All volunteer must complete each certification test annually and all volunteers are required to complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct (Ethics) training. Volunteers who answer tax law questions, prepare tax returns or quality review must also complete the Intake/Interview & Quality Review training and exam.
Volunteers can choose to become either a Basic or Advanced level tax preparer. It is strongly encouraged that volunteers certify at the advanced level. It is not necessary to complete the Basic exam before taking the Advanced exam.
These training modules and links have all the information you need to pass either certification.
Some of the modules have a video conversation that adds to the module slide decks.
The certification tests are open book, not timed and you can save your answers to complete the exam at a later time. When taking the tests, you may use forms, instructions and any other reference material received during training or in the modules.
The passing score for each test is 80% and you have two attempts to pass each exam. It is recommended that you work through the scenarios and answer the questions before logging the answers online.
Step 1: Volunteer Standards of Conduct, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training
All volunteers are required to complete the Volunteer Standards of Conduct course and exam. Volunteers who answer tax law questions, prepare tax returns or quality review must also complete the Intake/Interview & Quality Review training and exam.
Complete these modules to understand the Volunteer Standards of Conduct, Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training.
Learn the volunteer standards of conduct and what it means to be a VITA volunteer. The video gives a national perspective of VITA services during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Volunteer Standards of Conduct: Video Conversation
Volunteer Standards of Conduct – Welcome to VITA
Client Intake Process
See the IRS Form 13614-C (Intake/Interview form) and why it’s important at the tax site.
- Form 13614-C Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet
- Intake Form in Action – Part 1 & Part 2
- Publication 5101 Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training
- Talking to Taxpayers: Explaining the Return
- Talking to Taxpayers: PDF
Client Interview Process
Understand how to conduct a thorough interview with customers.
Step 2: Tax Law Training
Complete these modules to understand basic tax law. To review more about Advanced tax Law, check out the Link & Learn Taxes e-learning page.
Preparing an accurate return requires appropriately determining a taxpayer’s filing status and dependents. Although the value of the dependency exemption for 2018 returns is $0, there are other credits that rely on making the right determination of who can be claimed as a dependent.
The video conversation talks about the filing status and dependents for the tax return. This conversation works in conjunction with each module.
Filing Status and Dependency: Video Conversation
Understand how to select the appropriate filing status and how filing status and dependents affect tax returns.
Understand who can be considered a dependent and how filing status and dependents affect tax returns.
- Filing Status & Dependency: Quiz
- Filing Status Interview Tips
- Filing Status Decision Tree
- Overview of Rules for Claiming a Dependent
Income comes in all shapes and sizes. From common wage-earners, who bring in a W-2, to retirees with pensions, to gambling winnings, and all points in-between. In this module you’ll learn about the various ways in which tax filers can earn and present with income (including cash – which must be reported), and how and where to incorporate that income in the tax return.
This video conversation focuses on Income and all its miscellaneous features! This conversation works in conjunction with each module.
Income: Video Discussion
Understand income as it pertains to the tax return and the use of each form in the 1040.
Additional Income (Schedule 1)
Understand the different sources of income that are reported on a Schedule 1 and the types of income that are out of scope for VITA.
Understand what miscellaneous income is, how Form 1099-Misc works, where to report it and how it affects a tax return.
Note: This is an advanced tax law topic.
- Income: Quiz
- Sample W-2
- Form 1099-MISC
- Form 1099-R
- Form 1099-G
- Form 1099-DIV (Dividend Statement)
- Form 1099-SSA (Social Security Statement)
- Form 1099-NEC (Nonemployee Compensation)
Adjustments to Income
American taxpayers are not taxed on all the income they earn in a year. Adjustments are a way to reduce a tax filers taxable income. Here you’ll learn about various allowable adjustments to income to reduce taxable income.
This module discussion sheds light on discussions and what you will need to know for this filing season! Advanced Level volunteers will need to learn about Health Savings Accounts to pass their exams!
Adjustments to Income: Video Discussion
Understand how Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) affects tax liability/refund on the 1040. Learn how to calculate deductions like the educator expense, penalty on early withdrawal of savings, alimony paid and student loan interest.
Deductions can be confusing, but they are a valuable part to understanding how taxable income can impact the client’s return. Follow through this short module to get the basics on Standard Deduction and Itemized Deductions!
This module discussion provides guidance on the use of deductions in the tax return!
Deductions: Video Discussion
Understand how tax liability is calculated and the difference between standard and itemized deductions.
Non-refundable credits help to reduce a taxpayer’s tax liability. The value of these credits is deducted directly from the total tax liability. If there is no tax liability, these credits cannot be applied to the return. Learn about the various non-refundable credits, their value, and how they are applied to the return.
Credit for Child & Dependent Care Expenses
Understand the Credit for Child & Dependent Care Expenses, the five qualifying tests to claim the credit and where the credit appears on Form 1040.
