What is VITA?
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is an IRS program with the goal of providing FREE tax preparation services for low to moderate-income individuals and families. VITA West Michigan program is administered by Goodwill Industries of West Michigan and supported primarily with volunteers throughout our community.
The VITA program has been in the Muskegon area since 2004 and administered by Goodwill Industries of West Michigan since 2007.
In the 2018 tax season, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Services for West Michigan helped file 2,791 tax returns, thanks to 43 volunteers. This led to $3,459,739 of taxes going back to our working families. This is important not only for these individuals but for our community as well.
Recipients of VITA services tend to spend much of their tax refunds in their communities at local businesses, helping to support jobs and investments in the community and leading to further benefits for everyone.
Benefits of Volunteering
In addition to the satisfaction of supporting your community through your volunteering service, you will have the opportunity to network within your community, put this experience on your resume, and will also learn how to file your own taxes.
Students are highly encouraged to volunteer as this is a great opportunity to interact with the community, network with like-minded individuals, and gain valuable work experience.
Working in the VITA program fulfills the work experience required by Baker College for business degrees. Other institutions may also allow the work experience toward college credit and scholarship opportunities increase when adding community service to your scholastic resume.
Professionals are also encouraged to volunteer as the volunteer training and hours count toward Continuing Education (CE) Credit Requirements. Stakeholder Partnerships, Education and Communication (SPEC) VITA/TCE Programs are approved to provide up to 18 credit hours of IRS Continuing Education (CE) credits for:
- Enrolled Agents (EAs)
- Non-credentialed tax return preparers participating in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP)
- Certified Financial Planners (CFP)
- Attorneys and Certified Public Accountants (CPA) may also qualify for CE credits depending upon their state licensing requirements or National Boards of Standards
Volunteer Screeners assist the Tax Preparers on-site by greeting clients and directing them to the appropriate area to complete their intake forms, review of the documentation brought, and answering any questions the client may have.
Volunteer Tax Preparers complete, in-person, tax returns for e-filing using TaxWise software. This includes:
- Verifying client identity
- Interviewing client and reviewing client documentation
- Using TaxWise software to file a client’s taxes, determining the client’s balance due or refund
- Printing appropriate forms for client records and when submitting a physical copy is required
- Ensuring all forms are filled out and signed as required
- Collect demographic data
- Performing quality review on other preparer’s returns
They also provide a high level of customer service by ensuring each client has a full understanding of their return, what services we are providing them, what steps they need to take (if any) to complete their filing process for the year, and indicating what additional services are available to them through Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, and/or our affiliates’.
Volunteer Site Coordinator
The Volunteer Site Coordinator includes the duties of the Volunteer Tax Preparer. In addition to the Volunteer Tax Preparer duties, the Volunteer Site Coordinator directly manages the operations of a VITA tax preparation site. These duties include:
- Supervising the preparation of returns
- Advising other tax preparers
- Coordinating the workflow when necessary
- Managing the TaxWise e-filing system for completed returns
- Works with Program Coordinator and/or Program Assistant to resolve operational problems/conflicts
Task Team (Off-Season)
From June until October, we are engaged in recruiting our volunteers for the next tax season by setting up booths/tables at local events, networking through social media, and spreading word of the VITA program wherever we can. We sign up volunteers until our volunteer kickoff event in October which leads us to the training classes starting mid-December.
What experience is required to volunteer?
To become a VITA Volunteer you must be at least 16 years of age. No experience is required, but tax return preparers will need a working knowledge of computers. Our tax software will help guide you every step of the way, or you can volunteer to do customer service. We provide free training from December through April to help you learn everything you need to know to file tax returns, and there is no liability for volunteers.
What kind of training is required?
In order to volunteer with the VITA program, you will need to pass a Volunteer Standards of Conduct and Intake/Interview & Quality Review certification tests. Estimated completion time: 1 hour and 20 minutes.
If you are volunteering as a tax preparer, you must pass a certification test for Basic and/or Advanced preparation and additional certifications in Health Savings Accounts, Military, Puerto Rico, and International tax law are available. Estimated completion time: 4 hours for each Basic and Advanced certifications. Completion times vary for additional certifications.
Site Coordinators must also pass an additional certification for site coordinators.
How many hours do I need to volunteer?
During the tax season, each site has multiple shifts for volunteers to work. These shifts range from 3 to 5 hours. We ask that our volunteers sign up for at least one shift per week.
Interested in volunteering?
Contact Jasam Brett Layne-Roy
Phone: (231) 722-7871 ext. 1073