TAP Volunteering

Volunteer Roles & Training

Our tax sites are busy places! It is not uncommon for a site leader to ask a volunteer to jump into a different role if there is a holdup at a certain point of the site flow. It is important to be flexible and ask questions when you have them! Your site leaders, as well as other volunteers, can be invaluable resources at the sites.

While we try to provide as much training as possible prior to your first volunteer session, you will likely feel a little lost your first couple of times out. This is normal, expected, and the reason we require volunteers to come out a minimum of 3 times per season. The third time is so often the charm. You have already committed a lot of time to training, so be sure to stay the course and complete at least 3 volunteer sessions!

Volunteer Roles:

Tax Preparer

Responsibilities:

  • Work one-on-one with clients to complete their Federal and Illinois tax returns using professional tax software
  • Interview client and thoroughly review their paperwork and tax documents to ensure an accurate return.

Training Requirements:

  • Online prerequisites and required reading
  • In-person training at either the Basic or Advanced level*
    • The Basic and Advanced trainings are similar, although the Advanced training goes into a deeper level of tax law. We always need more Advanced preparers at sites, so if you are willing to challenge yourself, consider signing up for Advanced. Only Advanced preparers can do certain things like Schedule C preparation (for self-employed taxpayers), which is very common at our sites! * Returning volunteers who have completed 2 or more years of tax service may opt to certify through our self-guided trainings without the assistance of a trainer. Learn more about self-guided training.
  • 80% or higher score on either the Basic or Advanced IRS certification exam ** **Volunteers do not need to certify at the Basic level in order to certify at the Advanced level – the tests are stand-alone.

Quality Reviewer

Responsibilities:

  • Review, finalize, print, and assemble completed client returns using a Ladder Up-provided checklist
  • Discuss returns with clients and explain the 1040 and any tax implications or liabilities
  • Ensure necessary client signatures are obtained
  • Complete necessary paperwork for Ladder Up

Training Requirements:

  • Online prerequisites and required reading
  • In-person training at either the Basic or Advanced level*
    • The Basic and Advanced trainings are similar, although the Advanced training goes into a deeper level of tax law. We often need more Advanced preparers at sites, so if you are willing to challenge yourself, consider signing up for Advanced. Only Advanced preparers can do certain things like Schedule C preparation (for self-employed taxpayers), which is very common at our sites! * Returning volunteers who have completed 2 or more years of tax service may opt to certify through our self-guided trainings without the assistance of a trainer. Learn more about self-guided training [hyperlink].
  • 80% or higher score on either the Basic or Advanced IRS certification exam ** **Volunteers do not need to certify at the Basic level in order to certify at the Advanced level – the tests are stand-alone.

Intake Specialist

Responsibilities:

  • Greet and sign in clients as they enter the tax site
  • Ensure clients are eligible for service and have all necessary documents with them, using a Ladder Up-provided checklist
  • Provide clients with intake forms and assist with their completion when needed
  • Interview clients to ensure they are eligible for service, have all the required paperwork, and have completed all forms thoroughly
  • Determine the scope of the return (Basic or Advanced)
  • Manage the flow of clients from waiting area to preparers and reviewers

Training Requirements:

  • Online prerequisites and required reading
  • Intake test will be included in the prerequisites for all volunteers this year
  • *Intake specialists do not need to be tax certified, but tax training can be extremely helpful for this role

Interpreter

Responsibilities:

  • Assist other volunteers in working with Spanish-speaking clients at our heavily Spanish-speaking sites
  • Interpreters may be asked to help with client intake

Training Requirements:

  • Online prerequisites and required reading
  • Online Intake Specialist training module* *Interpreters do not need to be tax certified, but tax training can be extremely helpful for this role

Save Up Money Coach

Responsibilities:

  • Engage clients to discuss savings and asset-building opportunities available at the tax site
  • Work with clients to utilize savings tools

Training Requirements:

  • Online prerequisites and required reading

Contact Carly Oishi for more information: coishi@goladderup.org

Self-Guided Training Option

This option is for volunteers with 2 or more years of experience. You must be comfortable with our site process, ProSeries, and familiar with our clients and the kinds of returns we do. We will provide you with a study guide and you will complete the test independently in our office utilizing ProSeries software. This is a great option for confident, returning preparers and reviewers.

Expectations and Getting Started

The process to become a certified tax volunteer is a bit involved, and we are grateful for your commitment to the process! We provide as much training ahead of time as possible, but your first few volunteer sessions should be considered an extension of your training. Ask questions, ask for help, and try to have fun!

