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Old 12-28-2019, 07:14 AM   #21
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TY 2019 will be my fourth year as a tax aide, my third year as an instructor, and my first year as the district Training Coordinator.

If your local training is bad it is likely because of the district leadership. The IRS and AARP Tax Foundation requirements are to pass three exams (two on ethics and procedures, one on tax return prep) and to be trained on Policies and Procedures. Thatís itó no minimum classroom time.

Beyond those requirements, your state or district leadership may add training requirements. (Actually, now that I think about it Iím not sure if the Policies and Procedures training requirement comes from National or State). For example, our state leadership has directed that each counselor successfully complete at least four practice returns to be selected from a list of seven.

Next, the Training Coordinator works with the District Coordinator to develop the District training requirements. In our case, we havenít added any requirements. I have a team of instructors and we are offering two multi-day training sessions in January. Attendance is optional but most will attend.

I agree with the others that noted how grateful most of the clients are. Iíve had some almost cry when they realize we donít charge anything.

Your individual experience will depend on your site and local coordinator. I was lucky that I was ďassignedĒ to a very busy site with an energetic LC. We work hard but have a lot of fun.

Iíll put a plug in for another volunteer option: if you want to help, like talking to people but arenít sure you want to learn the tax stuff, you can volunteer to be a Client Facilitator. They are the people that greet the clients and help them fill out paperwork before someone else starts the tax return.
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Old 12-28-2019, 10:11 AM   #22
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For the last 9 years or so I have gone to my local AARP Tax Aide site to have my taxes filed. I have always found the volunteers there to be an impressive and professional bunch who are very careful. Any questions that arise are tossed out to the group and looked up in several reference materials. They have 2 people cross-check the finished return for any errors. The same very sharp lady who seems to be in charge is there year after year. She remembers regular clients by name.

I do live in an upscale neighborhood and perhaps what I perceive as a high degree of competence is a reflection of that, or maybe I am just easily impressed! LOL. Whatever the case, I am well satisfied, and yes, very grateful for this service. Of course, I am sure the government is too.
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Old 12-28-2019, 10:21 AM   #23
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I have had a couple of retired friends do it and really like it. However, the training is no joke. To do it right you will put in substantial hours. The deserving clients will be significantly more than the one or two wealthy ones who try to get free services (aka: total scum bags). I look forward to doing this in a few years!
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Old 12-28-2019, 10:32 AM   #24
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What's your liability as the preparer in these situations? What if you mess up and the taxpayer ends up owing a penalty? Do you pay it?
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Old 12-28-2019, 11:32 AM   #25
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What's your liability as the preparer in these situations? What if you mess up and the taxpayer ends up owing a penalty? Do you pay it?
My understanding is as long as the return is within scope (which means that we have been trained on the subject area and have the appropriate reference resources) then we are covered from liability by a federal law known as the Volunteer Protection Act.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volunteer_Protection_Act

The scope of the program is surprisingly broad and includes things that I did not expect to be included, but does thankfully exclude some sections of things like MFS filing status and farms.

If a volunteer prepares a return which is out of scope and the taxpayer ends up with a problem, then the preparer could face civil liability, I assume under regular tort law and the concepts of negligence and harm.
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Old 01-01-2020, 07:23 PM   #26
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I am curious to know how the AARP tax prep assistance is supported financially? Are they recipient of a govt contract or do they fund it from donations, fees, dues or ? Iím not looking for speculation or agenda driven responses. It seems several have 1st hand experience with the service and may know the answer
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Old 01-01-2020, 07:59 PM   #27
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I am curious to know how the AARP tax prep assistance is supported financially? Are they recipient of a govt contract or do they fund it from donations, fees, dues or ? Iím not looking for speculation or agenda driven responses. It seems several have 1st hand experience with the service and may know the answer
It's funded by grants from the AARP Foundation and the IRS.

There are no fees, dues, or anything from the people whose taxes are prepared. The vast majority of the staff are volunteers - I think they said there are 12 paid people out of several thousand. The services are provided in churches, libraries, and other similar free locations.
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Old 01-01-2020, 08:42 PM   #28
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It's funded by grants from the AARP Foundation and the IRS.



There are no fees, dues, or anything from the people whose taxes are prepared. The vast majority of the staff are volunteers - I think they said there are 12 paid people out of several thousand. The services are provided in churches, libraries, and other similar free locations.


Thanks. I understood the services were free to the client. I was referring to membership dues/fees.
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Old 01-01-2020, 08:48 PM   #29
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Thanks. I understood the services were free to the client. I was referring to membership dues/fees.
There are no fees or dues. You need not belong to AARP. These people are volunteers who want to give back to the community.
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Old 01-01-2020, 09:40 PM   #30
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I have been doing it for at least 12 yrs. It may have been said before but just in case.........there are 2 programs......TCE (targeted to the elderly tho others are not rejected if they come) and VITA which is targeted to others (I assume less elderly and perhaps a more diverse population).

