IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program
|Services||Tax preparation assistance|
|Internal Revenue Service|
|Website||IRS VITA site|
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant program is an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) initiative in the United States that supports free tax preparation service for the underserved through various partner organizations.
VITA service helps low- to moderate-income individuals, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers file their taxes each year. IRS awards matching funds to partner organizations throughout the country. The IRS awarded $18 million in grants for FY2019.
VITA was founded in 1971 by Gary Iskowitz at California State University, Northridge.
Since the 1970s the program has grown to several thousand sites nationwide, partnering with non-profit organizations, local municipalities, and colleges and universities. In Tax Year 2015, 3.7 million VITA tax returns were filed with a 94% accuracy rate. VITA provides service to low to taxpayers making less than $56,000 per year.
VITA volunteers include greeters, intake specialists, and tax preparers. All volunteers must pass a code of conduct exam and an intake interview/quality review exam.
The VITA tax returns are prepared by IRS tax law certified volunteers. They must pass a tax law exam to receive basic or advanced certification. The passing score is 80%. Certificates expire at the end of the tax year and must be renewed.
VITA has other optional certifications. These include certificates for Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Military personnel, International tax issues, Foreign Student returns, and Puerto Rico returns. Some military bases participate in VITA with IRS agents training service members to complete military tax returns. Foreign students' returns are prepared at major public universities such as Arizona State University by more advanced experts.
VITA volunteers are taught how to use tax software and specific tax law each year. One of the focal points of VITA is raising taxpayer awareness and receipt of the Earned Income Credit (EIC). The average refund for taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Credit was $2,450 as of 2015.
Tax law certification levels
Parts of Tax Law Covered
*Not All Inclusive*
|Basic||- Filing and dependency status
- Basic income, such as salaries & wages, interest, and dividends
- The Earned Income Credit
- Education Credits
- Disability Income
|Advanced||- Self-Employment Income
- Calculating the taxable amount of retirement distributions
- Sales of Stock, Bonds, or Real Estate and other Capital Transactions
- Tip Income
- Cancellation of Debt *Previously was its own certification
- Marketplace Insurance, ("Obamacare")
|Puerto Rico I/II||- Income and deductions relating to Puerto Rican residents,
and mainland US Residents with Puerto Rico sourced income
|Health Savings||- Contributions and Distributions from Health Savings Accounts (HSA's)
- Penalties for ineligible distributions
|International||U.S. Citizens living abroad or with non-U.S. sourced income|
|Foreign Student||- Non-citizen students and scholars living in the United States on
non-immigrant student visas.
|Military||- Rental of home due to deployment or other ordered absence
- Military Moving Expenses
There are also a number of tax topics that are "out-of-scope" for the program regardless of a tax preparer's certification. Even professionally licensed volunteers are prohibited from providing advice to taxpayers on out-of-scope topics in the capacity of a volunteer.
|Can Prepare||Cannot Prepare|
- grant program
- Pub 4671 provides the IRS VITA Grant overview and application instructions.
- A list of current grantees here.
- Location look up
1) IRS 4012 VITA/TCE Volunteer Resource Guide (2) IRS 4491 VITA/TCE Training Guide (Includes content for Military Certification) (3) IRS 5157A VITA/TCE Affordable Care Act Taxpayer Scenarios (4) IRS 4942 VITA/TCE Specialty Course-Health Savings Accounts (HSA) (5) https://apps.irs.gov/app/vita/ (6) https://www.irs.gov/individuals/choose-your-tax-volunteer-role