What is the time commitment for volunteering?
As a volunteer, you can commit to as much or as little time as your schedule allows. Without volunteers, VITA would be unable to operate so any time you can give is much appreciated. With four VITA sites located across Pickens County, there are opportunities available during weekday, evening, and weekend hours.
VITA sites operate for four hours on scheduled days, so many volunteers commit to one or two days a week. Please refer to the list of United Way of Pickens County VITA locations:
Central/Clemson Library: 105 Commons Way, Central, SC, 29630
Easley/Hampton Memorial Library: 304 Biltmore Rd, Easley, SC, 29640
City of Liberty-Sarlin Library: 15 S. Palmetto St, Liberty, SC 29657
City of Pickens/Village Branch Library: 124 N. Catherine St, Pickens, SC, 29671
Am I liable for the tax returns I prepare?
The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 protects volunteers from liability for negligent acts they perform within the scope of their responsibilities in the organization for which they volunteer. The Act excludes conduct that is willful or criminal, grossly negligent, or reckless, or that constitutes a conscious, vagrant indifference to the rights or safety of the individual potentially harmed by the volunteer. Basically, if volunteers are performing their responsibilities under the Volunteer Standards of Conduct, they are protected.
What do I do when arriving at the site, and what can I expect?
All volunteers are asked to arrive at the VITA location 10-15 minutes before their scheduled volunteer time. When arriving, please be sure to sign in with your Site Coordinator. If volunteering at a VITA site for the first time, please remember to bring your photo ID to verify your identity. Your Site Coordinator will direct you from there.
When taxpayers arrive, a Greeter will distribute the Intake/Interview & Quality Review Sheet and ensure that taxpayers have the required documentation needed to complete the return. Once the taxpayer has been screened by the Greeter, you will go over the Intake/Interview & Quality Review form with the taxpayer then enter the information into the software. When completing the return, your Site Coordinator, or a volunteer certified at the appropriate level, will conduct a Quality Review of the return. Once the return is completed, the tax return will get printed, then it’s reviewed with and signed by the taxpayer after they have been informed of their responsibility for the information on the return.
How complicated is the average tax return?
The average return you will prepare will be relatively simple consisting of W2s and Social Security Income. The VITA program has limitations on what volunteers can and cannot prepare. The "out-of-scope" returns are considered to be too complicated and will be referred to a professional tax preparer.
How much time does it take to prepare a tax return?
Most taxpayer appointments will be scheduled at 1-hour intervals. Although it probably will not take you an hour to complete a return, this ensures that you have enough time for each return and are not rushed.
Volunteers will only prepare returns that are within the scope of their training. At each site there are very knowledgeable volunteers, as well as your Site Coordinator who will be certified at the Advanced Level, who are able to provide assistance if needed. Also, please keep in mind that Publication 4012 (Volunteer Resource Guide) can be used as reference material. Please do not hesitate to ask your Site Coordinator if you are unsure about the complexity of a tax return or if something seems unusual or questionable regarding the tax return. It’s okay to ask questions.
I am nervous about making a mistake. What ensures that I prepare each return correctly?
Every return goes through a Quality Review process, ensuring that each return is prepared correctly. The VITA program has several steps in place to help ensure accuracy. First, taxpayers will initially be screened by Intake Specialists (or "Greeters") when entering the location. The Intake/Interview process ensures that the information entered into the TaxSlayer software is correct. The return will then undergo the Quality Review process by your Site Coordinator or a volunteer certified at the appropriate level. Before any return is submitted, it is printed and reviewed with the taxpayer. Basically, three sets of eyes review every return before it is submitted. Also, the TaxSlayer software will not allow any tax return to be submitted if the information provided is incomplete or inconsistent.
What if I cannot make it to my scheduled volunteer time?
Please contact Jeremy Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or (864) 850-7094;133 of your planned absence as soon as possible so that other arrangements can be made. Remember, appointments get booked in advance so the sooner we know of absence the sooner we can find replacement coverage.
What do I do in the event of inclement weather?
Generally, VITA sites will follow the Pickens County Library system lead if closed due to inclement weather. However, certain VITA sites may open as scheduled if volunteers and Site Coordinators feel they are able to safely arrive at the VITA Site. All closings and openings are ultimately at the discretion of the VITA Program Coordinator.
You will receive an email or phone notification by your Site Coordinator and/or VITA Program staff in the event of inclement weather.
Can I use references to complete the tests?
Yes! The test is open book and untimed. You can use forms, instructions, and other reference material to take the test. Publication 4012 (Volunteer Resource Guide) will be the best reference material for you to successfully complete your test. You should complete the test on your own. It is a disservice to the taxpayers you assist if you gain assistance from others. There are study sessions available and you can always contact the VITA program staff if you need assistance or guidance.
What is the passing score for certification?
The passing score for each test is 80%.
What if I do not pass a test on my first attempt?
You are allowed a total of 2 attempts for each test. If you do not pass the first test, you can take the Retest. Both tests can be found in PUB 6744 Test Book
What if I do not complete or pass both certification attempts?
In this event, you can still volunteer with the VITA program. Please contact the VITA Program staff on how you can still be involved with the VITA Program.
Can I complete the test online?
Yes, all certification is done online at LinkLearnCertification.com. This enables you to submit your test electronically as well as save, print and sign your Volunteer Agreement. It is recommended that volunteers use the scenario information in the Form 6744 Test Book to answer all of the questions and prepare practice returns in the Practice Lab first, then log into the test at LinkLearnCertification.com and enter your answers.
What do I do when I pass my certification exam?
After you have successfully completed your certification exam, you will need to sign the Volunteer Standards of Conduct Agreement (aka Volunteer Agreement) and send it to the program manager or Site Coordinator as instructed.
Can I sign the Volunteer Agreement electronically on Link & Learn website?
Yes. On the right hand of the certification screen, there is a checkbox to indicate that you would like to electronically sign your Volunteer Agreement. Once you do that, save it to your computer then send it to your program manager or Site Coordinator as instructed as an email attachment.
Do I have to take the certification exam every year?
Yes, because tax law changes every year, volunteers must pass the certification every year that they wish to volunteer with VITA.
Will I be able to have both the Link & Learn Taxes test and the TaxSlayer Practice Lab open at the same time to go back & forth between screens?
Users can have both screens open but the online test will time-out if there is a period of inactivity. It is recommended that volunteers use the scenario information in the Form 6744 Test Book to complete the returns in the Practice Lab first, then log into the test on linklearncertification.com and enter your answers