Learn by Volunteering
2013 Leeward Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
Contact Roy Kamida if you wish to volunteer or have questions.
For many years students from Leeward Community College and the University of Hawai‘i – West O‘ahu have volunteered to help their fellow classmates and community members with low to moderate incomes by preparing federal and Hawaii income tax returns. Students from Waipahu and other public high schools have recently joined our group. The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program provides free online and supplemental live training and reference materials. You do not need to be a student in a tax class or an accounting major to volunteer. All you need is a good attitude, time to study the materials (hint: winter break), and pass the online competency test. When possible we work in teams of two volunteers to support and double-check each other. Experienced help is always just a raised hand away.
Here is a quote from a student who had participated in Leeward’s VITA program:
“…I can see how much VITA impacted me and my thoughts. I learned many lessons from my participation. One of the major lessons is the wonderful feeling I got from helping others. It’s easy as a student to be concerned with what I need to accomplish and what my needs are on a daily basis. Given the opportunity to help others was so helpful in that I was able to learn more about taxes and not really think of it as learning. I was just helping another person who was less informed than myself. This was so wonderful because through helping them I was actually helping myself.”
All volunteering and the supplemental live training will be held on Leeward’s Pearl City campus. Volunteers are required to study on their own time the supplied training kits and access the online resources for learning the federal tax laws. The supplemental live training dates are Saturdays, January 12 and 19, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Basic federal and Hawaii tax laws and procedures will be reviewed on January 12. Intermediate tax laws will be reviewed and hands-on use of tax preparation software (TaxWise Online) will be covered on January 19.
All volunteers must past the Standards of Conduct (Ethics) Test. Before volunteers can officially prepare returns they must pass at least a basic level competency test that is administered online. Volunteers are encouraged to pass the intermediate level so they can review returns prepared by others and prepare more advanced returns with itemized deductions. You can always retake the test if they do not pass the first time. Attempts to pass a certification test are limited to two online tries so make sure you have completed the applicable lessons and do the tests on paper before attempting to take it online. There are slight differences between the paper and online tests so carefully read the online questions before copying the answers from your paper tests. A passing score is 80%. After passing a test you will be able to print a certificate for yourself and a Volunteer Agreement (Form 13615). Sign the agreement and bring it with you on the first date you volunteer.
Because the US Congress is late in approving expiring tax laws that are planned to be extended for 2012, the IRS has not finalized 2012 tax forms and is using 2011 laws for the current certification tests. The current exam scenarios appear to be the same as last year’s. The questions and answers may be in different order than last year with some questions having slightly different wording so make sure to carefully read the questions and answers.
The free tax return preparation service will only be offered on the Pearl City campus during Saturday mornings and Tuesday/Thursday afternoons for the months of February and March. A signup sheet will be available on the training days so you can select the days you want to volunteers. Students in Leeward’s ACC 134 and 137 classes need to volunteer five or more days to substitute their volunteering for the two class projects. We are asking other volunteers to contribute four or more dates during the tax season. We need to make sure we have enough volunteers for each of the scheduled dates. Come a little early to help set up and stay to finish your last return for the day. Easy returns could take as short as 15 minutes. Harder returns could take a couple hours. We may ask the taxpayers to come back the next scheduled date if we cannot finish or they are missing information. All returns must be processed and reviewed with the procedures established by the IRS. Self-reviews are not allowed beginning this year so the returns you prepare must be reviewed by other volunteers. You are not liable for any mistakes as long as you follow the authorized procedures. As volunteers we should gently decline the offer of any compensation from taxpayers.
This is the main site for training materials and certification testing. As an alternative you can use 2011 Publications 4491 and 2011 publication 4491-W, below, when studying the modules. You need to complete at a minimum the short Volunteer Standards of Conduct training and exam, and the Basic level training and exam. You can work on tax returns for only up to the level of your certification. Some returns will require preparers to complete the Intermediate training and certification so you are highly encouraged to complete the Intermediate or higher training and certification. Take the online certification test only after completing a course and the related “paper” test/retest (2012 Form 6744 (still using 2011 laws), below). This site also has Practice Lab that allows volunteers to prepare online practice and exam tax returns.
Do the test on paper first (see the previous web link) then take the same test online. The online and paper scenarios are the same but the online questions may differ slightly from the paper questions so make sure you read both test and retest sets of questions before submitting your answers online. You may use the Link and Learn Practice Lab to prepare tax returns that are required by the scenarios. After passing with a score of at least 80% you will be able to print a certificate for yourself and the Volunteer Agreement (Form 13615). Print, complete, and sign the Volunteer Agreement and bring it with you on the first date you volunteer.
Use this website for training purposes only. Look for the GREEN border that indicates this site is only for preparing practice and exam tax returns. First three digits of taxpayers’ SSNs are given. Next two digits must be unique. Last four digits are Leeward’s last four digits of its EFIN.
Use this 2011 reference when working on the 2012 certification tests. See the linked Publication 4491-X update for 2012 information. PDF version of Link & Learn although 404 pages long and may not be updated for last minute changes. Copies on a CD will be distributed to those volunteering at Leeward College.
Use this 2011 information for practice only. Accompanies Publication 4491. Contains practice problems with source documents. Copies on a CD and limited quantities of the printed publication will be distributed to those volunteering at Leeward College.
Useful information with tables, worksheets, flowcharts, etc. for common tax situations, frequently asked tax questions, and TaxWise procedures. Printed copies of this publication will be distributed to those volunteering at our Leeward College site.
Even though the test is dated 2012, it is based on 2011 laws. Due to the late congressional approval of tax laws the test will not be updated so the older test is being used to certify volunteers. Do this paper test first before attempting the online certification linked below. Paper and online scenarios are the same but questions may differ slightly. Available on CD. Printed copies of the test will be distributed to those volunteering at our Leeward College.
This is the REAL online site for preparing tax returns. Authorized use only. Look for the BLUE border that indicates this site is only for real returns and not for training use.
Use these sites to prepare real prior year tax returns and not for training use.
2011 (RED border) https://twonline.taxwise.com/11
o 2010 (TAN border) https://twonline.taxwise.com/10
o 2009 (PURPLE border) https://twonline.taxwise.com/09
This form will be available at the online testing site with your name and scores automatically inserted. Complete, date, and sign the form and turn it in to your site coordinator on the first date you volunteer.
All taxpayers are required to fill in pages 1 through 3 and any comments on page 4. Then volunteers must review the information with the taxpayer and complete page 4. Probing questions should be asked to make sure we have accurate information before and as we prepare the tax return. Section B on page 4 need to be completed if the taxpayer is claiming dependents as listed on question 2 of Part II on page 1. Section C on page 4 is used only by the reviewer who has passed at least the intermediate-level certification. Beginning this year the preparer and reviewer need to be different volunteers.
Paper versions will be available at our volunteer site.
HTML version only