I have only done TCE but I have this perception of VITA (perhaps true or perhaps not) as more diverse and perhaps consequently more difficult. This idea comes from the test questions that we have to pass every year. We used to have to pass both the Basic and Advanced Sections. The Basic Section always had these complex family situations that I , and I found out later, others found quite challenging. I ended up doing the advanced test first to gain confidence and then went back to do the Basic test. Fortunately in recent years we only have to pass the advanced test.

Like all situations, you are most affected by the micro-environment around you. I have been fortunate to have had one Local Coordinator for most of the 12 yrs and she was very supportive and everyone appreciated her. I also had wonderful coworkers who supported each other. So no complaints there. As mentioned by others, the taxpayers we see were very appreciative of our efforts and ,since we are not allowed to accept cash, they buried us in other stuff.........candies/cookies/fruit/etc.

Most of the work is fairly routine although in the early years, I had the impression that something new happened each day. Every once in a while you get to have a significant effect............like when the couple presented me with one SS tax form and when I asked for the other, they told me that the wife didn't get SS because she never worked. Homework assignment: find out about spousal SS.......so they were happy and excited to get some back pay.

The training materials are quite good esp. the 4012 so you are able to handle situations that are not your every day experience with the help of those resources. You also gain an appreciation of what it takes to be able to create those flow/decision charts. The creator must understand the material well to be able to create a lean pithy summary (as opposed to writing lots of wordy lengthy pages when you don't understand things well).

I would encourage OP to keep an open mind as different folks' experiences may have been different............like reading a Yelp review of a restaurant w/ diverse opinions. Perhaps I have been lucky but I consider the Tax-Aide experience to be most rewarding.
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Old 01-02-2020, 12:10 AM   #31
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Here's another vote in favor of participating, for pretty much the same reasons others have mentioned: it's a much appreciated service that primarily serves those who might have some difficulty navigating the federal and state tax system.

Median AGI for 1000+ clients where I've participated runs around $12K. At that level most SS benefits aren't taxed so actual income is higher, but certainly not "high". Maybe 2% had AGI>$70K.

The whole thing is apolitical, so don't participate because you like AARP's lobbying and don't not participate because you don't like AARP's lobbying.
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Old 01-02-2020, 08:18 AM   #32
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I was a volunteer for the first time last year. I found the training was good in our area. For me, the state taxes where actually the most challenging and most of the training was focused on federal. My state (MA) has some senior tax breaks and doesnít tax some government pensions, that was area that needed self study. I found it really rewarding. The other volunteers in my site had at least 10 years experience and were very helpful.

I was in a senior center so all our clients were older so that did limit some of the scenarios. With maybe 2 exceptions of higher income folks with complex investments, most became routine by April. There is more demand in our area than volunteers, I had a lot of folks that paid HRBlock the prior year because they couldnít get an appointment for a simple return that took maybe 45 min

Iím back to training next week.

One thing I really liked was the seasonal nature of it. I feel good about giving back to my community, but am only committing to a schedule for one quarter of the year.
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Old 01-09-2020, 09:42 PM   #33
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This is my 7th year. I really enjoy giving back to community especially to those who obviously can not afford a professional preparer's fee. They do appreciate our service. It's a joy to alert seniors and lower income folks to programs & benefits they are eligible for due to their personal circumstances.

My only real complaint about the whole program is that AARP has not set any income limits and we have more than our share of 6 figure income folks draining precious time away from those who really need this service. It seems like every other organization that prepares taxes for free sets limits. We started to gently browbeat the super high earners by emphasizing the program's real target audience. Thankfully, we are also able to pull the out-of-scope card on some of those more complex returns.

Volunteering for this keeps your mind active, keeps you sharp on the tax code & changes, provides for an opportunity to interface regularly with a great team of volunteers and members of the local community, provides a sense of satisfaction in helping others, and reminds you to count your blessings.
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Old 01-10-2020, 03:11 PM   #34
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We started to gently browbeat the super high earners by emphasizing the program's real target audience. Thankfully, we are also able to pull the out-of-scope card on some of those more complex returns.
Agreed!
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Old 01-10-2020, 04:12 PM   #35
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I recently got an email from the coordinator for my town following my filling out an expression of interest form on the IRS web site. In that email she said that the formal training had already been conducted (in November) but that there are self-study materials available. I've not yet made phone contact with her but hope to soon. I feel like I'm fairly conversant with taxes although I'm not a CPA or anything like that. I'd been hoping to take the week of training.

UPDATE: After looking at the amount of self-study material, I decided that I would not have the tine to do it justice between now and the tine volunteers have to "go live" with tax prep. (I also gave a trip planned during what would be my prep time.) I asked the folks to make sure I'm only their email list for next year so I can take the class.)
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