To get started as a tax preparer or quality reviewer

  1. Create an account at goladderup.volunteermatters.org
    1. VolunteerMatters is our online scheduling platform – you will schedule training and volunteer sessions through this platform
  2. Sign up for an in-person training at either the Basic Level or the Advanced Level***
    ***The Basic and Advanced trainings are similar, although the Advanced training goes into a deeper level of tax law. We often need more Advanced preparers at sites, so if you are willing to challenge yourself, consider signing up for Advanced. Only Advanced preparers can do certain things like Schedule C preparation, which is very common at our sites!
  3. An account will be created for you in our E-Learning Center at goladderup.thinkific.com when you enroll for VolunteerMatters
  4. Complete the courses in our E-Learning Center labeled as required (you will not be able to sign up for volunteer sessions until you complete the first required course)
  5. Complete the in-person required pre-work in the E-Learning Center
  6. Attend training- you will likely be a little lost after training. This is normal! Sign up for your first sessions in our VolunteerMatters scheduling portal [hyperlink]
  7. Attend your first volunteer session and jump in!
  8. Attend your 2nd volunteer session. Feel a little less lost.
  9. Attend your 3rd volunteer session. Start to get the hang of it, have great client interaction, and decide this is a great way to spend the rest of your Saturday mornings this winter!
  10. When you feel comfortable enough to do quality review, you can complete the online training module in our E-Learning Center ***
    ***It is SO important to have enough Quality Reviewers and Advanced-certified volunteers. We often have a bottleneck at the sites due to not having enough reviewers or Advanced preparers. Please consider one or both of these options.

Expectations for tax preparers and quality reviewers:

  • You will attend training and complete a certification test, the IRS prerequisites, and any other required e-learning prior to volunteering
  • You will cancel sessions that you are unable to attend at least 24 hours prior. We limit session slots based on the number of computers available, so if you do not show up, you have taken a computer away from someone that may have been able to prepare returns, thus reducing the number of clients we can serve at the session
  • You will arrive on time, or let the volunteer manager know if you will be late by sending an e-mail to volunteers@goladderup.org
  • You will be sensitive to the situations of our clients and remember that you are dealing with confidential information
  • You will have fun. Seriously!!!

To get started as an intake specialist or interpreter

  1. Create an account at goladderup.volunteermatters.org
    1. VolunteerMatters is our online scheduling platform – you will schedule training and volunteer sessions through this platform
  2. An account will be created for you in our E-Learning Center when you enroll for VolunteerMatters. Make sure to create Volunteer Matters account first.
  3. Complete the courses in our E-Learning Center labeled as required (you will not be able to sign up for volunteer sessions until you complete the first required course)
  4. Read the Intake Manual in the E-Learning Center. You will also receive a hard copy of this at your first volunteer session.
  5. Attend your first volunteer session and jump in!
  6. Attend your 2nd volunteer session. Feel a little less lost.
  7. Attend your 3rd volunteer session. Start to get the hang of it, have great client interaction, and decide this is a great way to spend the rest of your Saturday mornings this winter!

**Intake requires less training, but it is no less important, nor is it necessarily easier than tax preparation. It is vital that our intake specialists recognize appropriate and in-scope tax documents and situations so that our clients do not move on to tax preparation only to be told that they cannot be served.

Expectations for intake specialists and interpreters:

  • You will complete the IRS prerequisites, and any other required e-learning prior to volunteering
  • You will cancel sessions that you are unable to attend at least 24 hours prior
  • You will arrive on time, or let the volunteer manager know if you will be late by sending an e-mail to volunteers@goladderup.org
  • You will be sensitive to the situations of our clients and remember that you are dealing with confidential information
  • You will have fun. Seriously!!!

FAQs

What time commitment is required of volunteers?

Volunteers are required to attend a minimum of 3 tax sessions over the course of the season. This session requirement helps to ensure that our training resources are thoughtfully allocated, and that our volunteers feel comfortable and confident at the site, which in turn leads to a better volunteer experience and increases the number of clients we can serve. Sessions typically last between 4 and 5 hours.

Do I need a tax or finance background to volunteer?

No tax preparation experience is necessary to get involved! Ladder Up provides free basic tax and software training for volunteer preparers. Many self-paced supplemental training options are also available on the IRS website to deepen your tax knowledge. Volunteers who do not wish to work on tax returns can help as an Intake Specialist or Interpreter

Does everyone need to attend training?

All tax site volunteers must complete a mandatory online site and process training and pass the associated IRS multiple-choice test every tax season. Most roles require additional training – see Volunteer Roles & Training for information.

Am I liable if I make a mistake on someone’s tax return?

All volunteers who have complied with the following program policies are not liable for mistakes on a client’s return:

  • Complete the mandatory pre-training course in our E-Learning Center which includes Volunteer Standards of Conduct requirements, Intake, Interview and Quality Review Quiz, and turning in a signed Form 13615 (Volunteer Agreement) for the current filing season
  • Successfully pass the IRS certification exam required for your volunteer role for the current filing season
  • Prepare or review returns only within the scope of your certification level
Can I volunteer at any site I choose?

To serve as many clients as possible across all service locations, some limitations exist and not every tax site offers the full range of volunteer opportunities. See Volunteer Site Locations for specific site details.

Who can I contact if I have more questions?

Please scroll down to the bottom of this page to complete the Contact Us section and select “TAP Volunteering” from the dropdown menu.

Is Ladder Up like VITA?

Yes! We are an IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program. We operate independently, but we receive some funding from the IRS and adhere to all national VITA standards. Find out more about VITA here.