledge Incident/Problem Service Asset Management (KISAM)
  1. The KISAM is the authoritative asset inventory control system for the IRS. IT (Information Technology) employees maintain the KISAM and are responsible for ensuring that all equipment loaned to VITA and TCE program participants are on KISAM. All VITA and TCE assets are shown on 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) will show an assignment of "in stock" . The fulfillment tab will indicate whether an asset is assigned out to the territory or with a partner and will contain the PLA number for the asset.

  2. SPEC assists IT in maintaining effective controls over VITA and TCE equipment through the daily use of SPECTRM and through annual inventory certification efforts. SPEC certification actions begin in October and ends in June. Territory responses are staggered. Area offices will notify each territory of their final response date for inventory certification.

GAO Review of KISAM
  1. Each year the GAO reviews the IRS asset control system to ensure it accurately reflects the assets (including computers and printers) under IRS control and where these assets are located. SPEC supports these efforts by ensuring SPECTRM controls over the equipment used in VITA and TCE properly reflect the location of the asset. The GAO review period generally occurs in late July or early August following the end of the IT asset inventory cycle (October 1 – June 30).

  2. The review covers only a sample of Category A assets on KISAM. Category A assets are all computers (laptops and desktops) and some high-end printers. The sample is selected from KISAM and IT is required to produce the asset. For assets not in government space, GAO will either visit the location or require that a "picture" of the asset be provided showing the asset, barcode and serial number. GAO determines which method will be used.

  3. SPEC is committed to supporting IT in this GAO review. If an asset in SPEC is selected, notification will be sent simultaneously to the area and territory about the need to locate an asset. SPEC will make the partner contact and will accompany GAO on the review if they choose to visit a partner and/or facilitate securing the information required (pictures).

Reporting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment
  1. While the PLA provides safeguarding information for loaned equipment, there is always a chance the equipment can be stolen. To ensure proper reporting of stolen IRS owned equipment (both printers and computers), the steps listed below must be taken by the relationship manager, as soon as possible, and finalized within 10 business days of receiving notice of the theft.

  2. Obtain as much information as possible about the stolen equipment and the theft from the initial contact with the VITA and TCE program participant. Document when and how notification of the theft is received by IRS. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.1, Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment for the questions that must be answered. Answering all of these questions will take time. Do not delay reporting the theft to obtain all the information. Report what is readily available to all parties mentioned in steps (a) through (f) below within one hour of receiving notification.

    1. Immediately notify local territory manager.

    2. Report the theft within one hour of notification using the Computer Security Incident Reporting Form via email at csirc@csirc.irs.gov, or by phone at 240-613-3606, if the partner has not already done so. Reporting can be done 24/7. Provide updated information as it is received. Record the incident report number from Computer Security Incident Response Capability (CSIRC) office on the 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. Immediately following the report to the CSIRC, contact TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration), Office of Investigations. Contact may be made with the local TIGTA office or through their toll-free number (800-366-4484). Do not report incidents of stolen/lost partner owned equipment to TIGTA. See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.2Reporting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers and IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers.

    4. Immediately following the report to the TIGTA, prepare an email to report the theft to SPEC management and to the CARE management. See the list below of offices that must be contacted. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment, and a general description of what occurred. Send the communications to all of the following: director, CARE; Chief, CARE PM; director, SPEC; director, area office (select based on area reporting incident); Chief, OPQ, the OPQ Analyst and respective area analyst.

    5. Immediately following the report to SPEC and CARE management, prepare an email to notify the parties listed below of the theft through the manager. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment and a general description of what occurred. Send notification to the VITA and TCE Depot (email address: vitadepot@irs.gov).

    6. If the theft was of a computer and return information was present, discuss with partners the need to provide notification to impacted taxpayers. The decision to provide/not provide notification is the partners; however, Publication 4299, Privacy, Confidentiality and Civil Rights, provides guidelines for assessing risk of identity theft. If it is determined notification is necessary, the notification will be from the partner.

Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment
  1. A thorough information gathering process is required to document the facts presented by the program participant, along with the relationship managers' assessment of the facts. To assist in obtaining all information, the following information must be gathered. They are not all inclusive and territory employees are encouraged to probe when necessary based on the circumstances of the incident they are documenting. Listed below are some key questions and required actions to document stolen IRS owned equipment.

    Documenting Stolen IRS Owned Equipment

    Relevant Probe or Question Required Action
    What IRS equipment was stolen? Record 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? If equipment has been stolen more than once, the concurrence of the area director and chief, OPQ is required to continue to loan equipment.
    When did the theft occur? If applicable, probe to determine why time lapsed between the theft and the reporting to IRS. The conditions set in the PLA require they report to the IRS within 48 hours.
    When was it reported to the local police or federal police? Request a copy of the local police report or federal police report (one must be done) depending on the location from which the equipment was stolen. Once received, a copy of the report must be sent to the Depot. This is needed for the disposal of the asset on KISAM. A copy must also be included in the documentation package. Although the report may not be readily available when the initial information is obtained, the report must be reviewed to determine if the facts as reported to the relationship manager concur with the facts as reported to the authorities. Comment on any discrepancies in the documentation package. In a situation when a police report cannot be secured, document the circumstance on the package. For example, the police department will not take a report because there is no evidence of a theft or the reporting 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. This could be a residence, a business, community center, library, or parking lot. Probing questions must include whether it 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 required to access information on the computer? For equipment shipped to program participants after August 21, 2006, a password is set at the whole disk encryption level and at the operating system level by the Depot when distributed. Program participants are to set the passwords on the tax preparation software during installation.
    Were the assigned passwords compromised? Probe to determine how passwords were compromised such as written down and attached to the computer or placed in the bag with the computer.
    What other security measures were in place to protect the equipment? Probe for specific details. For instance, if they reported that it was in a locked cabinet, find out how many people had keys and where they were kept.
    What data was present on the computer? If data is present, determine how many taxpayer information records may be present. Returns prepared using the software provided by the IRS are encrypted by this software.
    If data was present, was it encrypted? For laptops shipped from the Depot after August 21, 2006, the whole disk encryption product is loaded and will protect the entire hard drive. If the computer was in use prior to this date, determine whether prior year data was made available for current year return preparation. Inquire if the partner added additional 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. This data is PII and is not SBU data as defined by IRC 6103

    .
    Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, floppies or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag? If applicable, what information was present? Was it encrypted? For backups done within the IRS provided software for transferring the information to the transmitting computer, the IRS provided tax preparation software encrypts the files. Other copies of information may not be encrypted.
    If taxpayer information was present, does the partner have any plans for notifying the individuals whose information was compromised? Explain the risks of identity theft and encourage them to provide notification to the individuals. The notification must come from the partner.


  2. Prepare a documentation package to include a memorandum reporting the incident from the territory manager through the area director to the SPEC director, headquarter operations. This package must be completed within 10 business days of the date the incident was reported. If all the documentation cannot be obtained within 10 business days, an interim documentation package must be provided to include the information available with a date of when the final package will be completed.

  3. Listed below are territory requirements for the documentation package:

    1. Include the answers to the questions obtained in the Information Gathering Process in the memorandum and address all items on the Form 13747,Checklist for Stolen Equipment

    2. Include any required attachments in the package (e.g., PLA and police report) and Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment

    3. Complete Form 13747,, Checklist for Stolen Equipment, to ensure all actions have been taken and documentation included in the package. Comments on this form must be minimal. Detailed explanations must be in the memorandum or in an attachment to the memorandum

    4. Maintain a copy of the package with equipment records in the local territory

      Note:

      SPECTRM will automatically update when KISAM is updated by the Depot.

  4. The area office is responsible for reviewing the interim or completed documentation package for compliance by the territory as indicated in (2) and (3) above and forwarding to SPEC headquarters within two business days. Comments are required by the area to show agreement with the territory recommendation to continue/discontinue loan of equipment. If the partner has successive thefts in two or more years, the concurrence of both the area director and director, headquarter operations is required if we continue to loan equipment.

  5. Upon receipt in headquarters, the package is reviewed for completeness and shared with Chief, OPQ, director, SPEC and the VITA and TCE Depot. The documentation package is placed on the SPEC Executive Share Point site. Information is reviewed for briefings, responses to Business Systems Security Office (BSSO), and Mission Assurance as requested.

Reporting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers
  1. To ensure proper reporting of stolen/lost partner owned computers the Relationship Manager must obtain as much information as possible about the stolen/lost equipment and the theft/loss from the initial contact with the VITA and TCE program participant. Document when and how notification of the theft/loss is received by IRS. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.7.3, Documenting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers for the questions that must be answered. Report what is readily available to the local territory manager within one hour of receiving notification. Immediately prepare an email to report the theft/loss to the AD, area equipment analyst, Chief, OPQ and HQ equipment analyst. 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

    • If taxpayers were notified of theft/loss (if notified, method used)

    Caution:

    Do not report incidents of stolen/lost partner owned equipment to CSIRC or TIGTA.

