Monday, June 8, 2009

Santa Clara County VITA Site Coordinators Close-out meeting May 7, 2009

Santa Clara County VITA Site Coordinators Close-Out Meeting 5/7/09 Below are comments/reflections of tax season 2009 and recommendations for tax season 2010:                       This past tax season went reasonably well. Tax Wise Online was better than previous years. Offer the volunteers a pre-season ‘practice lab’ before customers. It is advantageous for the site screener to start the shift early to expedite customers. It is good practice to confirm the inputted SocSec Card number at quality review. More volunteers at the sites this year was good –when there was sufficient equipment to use. It was suggested to publicly post the rates of rejections/acceptances for site customers to see. In addition to a follow-up phone call for those customers needing to come back, it was suggested to also send a letter on IRS letterhead. Intake sheets need be properly completed in order for preparers to use as interview technique. Reference materials were often underutilized for qualification status. Wording on EIC worksheet for unmarried/under18 needs clarification or put into a 2-parter. TWO reporting feature and notice of acceptance is confusing. Perhaps have a separate intake and QR sheet section. TWO specific training would be helpful for volunteers. Having volunteers arrive 20-30 minutes before opening helps improve site operations. Increase opportunities for practicing, espec for new volunteers on items such as 1099 misc, etc. Process-based training was greatly improved. Consider offering condensed/early training for returning volunteers. Increase emphasis on training that practices actually completing returns. Try to open a few sites earlier in the tax season (by mid-January). Look into being part of the IRS/VITA disability initiative. End all training by around Jan 20 to give time for volunteers to be deployed and ready to go. th >See how to add comments

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 7, 2009 Site Coordinators Meeting

United Way Conference Room May 7, 2009

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quality Site Requirements Alert 2009-01


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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What is reasonable for coordinators to expect from new volunteers?

The VITA program requires volunteers preparing taxes to obtain annual certification through an open book test administered by the IRS. Given the expectation of the limited range of returns that VITA volunteers prepare, it does seem too much to ask those who are already qualified to prepare returns professionally to have to go through the whole training process.

What is a reasonable performance to expect, why, and are we seeing that?

Since volunteers are trained in Tax Law, TaxWise software, interviewing taxpayers and completing tax returns, what are reasonable expectations for a new volunteer with Basic Certification?

I consider the following to be reasonable:
1) The ability to fill in a W-2 form without errors, especially W-2s with special requirements for individual States (in my case, California)
2) The ability to recognize that 1099-Misc income generally goes neither on line 7 nor line 21
3) The ability to recognize that returns with pre-tax retirement contributions on W-2s is beyond the scope of their training unless they understand the Retirement Savers’ Credit
4) The ability to recognize why we enter bank account information twice rather than cutting and pasting the numbers thereby guaranteeing they are the same
5) The ability to independently and correctly complete a 1040 with filing status single with only W-2s and interest or 1040-EZ equivalent.
6) The ability to recognize that creating an e-file successfully means that a certain level of correctness and completeness of the return has been achieved but that the return may not be perfect and that it assigns a DCN to the return in preparation for transmission, but does not transmit the return
7) The wisdom to not ask questions or request information when the answer will not make a difference to the tax return. (A prime example for California State returns is to spend time trying to draw out landlord information when the tax obligation is 0, and taxpayer does not qualify for renter credit)
8) The ability to explain why it is necessary to identify and associate a taxpayer with picture and tax IDs presented by the taxpayer rather than on handwritten lists of numbers, or paper copies of prior returns

What do others think? Any additional basic abilities you think are necessary and reasonable to expect? Please add your comments to this posting.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Posting Individual Return status on the Web

After returns are e-filed at VITA sites, there are processes in place to contact the taxpayer to get it resolved, with no process in place to inform the taxpayer if the return is accepted. Some sites mail out 9325 acknowledgements to advise their clients that their returns have been accepted. However, look at it from the point of view of the taxpayer. How can they be sure that the return has been filed and accepted, and would it be possible that their return has been lost and/or ignored?

At the same time, what are the alternatives? We could place priority on getting out the 9325s, or inform the taxpayer by email when the return is accepted. At one site, a simple solution provides the status of the Federal and State returns accepted or rejected, with a return code that is made available to the taxpayer when the return is prepared. That way, the taxpayer can look up the information without having to login, enter multi-charactered passwords correctly, or worry about cookies or popups. The link to the return is on the home page of

Saturday, January 24, 2009

IRC 7216

At a meeting of VITA site coordinators of Santa Clara County held on January 22, 2009 at the offices of United Way of Silicon Valley, we were informed about the disclosure and use consents that need to be discussed with taxpayers whose returns we prepared.

The procedure was well described and laid out, but trying to implement it appeared to be pretty time consuming and subsequent guidance scheduled to be published may make it unnecessary.

Information provided to the IRS is meant to be kept confidential and not be made personally identifiable. This is understandable - since nobody likes their information to be made public. However, it would appear that numbers on AGI, refund amounts, tax credits, etc in aggregate that do not identify people personally should not be a big deal. After all, total revenues coming in to the IRS are compiled and published every year.

Secondly, if the information is to be used for the taxpayer for his or her benefit, the permission to do so needs to be sought at the time of the need with specific permission, and not require a record be kept of the decision at the time of preparing the return.

Third, I personally am wary of signing another piece of paper, and I suspect many others too. So explaining to them what they are signing (namely that they are authorizing us to use the information for statistical purposes, but granting permission in writing to use all of the information, and then telling them that they need to sign that so that we can continue providing service to them in the future - as was suggested during the meeting ) is different frwom what we are telling them that we will only report it is aggregate is bound to cause suspicion.

Fourth, being reasonably proficient with the language, the other site coordinators and I have a hard time accepting that this course of action is reasonable. When we have such doubts about its value, it becomes difficult if not impossible to train volunteers in what this is about, and have them try to convey to taxpayers with a language problem just takes away a lot of time from actually helping them with their returns.

For sites that are open during only the tax season, and are present only for preparing taxes and not providing other services, it would appear that the best course of action would be to not bring it up until the public as a whole is educated on the ramifications of what is going on.

What do other coordinators think? Please express your thoughts here by making comments to this posting.