Volunteers Needed for VITA Free Tax Prep Program

December 6, 2021

Volunteers Provide In-Person or Virtual Tax Prep Services 

Filing your taxes can be daunting—especially for low- to moderate-income individuals. Too many of our neighbors are paying hundreds of dollars in filing fees and aren’t accessing important tax credits they deserve.

That’s why the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance free tax prep program relies on volunteers like you to help our neighbors file their taxes safely and accurately, all at no cost.

United Way is recruiting volunteers across Middle Tennessee to join the 2022 VITA Tax Justice Team to provide in-person and virtual free tax preparation for low- to moderate-income taxpayers as part of VITA free tax prep program.

Volunteers help individuals and families who earned $70,000 or less per household in 2021 by serving as greeters/intake specialists, tax preparers, quality reviewers and site coordinators. Many volunteers begin with no previous tax experience.

“The work is truly a voluntary effort with no expectation of compensation,” says longtime VITA volunteer Charles Frasier, a retired accounting professor at Lipscomb University. “It is a good feeling to know that you are helping others who may not have the technical expertise to complete their own tax filing—and who share their sincere appreciation for the assistance.”

Frasier started his work with VITA nearly 20 years ago when the program reached out to him about getting Lipscomb students involved in tax prep. His students would receive training on tax law, software and preparation and would gain valuable, real-world experience by working with clients.

“In many other business settings, a student or volunteer with little tax experience would not meet with clients until gaining significant experience. The volunteer is usually in a room with other, more experienced tax preparers who can offer valuable advice.”

Frasier decided to volunteer his own time with the program in 2018.

“Over the years, I developed great respect for the dedicated team of professionals and volunteers who both manage and prepare returns in the VITA system. The typical tax return may require only about 20 to 30 minutes of preparation time. Each return is then reviewed by a Quality Reviewer who e-files the return to the IRS. The tax preparers enjoy assisting each other when questions arise.”

He says the range of clients he serves is broad.

“Taxpayers include wage earners, ride-sharing drivers, food delivery providers, self-employed service providers, students, retired individuals and couples, nurses, parents and children and many others. A tax preparer learns to treat every taxpayer with great respect and kindness,” he says. “I can remember one of my student volunteers commenting that he had this unusual experience with a young taxpayer in her 20s who became very emotional. When he told her the size of her refund, she began to cry. He became very concerned that he had made a significant error and asked her why she was so upset. She said she was not upset but very happy about the size of the refund.”

For those interested in volunteering, tax prep begins in late January and training is already underway. First year volunteers start with a one-hour program orientation and register for training based on their desired volunteer role.

Each year, taxpayers rely on this important service to save on fees and access important credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit that lift millions out of poverty.

Volunteers save each family, on average, more than $300 in tax prep fees. For tax year 2020, Middle Tennessee VITA volunteers completed 6,700 returns, helping taxpayers save more than $2 million in tax preparation fees and bringing more than $9 million in federal refunds back to the community.

“My hope is that other professionals, when retired or when the time is available, will find that working with VITA is a very rewarding experience that provides a positive contribution to our community.”

Visit volunteerforvita.org to get started.

Beginning in January, residents can find the nearest VITA site in their community and more information about the program by visiting UnitedWayFileFree.com or through United Way’s 211 Helpline by texting their ZIP code to 898211.