Documenting Stolen/Lost Partner Owned Computers
  1. A thorough information gathering process is required to document the facts presented by the program participant, along with the Relationship Managers assessment of the facts.

  2. To assist in obtaining all information, the following information must be gathered. This list is not all inclusive and employees are encouraged to probe when necessary based on the circumstances of the incident they are documenting.

    • What equipment was stolen/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 police or federal police?

    • Where was the partner owned equipment when it was stolen/lost? Obtain the physical address of the equipment along with its actual location within the address. This could be a residence, a business, community center, library, or parking lot. Probing questions must include whether it 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 required to access information on the computer?

    • Were the assigned passwords compromised, such as written down and attached to the computer or placed in the bag with the computer?

    • What other security measures were in place to protect the equipment? Probing must expand on the information provided. For instance, if they reported that it was in a locked cabinet, find out how many people had keys and where they were kept.

    • What data was present on the computer? If data is present, determine how many taxpayer information records may be present. Returns prepared using the software provided by the IRS are encrypted by this software.

    • If data was present, was it encrypted?

    • Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, floppies or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag? If applicable, what information was present? Was it encrypted? For backups done within the IRS provided software for transferring the information to the transmitting computer, the IRS provided tax preparation software encrypts the files. Other copies of information may not be encrypted.

    • Does the partner have any plans for notifying the individuals whose information was compromised if taxpayer information was present? Explain the risks of identity theft/loss and encourage them to provide notification to the individuals. The notification must come from the partner.

Reporting Lost IRS Owned Equipment
  1. SPEC employees are responsible for maintaining effective controls on equipment loaned to volunteers/partners in support of electronic filing. However, in rare circumstances a piece of equipment may go missing while in stock in IRS space.

    Note:

    Equipment missing under partner/volunteer control must always be treated as a theft, and all instructions followed for stolen equipment.

  2. If a territory identifies an asset as unable to locate, follow the steps in the table below:

    Reporting Lost Equipment

    1) After completing all actions on Form 13747,Checklist for Lost Equipment, the territory will provide notification of the lost asset using the Computer Security Incident Reporting Form via email at csirc@csirc.irs.gov or by phone at 240-613-3606. Reporting can be done 24/7. Provide updated information as it is received. Record the incident report number from CSIRC on the Form 13747,Checklist for Lost Equipment.
    2) Immediately following the report to the CSIRC, the territory office will contact TIGTA, Office of Investigations. Contact may be made with the local TIGTA office or through their toll-free number (800-366-4484).
    3) Immediately following the report to the TIGTA, the territory office will prepare an email to report of the lost equipment to SPEC management and to CARE management. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment and explain that you are completing inventory certification and that a piece of equipment is believed to be lost. Send the communications to all of the following:
    • Director, CARE

    • Chief, CARE PM

    • Director, SPEC

    • Director, area office (select based on area reporting incident)

    • Chief, OPQ

    • Analyst, SPEC headquarters

    • Analyst, area (select based on area reporting incident)

    4) Immediately following the report to SPEC and CARE management, the territory office will prepare an email to notify the parties listed below of the lost equipment through the manager. Include the IRS barcode number, serial number, make and model of equipment and a general description of why the determination is made. Send notification to the Depot at VITADepot@irs.gov. The Depot is responsible for inventory management of all equipment, both printers and computers, on KISAM (Information Technology Asset Management System).
    5) The territory office will maintain a copy of all documentation and notification to document the lost equipment as described in the following IRM section.


Documenting Lost IRS Owned Equipment
  1. Thoroughness is required to document the facts surrounding the lost equipment. Some of this information will be recorded on the Form 13747, Checklist for Stolen Equipment with the certification instructions. The remaining information must be included on a separate page and attached to the forms. Following are suggested items to be covered. This is not all inclusive.

    Documenting Lost Equipment

    1) What IRS equipment is lost? Record barcode, serial number, manufacturer and model.
    2) Where was the equipment when it was last seen? Include the IRS office address where the equipment was stored. Provide specific information about room and how stored, e.g., cabinet, room, etc.
    3) What type of security is afforded this location? Is the building limited access? Is everyone entering/exiting subjected to any checks? Are property cards reviewed for equipment upon entering/exiting?
    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 identify equipment might be lost?
    7) Who was responsible for the equipment?
    8) Were passwords required to access information on the computer? For equipment shipped to program participants after August 21, 2006, a password is set at the whole disk encryption level and at the operating system level by the Depot when distributed. Program participants are to set the passwords on the tax preparation software during installation.
    9) Were the assigned passwords compromised, such as written down and attached to the computer or placed in the bag with the computer?
    10) What security measures were in place to protect the equipment? Include items such as the number of people having keys or access to the controlled space.
    11) Was data present on the computer? If data is present, determine what information was present.
    12) If data was present, was it encrypted? For laptops shipped from the Depot after August 21, 2006, the whole disk encryption product is loaded and will protect the entire hard drive.

    Note:

    For purposes of 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. This data is only PII and is not SBU data as defined by IRC 6103.

    13) Were there any paper documents or disks (flash drives, floppies or CDs) in the computer or in the computer bag?
    14) Prepare a documentation package to include the Lost Equipment form from the territory manager through the area director to the director, SPEC. This package must be completed within 10 business days of the date the incident was reported. If all the documentation cannot be obtained within 10 business days, an interim documentation package must be provided to include the information available with a date of when the final package will be completed.
    15) Update SPECTRM to reflect the loss of the equipment.
    16) The area office must review the interim or completed documentation package for compliance to these instructions and forward to SPEC headquarters within two business days. Comments are required by the area office to show whether the territory’s storage of equipment procedures are adequate. If not, what plans are being made to resolve.
    17) Upon receipt in headquarters, the package is reviewed for completeness and it is shared with Chief, OPQ and placed on the SPEC Executive Share Point site. . The documentation package is sent to the Depot via email. Information is reviewed for briefings, responses to BSSO, and Mission Assurance as requested.


Found Equipment
  1. In rare circumstances a piece of equipment reported as stolen or missing may be found. In these instances, the Relationship Manager must :

    1. Prepare a memorandum from the territory manager to the manager of the Depot to alert them of the found equipment, and request an update of the equipment on KISAM, and transfer of 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 action is completed, and update SPECTRM with the actual location of the equipment. This may require a request to headquarters to "undelete" the record.

    3. Maintain a copy of the request in the equipment files at the territory office.

    4. Notify OPQ through the area office that the equipment was recovered or found so that the lost or stolen file can be updated. Provide any details known leading to locating the equipment.

Barcode Change
  1. There may be an instance where the existing barcode is removed and/or damaged. It is important that all assets have a readable barcode present. Territories must follow the steps below to obtain a new and /or reprinted barcode:

    Barcode Change

    Step Required Action
    1 Contact the Depot via email and include in the notification the barcode, serial number, equipment type, make and model. Request that they generate a new barcode with the same number and/or provide another barcode label. Provide them with the correct mailing address for the actual barcode.
    2 Remove the old one if it has not already been removed and replace it with the reprinted or new barcode that was received.
    3 Confirm the correction in the inventory system. If the number did not change, there will be no change; however, if the number did change, the old barcode must no longer be showing and the new barcode must be present. If this is not the case, contact the Depot to resolve the problem.
    4 Change any territory records to reflect the replacement and/or change in barcode number. File the information with your territory equipment inventory control records.
    5 Update SPECTRM to reflect the barcode change


Tax Preparation Software
  1. Electronic return preparation and transmission software is purchased by the IRS for use by SPEC volunteer return preparation programs (VITA and TCE).

    Note:

    Prior to the delivery of the software , each site must submit a signed Form 13533, Sponsor Agreement.

  2. VITA and TCE sites are not required to use the software purchased by the IRS for electronic return preparation.

Software Ordering Process
  1. The Software Ordering period opens in October and remains open through the end of January. Software orders are placed in SPECTRM. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.1Placing Software Orders for additional information on placing software orders. The first orders are sent to the contractor in October and weekly thereafter through January. The contractor begins shipping the software in November.

    Note:

    The shipping date is driven by IRS’ time line for conducting Assurance Testing System (ATS). The contractor cannot ship the tax software until it has passed ATS.

  2. The software purchased by the IRS is a professional software package, and requires the use of an EFIN. The EFIN is required to electronically transmit federal tax returns and to order software. If a site does not have an EFIN, the Responsible Official will need to register for e-services and submit the IRS e-file application electronically.

Placing Software Orders
  1. Software must not be ordered until the site is established. An established site is defined as one where the partner has committed resources, such as identification of the site coordinator, the EFIN, site location and computer equipment have been secured, applicable agreements have been signed and days/hours of operation have been established.

  2. VITA and TCE software orders are placed by SPEC territory offices. Before an order can be placed, the site must be listed in the SPECTRM Site Module, identified 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 is designed to allow tax consultants to enter software orders for their VITA and TCE sites. The SPECTRM Software Orders Module is populated from the information contained in the SPECTRM Site and Contact Modules.

  4. The site name, address, program type, Site Identification Number (SIDN), EFIN and transmitting EFIN are taken from the SPECTRM Site Module. This information can not be changed in the SPECTRM Software Orders Module.