- Credit for Child & Dependent Care Expenses: PDF Slides
- Credit for Child & Dependent Care Expenses: Quiz
Retirement Savers Credit
Learn about the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit, the eligibility and benefits of the credit and how to claim the credit.
Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled
Understand the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled, the purpose of the credit and the limitations of the credit. Learn about Schedule R and a Physician’s Statement
Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents
Understand the difference between the Child Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents. Determine eligibility and calculate the amount of the credits.
Refundable credits have value, even if the tax liability is zero (0). Learn about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) it is impact on the return, and other important information about the timing of refund distribution for returns that claim the EITC.
This video discussion can tell you more about the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Refundable Credits: Video Discussion
Refundable Credits – Earned Income Tax Credit
Understand the Earned Income Tax Credit, know the rules of eligibility and what income qualifies.
Sometimes going to school or going back to school can result in certain tax benefits. Learn how pursuing post-secondary education or taking classes or certifications for work can lead to credits such as the American Opportunity Credit, or the Lifetime Learning Credit.
This video discussion can you tell more about the Education Benefits and Credits such as the American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit!
Tax Benefits for Education: Video Discussion
Tax Benefits for Education Overview
Determine who qualifies for an education credit, which credit can be claimed and if the taxpayer has scholarship/grant income or eligible expenses.
Understand which expenses can be claimed for education credits, how to read Form 1098-T and calculate qualified expenses.
Treatment of Scholarships and Grants
Understand how to determine if the taxpayer has taxable scholarship/grant income, when to treat it as income and when to complete Form 8615 (Kiddie Tax).
The Affordable Care Act mandates health care coverage for most Americans. The healthcare mandate and penalties associated with not having health insurance was rescinded after the 2018 tax year. Taxpayers that have health insurance through the Marketplace are required to report the coverage reported on Form 1095A.
This module discussion works on what you need to know for the Affordable Care Act on the tax return!
Affordable Care Act: Video Discussion
Affordable Care Act
Understand the Individual Shared Responsibility Payment, most of the exemptions, which documents are required for tax preparation and become familiar with issues that are beyond the scope of a basic preparer.
You have interviewed the taxpayer, checked their ID’s and Social Security Cards, entered all of the data, and made sure the taxpayer claimed all the credits they were eligible for. You’ve almost completed your first VITA tax return. Now let’s talk about how to get all the way to the finish line!
This video discussion can help you finish the return and guide what you’ll need to know!
Finishing the Return: Video Discussion
Finishing the Return
Know how to complete tax return preparation and get ready for the quality review.
Whether this is your 2nd or 20th season, this module will cover some the new changes for tax year 2019, especially with the implementation of the Tax Cuts and Job Act.
At the end of this module, you will be prepared for the new issues that are included in the IRS Basic and Advanced tests for VITA Volunteer Tax Preparers.
This module covers the most up-to-date tax law extenders for the 2020 calendar year up to January 2020. The extender law may change between the times of publication and the time of accessing the training.
- Link & Learn Quick Start Guide
- Publication 4012 – Volunteer Resource Guide. This guide contains more detail for the content in the modules.
- Publication 4491 – VITA Training Guide. This training guide goes over all details for being a VITA volunteer.
- Publication 5307 – Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families. This is an IRS publication that details updates as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
- Publication 6744 – VITA Test and Retest. This is a printed copy of the exam. It is recommended that you work on the scenarios and answer the questions first and then log in to Link & Learn to input your answers.
- TaxSlayer Practice Lab. Access the tax software in a training environment to work practice problems, see test questions and watch tutorials.
- Tax Test Study Guide. Use this guide while taking the tax law tests. It will reference where to look in Publication 4012 to figure out the answer.
- Quality Review Resources. Learn more about the quality review process including how to complete a review in the software.
Use the Practice Lab to complete these problems to help you get ready for the certification tests.
Step 3: VITA Certification Exams
Once you’ve completed the training, it is time to take the certification exams.
Create your Link & Learn Account
Use the Link & Learn website to take the online exam after completing the online training and practice exercises.
Create a new account or login with your previous years’ login information. This account includes personal information needed to register as a VITA volunteer.
The certification exams consist of two parts:
- The first few scenarios do not require that you calculate a tax return. Read the interview notes for each scenario and use your resources to answers the questions.
- The last few scenarios require that you calculate a tax return. Use the Practice Lab to complete the tax return and answer the questions using the tax return you prepared.
Step 4: Volunteer Agreement
The Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement shows all of the certification exams that you have completed. Volunteers must sign and date their Volunteer Agreement to certify their adherence of the VITA Program Requirements. You can do this electronically in your Link & Learn account. Click here for instructions.
Please email the signed Volunteer Agreement to us at email@example.com to receive instructions on how to sign-up for volunteer shifts.