“Occupation?” I asked.
I nodded. And then I typed “Retired.”
But there were a number of other clients that day that stuck in my mind: the older woman who offered to come back and bring me cookies because she felt I needed to eat more (apparently she was really my mother in disguise); the little old lady who I am quite certain brought in every single piece of paper she had in her possession “just in case” and the older couple who were thrilled to find out that they were entitled to several hundred dollars back as part of the Pennsylvania Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program because their only source of income was their Social Security checks.
The VITA program offers free tax help to low- to moderate-income taxpayers. Most centers have specific income and filing criteria and often focus on a certain kind of client. The center where I volunteered was geared to seniors. Some sites may be located near colleges and universities to assist students while still others may be on or near military bases to help families of those in the armed forces. What they all have in common: the sites offer a much-needed service for taxpayers.
Most of the clients who patronize VITA centers are people, for the most part, who want to pay their taxes. They want to be compliant. They may not have the knowledge or the resources to do so without VITA. And there are a lot of folks in need of those services. In 2013, nearly 92,000 VITA volunteers prepared 3.3 million tax returns (about 2% of the total individual returns filed).
Those taxpayers could use your help. And I promise you, it’s not hard. You won’t be on your own and you won’t be over your head. The IRS provides training and gives you the resources to prepare basic returns. And if preparing returns isn’t your strong suit – even with training – there are lots of other jobs available. At our center, we had greeters, appointment makers, intake folks and folks that coordinated forms assembly (yes, we mostly e-filed but occasionally one of our seniors did not trust “those machines”). At some centers, they need language support.
You don’t need experience but if you have it, that’s terrific. At our center, I served alongside active and retired attorneys, accountants and financial planners – together with retired engineers, nurses and school teachers. It’s also a super opportunity for aspiring accountants, budding tax attorneys and EAs-to-be (and psst: it doesn’t look bad on a resume either).
All you need is a willingness to help out. Having a little interest in taxes won’t hurt either – but then, you’re reading a tax blog. I’m guessing you’re already there.
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