  5. The contact who will receive the software order shipment must be listed in SPECTRM and associated with the e-file site they support. The shipping address, name, phone number, and email address are taken from the SPECTRM Contact Module. This information can not be changed in the SPECTRM Software Orders Module. Territory offices must ensure accuracy of the email address for the software order as this information is also used by the vendor to provide shipping and software updates to the site.

    Reminder:

    Do not use the Relationship Manager's email address unless they are the site administrator.

  6. If any site or contact information is missing or inaccurate, the changes must be made in the Site and/or Contact modules in SPECTRM.

  7. For additional information on use of the SPECTRM Tax Software Orders module, refer to the SPECTRM User Guide.

Headquarters' Responsibilities
  1. The headquarters analysts assigned the tax software program are responsible for:

    1. Providing guidance to SPEC for software orders.

    2. Timely placing all software orders with the contractor in a mutually agreed format.

    3. Notifying the area analyst of shipping details.

    4. Communicating vital information to the area analysts necessary for successful delivery of the software, orders, problems, etc.

    5. Communicating order changes/corrections to the contractor.

    6. Ensuring adherence to software license agreements.

    7. Maintaining an accurate inventory of all tax software order.

    8. Completing RTS requests to ensure adequate funding of software packages and training.

    9. Identifying contract modifications when necessary.

    10. Coordinating Tax Software Train-the-Trainer sessions between the vendor, area, and territory.

    11. Managing the IRS’ tax software contract.

    12. Pulling, analyzing and providing use and production reports to the area.

    13. Serving as the IRS Point of Contact between the IRS and its licensees.

    14. Maintaining a good working relationship with the contractor, procurement, and IT.

    15. Ensuring the Master Service Level agreement between SPEC and IT EUES clearly defines SPEC’s IT support needs.

Tax Software- Area Responsibilities
  1. The area analysts are responsible for:

    1. Ensuring the territory offices timely place and confirm all tax preparation software orders and notifying SPEC headquarters analyst of any anomalies.

    2. Confirming territory compliance to qualifications for receipt of software, as outlined in IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.4Tax Software Territory Responsibilities below. If the site is being provided the software and does not meet the qualifications, the AD or his/her designee is responsible for approving the purchase. This is done in writing and a copy is maintained for a minimum of one fiscal year from receipt by the area office and the original by the territory office.

    3. Serving as liaison between headquarters and the territory.

    4. Ensuring vital information related to the tax software i.e., orders, problems, etc. is shared with the territory.

    5. Ensuring headquarters is kept abreast of any problems or concerns raised by the territory or partners/volunteers relating to the software, orders, use, etc.

    6. Ensuring area directors are notified of problems or concerns relating to software, order, use, etc.

    7. Ensuring adherence to software license and user authentication requirements.

    8. Analyzing area tax software management and production reports to identify anomalies and communicating those anomalies to headquarters and the territory.

    9. Ensuring civil rights requirements are met.

    10. Coordinating tax software Train-the-Trainer sessions between headquarters and the territory office.

Tax Software Territory Responsibilities
  1. The territory offices are responsible for:

    1. Securing Form 13553, Sponsor Agreement, prior to delivery of the software.

    2. Ensuring qualified 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 are eligible to receive electronic return preparation software.

    3. Territory managers have the authority to provide software to sites where the minimum requirements were not met. When this happens, the territory manager is responsible for providing a business justification and plan of action to the area director and securing approval from the area office prior to placing the software order. This is to be done in writing via Form 14574, SPEC Software Exception Request. A copy of the approval is to be maintained for a minimum of one fiscal year from receipt by the area office and the original by the territory office.

    4. Ensuring all tax preparation software orders are placed timely using SPECTRM Software Orders Module.

    5. Ensuring accuracy of all software orders placed in SPECTRM. Territory offices must verify the status of each EFIN in the Third Party Data Sore (TPDS) prior to placing a software order. If the EFIN is not active in the TPDS, the issue must be resolved prior to placing the order.

    6. Communicating important information to the partner related to software product Relational EFIN, security codes, training information, and adherence to the software license agreement, etc.

    7. Confirming contact and delivery information with partners to ensure accurate delivery of the software.

    8. Responding promptly to area questions or concerns relating to the software orders.

    9. Ensuring the area analyst is kept 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 validate IRS license. The authentication is managed as part of ensuring 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 which is 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 violation or compromised EFIN.

Potential Violation of Software License Agreement or Compromised EFIN
  1. If a potential violation of the software license agreement or compromised EFIN is suspected, the vendor will contact the IRS Points Of Contact (POC). Once contacted, the IRS POC initiates an investigation of the incident using the steps outlined 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 area analyst contacts the local territory to inform the territory manager of the potential violation.

    3. The territory manager notifies the responsible Relationship Manager.

    4. The Relationship Manager contacts the site administrator identified in SPECTRM as the user of the EFIN to investigate the occurrence. Refer to IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.7Required Actions for Potential Software License Violations for required actions of the site administrator.

  2. Actions will be taken within one business day of notification of the occurrence by all parties.

Required Actions for Potential Software License Violations
  1. The site administrator, identified in SPECTRM as the user of the EFIN, investigates the occurrence to determine which of the following situations exists:

    1. The site switched transmitting computers due to a computer malfunction: The Relationship Manager reports these results to their territory manager. The territory manager notifies the area analyst via email and phone copying the IRS POC on both communications. The IRS POC notifies the vendor. No other action is required and the site may continue to use the EFIN.

    2. The site is in violation of the license agreement because they have more than one computer connecting to the vendor’s Processing Center: The Relationship Manager works with the site administrator to ensure compliance and notifies the territory manager of the corrective actions agreed to by the site. The territory manager notifies the area analyst via email and phone copying the IRS POC on both communications. The IRS POC notifies the vendor.

    3. An EFIN has been compromised: See IRM 22.30.1.9.2.11.1.8, Required Actions for a Compromised EFIN

Required Actions for a Compromised EFIN
  1. When an EFIN has been compromised, the Relationship Manager notifies the territory manager. The territory manager notifies the area analyst and the IRS POC via email and phone. The IRS POC contacts the vendor via phone and asks that the EFIN be disabled from transmission.

  2. The Relationship Manager works with the site to apply for and secure a new EFIN and updates SPECTRM to reflect the site is no longer an e-file site. It is recommended the site use the on-line application process to expedite this request.

  3. The site can continue to use software to prepare returns while waiting on the new EFIN but may not transmit electronically.

  4. The area analyst prepares a memorandum for the area directors' signature to notify Andover campus of the potential violation and request deactivation of the EFIN. The memorandum will seek expedited processing of the new EFIN application and provide any identifying information pertinent to its processing.

  5. Once the new EFIN is assigned, the Relationship Manager notifies the territory manager of the new EFIN . The territory manager notifies the IRS POC of the new EFIN with a copy to the area analyst . The IRS POC notifies the vendor of the new EFIN which will be shared with the area analyst and the territory manager simultaneously via email.

  6. Once received, the Relationship Manager works with the site administrator and the vendor to ensure all returns prepared prior to the violation have been acknowledged, all rejects worked, and new software is registered using the new EFIN.

  7. The Relationship Manager must update SPECTRM to reflect the change in EFIN and that the site is an e-file site again.

  8. If the investigation is not completed within one business day, the IRS POC notifies the vendor to deactivate the EFIN until the investigation can be completed. The vendor annotates the deactivation of the EFIN in their database; if the site contacts the vendor about the inability to connect, the vendor customer support representative is instructed to ask the caller to contact their local IRS SPEC Relationship Manager.

Deactivating VITA and TCE EFIN
  1. VITA and TCE partner EFINs will be deactivated for one of the following reasons:

    • An ERO refuses to comply with QSR

    • When sites are closed

    Note:

    Verify all e-filed tax returns acceptance and rejects have been processed prior to EFIN deactivation.

  2. Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN because an ERO refuses to comply with QSR is the last resort. When considering deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN the table below must be used.

    If ... Then ...
    a problem is identified
    1. discuss the findings and the actions required to comply with the Site Coordinator and the ERO.

    2. document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

    you are unable to reach an agreement
    1. elevate the issue to the partner. Attempt to resolve the issue at the lowest level possible.

    2. brief the SPEC territory manager and national Relationship Manager, when appropriate.

    3. document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

    the territory manager and/or national Relationship Manager is unable to resolve the issue and deactivation of the EFIN is necessary
    1. notify the appropriate area director. The area director 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 EFIN Deactivation from the VITA/TCE e-file Programs, Exhibit 22.30.1-2 and Exhibit 22.30.1-3.

    3. mail the approved letter to the volunteer ERO.

    4. fax the letter and check sheet to the designated area point of contact for EFIN deactivation.

    5. fax a copy of the letter and check sheet to the Chief, OPQ.

    6. Document your findings/actions in the partner's file.

  3. When a site is closed and no longer operational, territory offices are responsible for deactivation of the EFIN to prevent further access to e-file. Territory offices must follow the process outlined below:

    1. Complete the "Request for Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN" document to request the EFIN be disabled. The portion of the form that must be completed includes the site information, SPEC information, and reason for deactivation.

    2. Notify the partner that the EFIN will be disabled.

    3. Fax the "Request for Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN" document to the designated area point of contact. Each area office has two designated points of contact that have authority to deactivate EFINS. EFIN deactivation requests must no longer be referred to SPEC headquarters or to the Andover e-Help Desk.

    4. Fax a copy of the "Request for Deactivation of a VITA and TCE EFIN" document to the Chief, OPQ so appropriate action can be taken in SPECTRM.

    5. Document your actions in the partner's file.

    6. Document the final actions in the partner's file once confirmation is received from the area office point of contact.

  4. OPQ will take the following action when a request to deactivate a VITA and TCE EFIN is received:

    1. Contact tax preparation software vendor to suspend e-file activities

      Note:

      Verify all e-filed tax returns acceptance and rejects have been processed prior to EFIN suspension

    2. Take appropriate action in SPECTRM

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant Programs

  1. This section of the IRM is intended to provide information and guidance in the administration of the TCE and the VITA grant programs. The GPO within SPEC administers both grant programs. Throughout this section, you will find topics that are specific to both programs and topics unique to one program. Within this section, the term grant is synonymous to cooperative agreements. In addition, the term recipient ", grantee or sponsor refers to the organization awarded a grant.

    Note:

    These terms may be used interchangeably.

Purpose and Authority

  1. The following describes the background, purpose and authority for SPEC grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. Section 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978, Public L. 95-600, 92 Stat. 2810, November 6, 1978, authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, through the IRS, to enter into agreements with private or public non-profit agencies or organizations for the purpose of providing training and technical assistance to prepare volunteers to provide tax counseling assistance for elderly individuals, age 60 and over, in the preparation of their federal income tax returns. Implementing regulations can be found in Subpart H of 26 CFR Part 601.

  2. Section 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978 provides that the Secretary may provide:

    1. Preferential access to IRS customer service representatives for the purpose of making available technical information needed during the course of the volunteers' work.

    2. Publicity for making elderly persons aware of the availability of volunteer taxpayer return preparation assistance programs under this section.

    3. Technical materials and publications to be used by such volunteers.

  3. In carrying out responsibilities under Section 163, the Secretary, through the IRS is also authorized to:

    1. Provide assistance to organizations which demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Secretary, that their volunteers are adequately trained and competent to render effective tax counseling to the elderly in the preparation of federal income tax returns.

    2. Provide for the training of such volunteers, and to assist in such training, to ensure that such volunteers are qualified to provide tax counseling assistance to elderly individuals in the preparation of Federal income tax returns.

    3. provide reimbursement to volunteers through such organizations for transportation to and from the site, meals, and other expenses incurred by them in training or providing tax counseling assistance in the preparation of federal income tax returns under this section, and such other support and assistance determined to be appropriate in carrying out the provisions of the Section 163.

    4. provide 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. With regard to the employment status of volunteers, Section 163 also provides that service as a volunteer in any program carried out under this section shall not be considered service as an employee of the United States. Volunteers under such a program shall not be subject to the provisions of law relating to federal employment, except that the provisions relating to the illegal disclosure of income or other information punishable under Section 1905 of Title 18, United States Code, shall apply to volunteers as if they were employees of the United States.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Grant
  1. On December 26, 2007, the VITA matching grant program was funded and legislated to be established as a demonstration program in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, Public Law 110-161. Division D of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, was entitled the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2008. It generally funded Treasury Department components, including the IRS, for the remainder of fiscal year 2008. It was signed into law by the President on December 26, 2007. It included a provision that directed that the matching VITA grant program be administered by the IRS. It earmarked $8,000,000 to be available until September 30, 2009 specifically for this program. Thus, it appropriated funds for the specific purpose of the VITA matching grant demonstration project to remain available for one year beyond September 30, 2008. Subsequent to this initial funding of the VITA matching grant demonstration project, the project has been appropriated additional funds.

  2. The program shall provide direct funds to enable VITA programs to extend services to underserved populations and hardest-to-reach areas, both urban and non-urban, as well as to increase the capacity to file returns electronically, heighten quality control, enhance training of volunteers, and significantly improve the accuracy rate of returns prepared by VITA sites.

  3. The objective of the VITA Grant Program is to provide free federal tax return preparation, and electronic filing to targeted segments of W&I taxpayers. The targeted segment is defined as low to moderate-income taxpayers, the elderly, disabled, and LEP taxpayers. Low to moderate income taxpayers are defined as those taxpayers with income levels at or below the EITC guidelines.

  4. Grant funds are used to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses including transportation to and from the site, meals and other expenses incurred by them in providing tax counseling assistance at locations convenient to the taxpayers. In addition to volunteer out-of-pocket expenses funds may be used by the organization for salaries, wages, and benefits of clerical personnel; office supplies, equipment, printing and postage costs; installation of telephone lines; rent, utilities, and custodial services when necessary; costs for interpreter services, equipment and technical personnel to provide electronic filing services.

  5. The Grant Agreement defines the functions the VITA Grant Recipient and IRS will perform, the geographical area involved, and the maximum amount of funding available for reimbursement of administrative expenses.

  6. A grant recipient that is accepted is responsible for all aspects of operating a VITA Return Preparation Program including publicity, recruitment of volunteers, training, site selection and management of volunteers.

  7. The VITA Grant Program is managed by the Grant Program Office within the SPEC Organization, Wage and Investment Division. Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions, outlines the requirements of the IRS VITA Grant Program and provides information on how non-profit organizations may apply to participate.

Grant Program Overview

  1. The following describes the overview for SPEC grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly
  1. The TCE Program offers FREE tax help to individuals who are age 60 or older. Section 163 of the Revenue Act of 1978, Public Law No. 95-600, 92 Stat. 2810, November 6, 1978, authorizes the IRS to enter into agreements with private or public non-profit agencies or organizations for the purpose of providing training and technical assistance to prepare volunteers to provide tax counseling assistance for elderly individuals in the preparation of their Federal income tax returns. Implementing regulations can be found in Subpart H of 26 CFR Part 601 in sections 601.801 through 601.806.

  2. This Act authorizes an appropriation of special funds, in the form of grants, to provide tax assistance to persons 60 years of age or older. The IRS receives the funds as a line item in the budget appropriation. The total funds are available to the recipients for their expenses.

  3. 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. They must be a private or public non-profit agency or organization that qualifies for tax exemption under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code (organizations that have applied for recognition as tax-exempt but have not received their IRS determination letter confirming their tax-exempt status are not eligible for this grant) or be a federally recognized Indian tribal government. Organizations must be experienced in coordinating volunteer programs, with experience in income tax preparation and not be a federal, state, or local governmental agency or organization. Since acceptance is based in part on the applicants’ responses to the criteria and factors outlined in the Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program completeness, accuracy and conformity to the criteria set in the package is essential. Eligible organizations receive grants to conduct local TCE Programs.

  4. Grant funds are used to reimburse volunteers for out-of-pocket expenses including transportation, meals and other expenses incurred by them in providing tax counseling assistance at locations convenient to the taxpayers. In addition to volunteer out-of-pocket expenses funds may be used by the sponsoring organization for salaries, wages, and benefits of personnel that provide administrative and/or database support or technical personnel responsible for providing support for electronic filing for the TCE program (i.e., maintenance of equipment). In addition, 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 are allowable expenses.

  5. The Cooperative Agreement defines the functions that the program sponsor and IRS will perform, the geographical area involved, the maximum amount of funding available for reimbursement and administrative purposes, minimum federal returns to be accomplished for the grant period, and other information.

  6. A sponsor that is accepted is responsible for all aspects of operating a TCE Program including publicity, recruitment, training, site selection and management of volunteers.

  7. The TCE Grant Program is managed by SPEC. Publication 1101, Application Package Instructions and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program outlines the requirements of the IRS TCE Program and provides information on how non-profit organizations may apply to participate.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant
  1. In December 2007, Congress appropriated funds to the IRS to establish and administer a matching grant program for community volunteer income tax assistance. This funding allowed the Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) organization of IRS to partner with organizations to achieve the following program objectives:

    • Enable the VITA Program to extend services to underserved populations in hardest-to-reach areas, both urban and non-urban

    • Increase the capacity to file returns electronically

    • Heighten quality control

    • Enhance training of volunteers

    • Improve significantly 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 taxpayers; and Native Americans.

  3. The VITA grant supports the VITA Program Grant, recipients are required to follow existing guidelines governing VITA site operations file all eligible returns electronically. The IRS provides the software for filing electronically.

Administrative Requirements
  1. TCE and VITA Grant Program operations and requirements are referenced throughout the SPEC IRM. Refer to the individual chapters for further information in addition to the Publication 1101, Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program for the TCE Program and Publication 4671, VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions

  2. In addition, Publication 4883, Grant Programs Resource Guide provides guidance to 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 after the grant has been issued.

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 submitting an application to the IRS:

    1. Must be compliant with federal tax filing and payment requirements

    2. Must not be debarred or suspended from federal contracts, grants or cooperative agreements

    3. Must secure and provide a Unique entity identifier at (Dun and Bradstreet l Number)

    4. Must be registered in the System for Award Management at System for Award Management (SAM.gov) and maintain an active status

    5. Must be a private or public non-profit organization that has been granted tax exemption under IRC 501 or be a federally recognized Indian tribal government

    6. Must have submitted all required reports timely, if a prior year grant recipient of a VITA or TCE Grant

    7. Must have the capacity to file returns electronically

    8. Must have experience in coordinating volunteer programs

    9. May not be a federal, state or local governmental agency

    10. Must be registered on grants.gov

    11. Must be in compliance with all applicable civil rights reporting requirements

    12. Must determine if application is subject to Intergovernmental review by the state under Executive Order 12372.

  2. Organizations interested in becoming a VITA Grantee must meet the following eligibility criteria prior to submitting an application to the IRS:

    1. Must be compliant with federal tax filing and payment requirements

    2. Must not be debarred or suspended from federal contracts, grants or cooperative agreements

    3. Must secure and provide a Dun and Bradstreet Universal Number

    4. Must be registered in System for Award Management at System for Award Management (SAM.gov) system and maintain an active status

    5. Must already be classified as one of the following: be 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; or a regional, statewide, or local coalition with one lead organization that meets one of the eligibility requirements noted above

      Note:

      The lead organization filing the application must have a substantive role in the coalition.

    6. Must have submitted all required reports timely, if a prior year recipient of a VITA or TCE Grant

    7. Must have capacity to file returns electronically

    8. Must provide dollar-for-dollar matching funds for monies requested (VITA only)

    9. Must be registered on grants.gov

    10. Must determine if application is subject to review by the state under Executive Order 12372

Debarment or Suspension
  1. As part of the application process, an organization is required to agree to certain assurances and certifications. One of these certifications is the Certification Regarding Debarment, Suspension, and Other Responsibility Matters – Primary Covered Transactions. This is discussed more in depth in the assurances and certifications section of the Publication 1101 and Publication 4671.

  2. As part of eligibility, the GPO will check the individuals listed on the, Standard Form 424, Application for Federal Assistance and key individuals in the Program Plan narrative to ensure they are not debarred, suspended, or otherwise excluded from or ineligible for a federal award. Organizations can check for themselves by visiting the System for Award Management (SAM) maintained by the General Services Administration (GSA) at https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/. If incorrect information is identified about an organization or individuals within an organization, contact must be with the agency that reported the information. .

Civil Rights Reporting Requirements
  1. Applicants must provide information necessary to demonstrate compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law. 88-352), as amended, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Public Law 93-112) as amended which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-318), as amended, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities; the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Public Law. 94-135), as amended, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age; and Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency, which sets forth the compliance standards that recipients of Federal financial assistance must follow to ensure that their programs and activities normally provided in English are accessible to those with limited English proficiency, including providing oral interpretation and written translation when necessary. When developing program budgets, applicants are encouraged to consider the provision of language services for persons with LEP and reasonable accommodations for persons with a disability. For additional guidance on providing language services for persons with LEP, review the Department of the Treasury guidance provided at Limited English Proficiency.I Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.,

  2. No recipient or other person shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.

  3. Each application for financial assistance shall be reviewed for its civil rights reporting requirements by the Civil Rights Division. An applicant for a multi-year grant must update the required civil rights reporting information annually. Upon completion of its review, the Civil Rights Division will forward a preliminary civil rights determination to the SPEC office. Financial assistance shall not be awarded to the applicant until the Civil Rights Division has issued a preliminary determination of probable or conditional compliance based on the civil rights requirements reported by the applicant.

  4. The Civil Rights Division may request additional data only to the extent that it is readily available or can be compiled with reasonable effort, and is found to be necessary to make a civil rights compliance determination. Examples of data and information appropriate for determining compliance with applicable civil rights statutes and implementing regulations may include, but is not limited to:

    1. The manner in which services are or will be provided by the program in question, and related data necessary for determining whether any persons are or will be denied such services on the basis of the prohibited discrimination

    2. Data regarding covered employment, including use or planned use of bilingual public contact employees serving beneficiaries of the program where necessary to permit effective participation by beneficiaries unable to speak or understand English;

    3. The location of existing or proposed facilities connected with the program, and related information adequate for determining whether the location has or will have the effect of unnecessarily denying access to any persons on the basis of prohibited discrimination

    4. The present or proposed membership, by race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability, in any planning or advisory body which is an integral part of the program

    5. Data, such as demographic maps, the racial composition of affected neighborhoods or census data

  5. The Civil Rights Division annually conducts selected post-award compliance reviews to ensure civil rights requirements are in place and to provide technical assistance to recipients. The results from the selected compliance reviews are compiled into a report and provided to the SPEC Office.

  6. This section describes the data collection and reporting requirements required of TCE and VITA Grant applicants by the IRS to meet its responsibilities under those laws. This information is required pursuant to the civil rights statutes and the regulations of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of the Treasury. Recipients of TCE and VITA grants shall provide updated information as conditions warrant. All applicants are required to submit to the IRS with their application package the information outlined in items a-e below. (All of the items must be answered.) If an item is not applicable, please indicate so.

    1. A list of active lawsuits or complaints naming the applicant which alleges discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, disability, or reprisal with respect to service or benefits being provided. The list must include the date the lawsuit or complaint was filed; a summary of the allegation; and the status of the lawsuit or complaint, including whether the parties to a lawsuit have entered into a consent decree.

    2. A description of all pending applications for financial assistance 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 actually submitting 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 shall include: 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 assistance, this information must be relevant to the organizational entity actually submitting the application, not necessarily the larger agency or department of which the entity belongs.

    4. A description of how the applicant will address the needs of limited English proficient (LEP) individuals and individuals who may need a reasonable accommodation in order to access free tax return preparation services

    5. A description of the population eligible to be served, categorized by race, color, national origin, age, disability or sex.

    6. Certification and agreement that all of the records and other information required have been or will be compiled, as appropriate, and maintained by the applicant, recipient, or sub-recipient, and that the organization is in compliance with all federal statutes relating to nondiscrimination. Certification is provided by checking “I Agree” in Block 21 of SF 424, Form 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 who believe they have been 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 assistance or grant program may file a complaint through email at edi.civil.rights.division@irs.gov or at the following address:

      Operations Director, Civil Rights Division
      Internal Revenue Service, Room 2413
      1111 Constitution Ave., NW
      Washington, DC 20224

  7. An applicant for a multi-year grant must update the required civil rights reporting information annually. Each application for financial assistance shall be reviewed for its civil rights reporting requirements by the Civil Rights Division of the IRS. Upon completion, the Civil Rights Division will forward a preliminary civil rights determination based on the information in the grant application to the SPEC organization. Financial assistance shall not be awarded to the applicant until the civil rights reviewer has issued a finding of compliance or conditional compliance. All federal agency staff determinations of civil rights compliance shall be made by, or be subject to review by the agency’s civil rights office. The Civil Rights Division annually conducts selected post-award site visits to ensure civil rights requirements are in place and to provide technical assistance.

Audit Requirements
  1. Audit requirements applicable to grant award recipients are described in 2 CFR Part 200. If an organization expends less than $750,000 a year in total federal awards, no audit requirements are applicable. Total federal awards includes all sources of federal funding, not just the funds received from IRS in support of TCE or VITA. If an organization expends $750,000 or more a year in federal awards they must arrange for an audit by an independent auditor in accordance with the Government Auditing Standards developed by the Comptroller General of the United States.

  2. The costs of audits performed in compliance with 2 CFR Part 200 are allowable. An audit under 2 CFR Part 200 is organization-wide. Financial records, supporting documents, statistical records, and all other records pertinent to an award shall be retained for a period of three years from the date of submission of the final report for the grant cycle, subject to certain exceptions set forth in 2 CFR Part 200.

  3. Financial records, supporting documents, statistical records, and all other records pertinent to an award shall be retained for a period of three years from the date of submission of the final report for the grant cycle, subject to certain exceptions set forth in 2 CFR Part 200.

  4. The Federal Audit Clearinghouse operates on behalf of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and its primary purpose is to disseminate audit information to federal agencies and the public. If the most recent audit showed an unfavorable finding, it will not automatically disqualify you from consideration; however, more information may be requested to ensure any deficiencies noted in the audit have been corrected. Detailed information can be obtained from 2 CFR Part 200, which can be found at Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars The Grant Program Office will review the audit reports located at 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 have been paid or will be paid, by or on behalf of the applicant, to any person for influencing or attempting 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 have been paid or will be paid to any person for influencing or attempting 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 shall complete and submit standard Form LLL, Disclosure of Lobbying Activities, in accordance with its instructions.

    3. The applicant shall require that the language of this certification be included in the award documents for all sub-awards of all tiers (including subcontracts, sub-grants, and contracts under grants, loans and cooperative agreements) and that all sub-recipients shall certify and disclose accordingly.

  2. The certification is a material representation of fact upon which reliance is placed when the transaction is made or entered into. Submission of this certification is a prerequisite for making or entering into this transaction imposed by Section 1352, Title 31, U.S. Code. Any person who fails to file the required certification shall be subject to a civil penalty of not less than $10,000 and not more than $100,000 for each such failure.

    Note:

    If the organization, whether as the prime awardee or as a sub-awardee, is required to file a standard form LLL (Disclosure of Lobbying Activities) it may be found 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. TCE or VITA funds currently may not be awarded to any corporation that was convicted of a felony criminal violation under any Federal law within the preceding 24 months, where the awarding agency is aware of the conviction, unless the agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and made a determination that denial of the grant is not necessary to protect the interests of the government. Organizations must certify either that they are not a corporation or that they have disclosed in their application all their felony criminal convictions that occurred under Federal law within the preceding 24 months. In addition, applicants must disclose all violations of federal criminal law involving fraud, bribery, or gratuity violations potentially affecting the award. Applicants awarded a grant will remain under a duty to disclose these acts and will need to require similar certifications from any grant sub-recipients. To disclose a covered conviction, organizations must record the information specific to the conviction or violation and submit 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 any agency that awards a grant to a private entity to include a condition authorizing the agency to terminate the grant or take other remedial actions, without penalty, if the private entity engages in certain activities related to trafficking in persons. As part of the implementation of the Act, the Office of Federal Financial Management has established terms that must be included in every grant agreement. See 2 CFR 175.15. Under the Act, a grantee that is a private entity and any sub-recipient that is a private entity may 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 period of time that the award is in effect.

    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, by means of materially false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises regarding 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 country from which an employee is recruited

    • Providing or arranging housing that fails to meet the host country housing and safety standards

  3. The IRS may unilaterally terminate the award or take other remedial actions, without penalty, if any private entity is determined to have violated a prohibition in items a, b, c, or d above or has an employee who is determined by the IRS official authorized to terminate the award to have violated a prohibition in items a, b, c, or d above through conduct that is either:

    1. Associated with performance under the award;

    2. Imputed to the private entity using the standards and due process for imputing the conduct of an individual to an organization that are provided in 2 CFR Part 180, OMB Guidelines to Agencies on Government-wide Debarment and Suspension (Non-Procurement), as implemented by the Department of the Treasury at 31 CFR Part 19.

Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FATA)
  1. The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, as amended, is 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 comply with the FFATA reporting requirements must it receive funding. OMB has issued guidance to establish requirements for grantees to report information about executive compensation in certain circumstances. For more information, see 2 CFR Part 170.

  2. As required, GPO provides quarterly grantee data to Treasury to populate this site.

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act)
  1. The DATA Act was enacted into law in May 2014 to make federal spending data more accessible, searchable, and reliable. The data on USAspending.gov is compiled by Treasury with the assistance of federal agencies and will be updated and published on the site quarterly, with the first batch of data published in May 2017.

  2. As required, GPO provides quarterly grantee data to Treasury to populate this site

Other Applicable Laws and Regulations
  1. Federally funded programs are governed by a wide variety of federal laws, regulations, OMB circulars, Department of Treasury circulars, and Federal management circulars. These include, but are not limited to:

    1. Restrictions on political activities at 18 USC 595, 598, 600-603

    2. The national preservation program requirements at 54 USC 300101 et seq;

    3. Environmental requirements of the Clean Air Act (42 USC 7401 et seq.)

    4. The non-pollution requirement of the Federal Water Pollution Control Provisions (33 USC 1251 et seq.)

    5. All additional applicable statutory requirements, including the whistleblower protections at 41 U.S.C. 4712, 4304, and 4310; and all additional applicable requirements in OMB Circulars, Department of the Treasury Circulars and Federal Management Circulars, including 2 CFR Part 200.

    6. Whistleblower protections at 41 USC 4712

    7. Rules governing allowable costs at 41 USC 4304 and 4310.

    8. All additional applicable statutory requirements and all additional applicable requirements in OMB Circulars, Department of the Treasury Circulars and Federal Management Circulars, including 2 CFR Part 200; and;

    9. At this time, Federal law prohibits the IRS and all recipients of TCE and VITA funds from providing grant funds to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors as sub-grantees, subcontractors or other sub-recipients. This prohibition may be lifted by next fiscal year. Contact the Grant Program Office for up-to-date information about this prohibition

Report Requirements
  1. The following sections describe annual, semi-annual and periodic reporting requirements for SPEC's grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly Reports
  1. At the end of the program season, recipients are required to submit Semi-Annual, Annual and Final Narrative reports to give us specific information about the methods and procedures used to implement their program. These reports will show the actual expenses incurred by the organization for this program during the period of the Cooperative Agreement.

  2. All reports must be submitted electronically to their grant officer. Failure by the organization to timely submit required reports to the GPO may result in freezing of funds or termination of the grant. Also, documentation of expenses for attending a meeting at the IRS territory office or an Orientation Meeting (i.e., airline tickets, hotel, meals, etc.) is needed for reimbursement and must be attached to Form 8654,Tax Counseling for the Elderly Semi Annual / Annual Program Report.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant Reports
  1. The recipient is responsible for ensuring reports are filed timely and accurately throughout the grant period and until close out of the grant.

  2. The following reports and reporting dates apply to the VITA Grant:

    1. Federal Financial Report (FFR) Cash Transaction Report - (Standard Form 425). This report provides quarterly financial information. It is due 30 days after the quarter ends and continues until their Payment Management System account is closed.

    2. Site Establishment Report. This report list all sites planned to open or were opened under the grant. The due dates are December 1 and September 30 and it is submitted electronically to the Grant Program Office. If changes are made during the filing season, grantees must inform their local tax consultant or relationship manager who is responsible for maintaining site information in SPECTRM (SPEC Total Relationship Management).

    3. Financial Status Report (FSR). This is an annual report due 90 days after end of performance period and must be submitted through the Payment Management System. This report must be completed as part of the requirements to close out the grant period

    4. Year-One Progress Report using OMB forms SF PPR B, Performance Progress Report, Program Indicators, and SF 424A, BUDGET INFORMATION - Non-Construction Programs and the Other VITA Grant Year-One Program Information workbook. VITA grant recipients are required to report on the year-one production, expenses, sites, subawards, and program changes or issues. This report is due 10 days after initial email sent from the grant analyst. Specific GPO instructions must be used to complete SF PPR B and SF 424A.

    5. Standard Form PPR-A, Performance Measures - Annual report due 90 days after end of performance period.

  3. The quarterly reports (Federal Cash Transaction Report) and final report (Financial Status Report) are completed in the Payment Management System. These reports must be completed as part of the requirements to close out the grant period. The FCTR must be filed timely. If each is not filed timely, this will prevent funds from being withdrawn and the account will be frozen.

  4. The Standard Forms PPR-A, Performance Progress Report Performance Measures, Narrative with attachments, Budget Detail Explanation, and the Final Site Listing must be filed electronically with the Grant Program. This report must be submitted 45 days after the grant period ends.

  5. Extensions for reports due to the GPO are granted for filing reports only in unusual circumstances. Recipients may request an extension; however, it must be submitted in writing at least five business days prior to the due date and the grant recipient must in return receive a written response confirming the extension before the due date. If a request for an extension is not received and the report is received late, the allowance of a grace period or exception due to hardship must be approved by the Chief, GPO. If an exception is granted, the file is to be documented.

  6. The GPO cannot grant extensions for Payment Management System reports or sub-award reporting. Since the Grant Program Office is not the owner or has oversight of the Payment Management System and its reports; therefore, cannot grant report extension.

Quarterly/Final Federal Financial Report Requirements
  1. As referenced within the application packages for TCE and VITA, the recipients must utilize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Payment Management System (PMS) for withdrawal and reporting of grant fund expenditures. Organizations are required to complete electronic Federal Financial Reports (SF 425) for reporting quarterly and final period financial information.

  2. Quarterly reports are due within 30 days of the end of the quarter. The quarterly due dates are 1/30; 4/30; 7/30; and 10/30. The final report covering the entire grant period is due 90 days after the end of the grant period.

Grant Application Requirements

  1. The following sections will explain requirements for submitting grant applications for both TCE and VITA grant programs.

Use of a Universal Entity Identifier by Grant Applicants
  1. Grant applicants must provide a Dun and Bradstreet Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS) number when applying for Federal grants or cooperative agreements.

  2. Use of the DUNS number government-wide provide a means to identify entities receiving those awards and their business relationships. The identifier will be used for tracking purposes, and to validate address and point of contact information.

  3. Organizations must include a DUNS number when applying to participate in the TCE or VITA Grant Programs. The DUNS number must be provided within Box 8c (Applicant Information) on Form 424,Application for Federal Assistance.

  4. For information on how to obtain a DUNS number or for the policy relating to this requirement visit the Dun & Bradstreet (DB) website. Applicants can receive a DUNS number at no cost by calling the dedicated toll-free DUNS Number request line at 866-705-5711 or individuals hard of hearing can contact 877-807-1679

System for Award Management (SAM)
  1. The General Service Administration’s (GSA) Office of Government-wide Policy has consolidated the government-wide acquisition and award support system into one new system – the System for Award Management (SAM). SAM streamlines processes, eliminating the need to enter the same data various times, and consolidating hosting to make the process of doing business with the government more efficient.

  2. SAM includes the capabilities found previously in Central Contractor Registration (CCR)/Federal Agency Registration (FedReg), Online Representations and Certifications Application (ORCA), and the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS). Future phases will incorporate other capabilities currently found now in other systems

  3. SAM is used by anyone interested in the business of the federal government, including entities (contractors, federal assistance recipients, and other potential award recipients) who need to register to do business with the government, look for opportunities or assistance programs, or report subcontract information; government grant officials responsible for activities with grants, past performance reporting and suspension and debarment activities; or public users searching for government business information.

  4. If registered in CCR and the company’s information is already in SAM.gov, follow the instructions on the website to set up a SAM account. If the organization was not registered under CCR, visit the SAM website and establish an account. Registering in SAM is free. A DUNS number is needed to register your entity in SAM. If you do not have a DUNS number, you can request a DUNS number for free by visiting Dun & Bradstreet (DB) website. It takes 1-2 business days to obtain a DUNS. In addition, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) assigned by the IRS is needed. To obtain an EIN, visit EIN Online

  5. Once registered in SAM, SAM will provide advance notification to the company to renew registration. This must be done annually in order to maintain active status. Visit https://www.sam.gov/portal/public/SAM/ for more information.

Intergovernmental Review
  1. Executive Order 12372 Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs, was issued with the desire to foster the intergovernmental partnership and strengthen federalism by relying on State and local processes for the coordination and review of proposed Federal financial assistance and direct Federal development.

  2. Applicants must contact the State Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for Federal Executive Order 12372 to determine whether the application is subject to the State intergovernmental review process

Grants.gov
  1. Grants.gov is the Federal Government’s single site for federal grants with a mission to provide a common web-site to simplify competitive discretionary grants management and eliminate redundancies. The Department of Health and Human Services is the managing partner for grants.gov.

Grants.gov Registration
  1. Once an organization has received their DUNS number and has registered in SAM, they are ready to register on grants.gov. The grants.gov website offers numerous applicant resources to assist in registering and using their system. If they are already registered, have users in the organization check to make sure they have a current password and proper permissions to perform the required actions. Check out applicant resources for user guides, checklists, animated tutorials, web casts, and frequently asked questions.

  2. For registration assistance, review grants.gov for the actions required to complete this step. Please register early and take advantage of the many aids at grants.gov to become familiar with the submission process to alleviate any last minute frustrations with submission. Organizations must not wait until the last day to submit their application on grants.gov. The application must be submitted by the application due date in order to be considered timely.

TCE and VITA Grant Program Application
  1. Qualifying organizations must compete for consideration as a grantee. The TCE and VITA Grant Programs are announced in the Federal Register, on the grants.gov web-site and IRS web-site. Applications for both programs are due by May 31. Deadlines for submitting applications and the schedule for selecting program sponsors are provided with the application publications.

  2. For TCE -Publication 1101,Application Package and Guidelines for Managing a TCE Program, contains the current program guidelines and requirements, certification documents, and other materials needed for the preparation and assembly of a TCE Program Grant application. Publication 1101 can be downloaded at irs.gov. .Applying for a TCE Grant

  3. For VITA Grant - Publication 4671,VITA Grant Program Overview and Application Instructions, contain the current program guidelines, certification documents, and other materials needed for the preparation and assembly of a VITA Grant application. Publication 4671 can be downloaded at irs.gov, Applying for a VITA Grant.

  4. A solicitation of an application is not an assurance or commitment that the IRS will enter into a cooperative agreement or grant agreement with an organization. The IRS will not pay any expenses or other costs incurred by an applicant in considering, preparing or submitting an application.

  5. All information that is required in the application must be submitted by the applicant prior to the application deadline. Any applications received after the deadline will not be considered.

  6. All grant applications must be submitted electronically through grants.gov by the application deadline unless there is extenuating circumstances. This will be at the discretion of the Grant Program Office..

  7. All non-continuing grant applications are reviewed and ranked based on the same evaluative criteria outlined in the application packages.

  8. For the TCE Grant Multi-year grant opportunities are available for organizations that are interested and meet the criteria. Organizations submitting an application can elect, if they are interested in being considered for a multi-year grant. Consideration is limited to those applicants that meet all eligibility requirements.

  9. As with many IRS programs, the TCE and VITA Grant Programs are subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Individuals may request copies of an organizations’ application for their review. The Freedom of Information Act 5 USC 552 provides public access to agency records unless protected from disclosure by certain exemptions or exclusions. Under this provision, all grant applications are made available to the public upon written request after appropriate redactions have been made to ensure confidentiality of protected information. . Requests must be made to 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. Multi-year grant opportunities are available for organizations that are interested and meet the criteria. Organizations submitting an application can elect, if they are interested, in being considered for a multi-year TCE grant. Consideration is limited to those applicants that meet all eligibility requirements.

  2. Multi-year grants reduce burden on both the applicant organizations and the IRS and provide partners a foundation to develop long-term growth and sustainable plans. There are a number of benefits for both the IRS and the grant recipients for providing multi-year grant opportunities.

  3. The criteria for consideration of a Multi-year grant include a Technical Ranking score of 90 percent or greater and a prior year grant recipient in good standing - No significant concerns raised in prior years during territory office assistance visits, financial reviews, TIGTA reviews, or GPO administration in the following areas:

    • Accounting and record keeping practices

    • Accuracy and quality of returns

    • Volunteer training

    • Successful delivery of program plan and return production goals

  4. Multi-year funding

    • Year one – subject to availability of annually appropriated funds

    • Year two and/or year three – Funded subject to: satisfactory performance; compliance with grant terms and conditions; and availability of appropriated funds

  5. Multi-year application requirements are outlined within the application packages; Publication 1101 .

  6. Grantees approved for a multi-year grant are not required to submit the full application package for years 2 and 3 of their multi-year grant term and are removed from the competitive ranking process after year one of the award cycle. An "abbreviated grant application" will be required from multi-year grantees after year one of the award cycle, as long as multi-year terms are followed (satisfactory performance, compliance with grant terms and conditions).

  7. All cooperative agreements, competitive and continuing multi-year, are scheduled to be issued in October.

Grant Application Processing

  1. The following section describes IRS processing of grant applications for SPEC's grant programs.

Receipt and Control
  1. The pre-award process begins with receipt and control of grant applications. Applications are retrieved from grants.gov. The process is as follows:

    1. Assign a sequential number to all applications (e.g., 18VITAXXXX or 18TCEXXXX), each application is recorded on a log.

    2. Ensure applications are distributed to GPO analysts for completeness reviews

    3. If application is complete conduct the eligibility check

    4. If incomplete, the GPO allows two business days for providing the missing information, if the applicant appears to have made a good faith effort in submitting the application. Applicants that are missing numerous documents are not considered nor the applicant contacted for additional documents. A request for the additional information is only made once.

    5. Only applications with all required information are reviewed for eligibility. If an application is substantially incomplete, the applicant will be notified that their application is incomplete and will not be considered further.

    6. Technical ranking occurs simultaneously with the Grant Program Office (GPO) evaluation. Any missing information identified by the GPO during its evaluation will not be considered by technical evaluators when the technical review is completed. The applicant is responsible for ensuring all information is submitted. Incomplete applications meeting basic eligibility will be scored based on the information available at time of review. Therefore, it is extremely important that the submission is complete.

    7. All applications (Form SF-424, SF 424A) are entered into a spreadsheet.

    8. The GPO staff conducts quality reviews by comparing the electronic documents to the data input into the spreadsheet and by checking the applications to make sure applicant organization name is consistent throughout the package.

    9. Complete and eligible applications are placed in an electronic file on GPO's shared drive with a history sheet documenting all significant case actions/activity.

    10. IDRS research is conducted to determine whether applicant organizations are compliant with federal filing and payment requirements.

    11. Terrorist Screening requests are submitted to the Criminal Investigation Division for research.

    12. All applications are electronically available to the IRS EEO/External Civil Rights Division for civil rights compliance checks.

    13. Grants.gov acknowledges receipt of applications submitted electronically.

    14. Upon receipt of the results of the IDRS research and terrorist screening, the GPO will update SharePoint to indicate each application as "eligible" or "not eligible"

    15. Applications with less than positive IDRS or terrorist screening results are placed in the ineligible/closed file

    16. A copy of each complete and eligible application will be ranked

    17. Files ready for ranking are sorted by state and area prior to the ranking process

Application Completeness and Eligibility Processing
  1. Employees will review the application to ensure it was received within the allotted time frame and that all required components are included:

    1. The application is reviewed to ensure it was received in the allotted time frame. Organizations will be notified their application will not be considered if not received in time. The allowance of a grace period or exception due to hardship is at the discretion of the Chief, GPO. If an exception is granted, the file is to be documented.

    2. At a minimum, all applications must include the Standard Form 424,Application for Federal Assistance, with authorized organization representative signature, DUNS number, and EIN.

    3. The application must include documentation of non-profit eligibility, a program plan narrative, financial plan information, civil rights narrative, assurances, and when applicable, a disclosure of lobbying activities.

    4. The GPO may correspond for missing components as long as a good faith effort was made in submitting the application and missing items were minor (as in missing signatures).

    5. Applications judged incomplete will not be evaluated on their merit. Notification will be provided to the grant applicant of the incomplete status.

  2. For applications determined complete or the employee believes an applicant will furnish the missing information, the GPO will determine through utilization of available research tools whether the organization is eligible for a TCE or VITA Grant.

    1. The GPO will research IRS master file records to confirm accuracy of applicant’s entity/tax-exempt designation and tax compliance status. Employees will evaluate each applicant using at a minimum, IDRS command codes BMFOL, INOLES, TXMOD, and SUMRY, when available. Other command codes such as TRDBV and ENMOD may be used as research warrants. If a balance is found or a return is not filed and the module shows a filing requirement exists, the analyst will send an email to the applicant notifying them of potential problems of a tax related issue and instruct them to contact 877-829-5500 to have the situation confirmed and a resolution determined. The applicant will be given ten business days to respond. If the applicant does not respond, they are ineligible for consideration. If the applicant agrees that there is a balance owed, they are ineligible for consideration. If the applicant disagrees with balance and provides information showing that it is an error on the part of the IRS and the GPO agrees, the applicant will be considered for ranking. If the applicant provides information indicating they are not liable for filing a return, they must submit a statement and request to IRS to have filing requirement corrected. If the applicant indicates they are responsible for filing a return, they are not eligible. Payment or filing a return after our notification will not quality the organization for consideration.

    2. The GPO will research the System for Award Management (SAM) and maintained by the General Services Administration SAM.gov to ensure the applicant and key individuals in the application are not debarred or suspended from receipt of Federal funds. At a minimum, the organization name, authorized organization representative, and the primary contact will be researched. Based on a review of the applicant’s program and financial narratives, other key individuals such as the program director and financial officer will also be researched. Research is not required of all individuals mentioned in the program narrative but of those key individuals with responsibility for ensuring overall program and financial compliance to the grant terms and conditions. Additional information will be requested from the applicant to confirm any identified matches found the information is further evaluated to confirm whether the organization or individual is suspended or debarred.

    3. The Harvester web-site will be used to research for reports showing compliance with 2 CFR Part 200. The most recent audit report will be reviewed to determine whether deficiencies exist and/or unfavorable findings were identified. Depending on the results of the audit, IRS may request additional information from the applicant to determine whether corrective actions are implemented to respond to identified deficiencies. Organizations will not be automatically denied a grant due to a prior audit; however, IRS may institute safeguards such as additional reporting and/or approvals to ensure effective utilization of grant funding.

    4. For prior grant recipients of either a TCE or VITA Grant, research will be conducted to determine adherence to reporting requirements. Centralized listings of reporting status will be reviewed and, when warranted, the prior year grant file will be reviewed to determine whether the organization complied with reporting requirements and can be considered for grant funding.

    5. The GPO corresponds with applicants when deficiencies are identified using email if available. Alternate methods include phone and postal service. Information provided as a result of this correspondence is considered before finalizing the eligibility determination process. Notification will be provided to the grant applicant of the ineligible status.

  3. The master grant file is documented as to the completeness and/or eligibility review. All supporting documentation is placed in the file in the specified location.

  4. The tax analyst is to complete the input of information from the application into the grant spreadsheet and document the completeness and eligibility review results in the corresponding section of the database.

  5. The tax analyst will update the master control spreadsheet with the results of their completed reviews daily.

Ranking Panel Evaluation of Application Packages
  1. A critical step in selecting grant recipients is the ranking process. Annually, a solicitation is submitted to the field for volunteers for the TCE and VITA grant ranking panels and the VITA grant review team. The volunteers selected for the panels review, evaluate and rank electronic grant applications remotely. Each application is ranked twice by different panel members. Panel members do not rank applications from their own Area.

  2. A Ranking Panel comprised of SPEC TM, area and headquarters analysts, and tax consultants (relationship manager) are selected to participate in the panel review.

  3. Panel members must have in-depth knowledge of the TCE and VITA programs and requirements; as well as knowledge of SPEC policy and procedures as demonstrated by SPEC field experience.

  4. TCE and VITA technical ranking evaluations will be conducted virtually (from the post of duty or alternative work location.) Usually technical ranking occurs during the month of June.

  5. Panel members are provided with the evaluative criteria in which the applications will be ranked and will score each organization using this criteria and the applicant’s proposal.

  6. Technical Evaluation Guidelines are provided to panel members that present a cross-walk to each ranking criteria element in relation to the location within the applicant’s proposed program plan where the information must be addressed. This will provide uniformity in the ranking of each element throughout all applications.

  7. In addition to the technical evaluation, each application will undergo are view by the GPO. This evaluation considers the information contained in the applicant’s background or financial narrative and proposed program plan along with IRS data on prior grantees and their tax compliance. It considers proposed program purchases in light of program requirements and 2 CFR Part 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements of Federal Awards. For the VITA grant, it also considers SPEC returns data and U.S. Census information on the audiences targeted to ensure geographic dispersion of grants; prior return preparation at the sites included in the plan; and proposed matching funds and documentation when submitted.

  8. .GPO management reviews the recommendations overall for concurrence to analyst recommendations and adherence to process requirements. For VITA, the reviews consider availability of funds targeted for the state and any funds not used. Adjustments are made as needed to ensure awards do not exceed availability of funds

  9. The VITA grant review team conducts evaluator training; oversee the VITA grant ranking panel and process.

  10. The VITA grant review panel finalizes the strength and weakness feedback provided to the applicants and completes ranking closeout paperwork.

Evaluative Criteria
  1. The following sections explains the evaluative criteria used for each of SPEC's grant programs.

Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
  1. Acceptance into the program will be based on the following criteria:

    • Quality of Programs and Services for age 60 and over (i.e., qualifications of employees, time devoted to the program, employee/volunteer training, publicity, hours of operation, site location convenient to target elderly taxpayers 60 years and above and ensure elderly taxpayers are given priority services). Only an organization whose tax assistance program focus/serve elderly taxpayers will be eligible for the maximum number of points (30 points).

    • Geographic coverage and extent of coverage for age 60 and over (i.e., the number of proposed assistance sites, number of volunteers, number of Federal income tax returns to be prepared and e-filed for elderly taxpayers, and other assistance to be provided) (20 points).

    • Electronic Filing services for age 60 and over (i.e., the proposed number of Federal income tax returns to be prepared and electronically filed for elderly taxpayers. Returning sponsors prior year e-file volume will be reviewed and the maximum number of points will be awarded for organizations that exceed 65 percent e-file for taxpayer aged 60+ (20 points).

    • Prior experience in Federal Tax Return Counseling and Tax Preparation (10 points).

    • Quality of Cooperative Agreement Administration and Internal Accounting Procedures (i.e., experience in providing volunteer service and services to the elderly, organizational structure, experience in managing federal grant programs, reasonableness of proposed budget (70 percent of grants funds must be used for reimbursement expenses and 30 percent must be used for administrative expenses) and qualifications of the TCE management staff) (10 points).

    • Past performance of a returning grant recipient (i.e., timely submission and completeness of reports (quarterly, semi-annual, annual) and accomplishment of return production goal)) (10 points).

  2. TCE Grant Program Office Evaluation

    • Concurrently with the technical evaluation, each application will undergo a review by the Grant Program Office. In addition, a thorough evaluation will be conducted on the applicant’s background narrative and proposed program/budget plan. This evaluation will include a general review of the entire application and program/budget plan to ensure that the applicant can meet the TCE Program requirements, and that the technical evaluation did not raise any significant concerns.

  3. Guiding Principle

    • Grant partners are expected to show incremental increases in return preparation each year.

  4. Measures of Success

    1. Grant recipients are expected to achieve 100 percent of the return goal specified in their grant agreements.

    2. Grant recipients are expected to become more efficient each year with grant funds provided for their program. Any organization that received a grant in a prior year must prepare more returns with a similar amount of funding in the current year, reducing their cost of preparing returns.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Grant
  1. VITA Grant applicants must provide information concerning their qualifications and their proposed plan for use of the VITA grant. This information is used to evaluate the organizations potential to achieve the objectives of the VITA Grant Program. (Failure of an organization to address all of the components listed below will prevent maximum points from being awarded.)

  2. Experience with low income and/or return preparation - (40 points).

    • Experience coordinating and operating an IRS volunteer return preparation program for low-income taxpayers

    • Any efforts the organization has taken to provide financial education and asset building to these same populations

    • The number of years the organization (or sub-recipient organization) has participated in the VITA program

  3. Strengt