AARP Tax-Aide Mission and Organization

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  • 1. Volunteer Counselor Preparation You ultimately do four (4) things: 1. Become ∗ classroom or self training Certified ∗ pass IRS open book exam ∗ Sign Volunteer Standards of Conduct 2. Provide ∗ prepare federal, state, and local tax forms Free Tax Assistance ∗ answer lots of questions 3. Report ∗ Carefully note service on site Sign-in Sheet Service ∗ give any service not reported on sign-in sheets to coordinator 4. Promote ∗ tell customers to tell a friend about our service Program ∗ ask interested others to volunteer with the program ∗ promote 888# & web site to find sites or volunteers (see number and address below) ∗ promote web site to get year-round tax assistance (see address below) Go after life as if it’s something that’s got to be roped in a hurry before it gets away. You should know that: Size of We’re big. Over 32,000 volunteers helped over 2,000,000 customers last year at Program approximately 7,000 sites nationwide, within the scope of their tax training. Locating Sites We’re easy to find. Call toll-free 1-888-AARPNOW (1-888-227-7669), or use the AARP Tax-Aide web page (http://www.aarp.org/taxaide). Electronic AARP Tax-Aide offers electronic filing at more than 5,000 sites nationwide. Filing Once you learn the software, it’s fun. CyberTax E- Sign up! Any program volunteer with email is eligible to join CyberTax, a Mail Network nationwide email network for periodic updates on the program, taxes, and IRS. Email your name, program position, and state to <taxaide@aarp.org>. Web Page Our page offers program site locations, year-round tax assistance, asked and Features answered tax questions, program information, and volunteer opportunities. Internet Tax Internet tax Counselors are needed! Interested volunteers (with web access) 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 1
  • 2. Assistance should email < taxaide@aarp.org > to join the operation. Volunteering Anyone can volunteer with us by calling toll-free 1-888-OURAARP Via Telephone (1-888-687-2277) and following the prompts. Program AARP Tax-Aide is a program of the AARP Foundation offered in conjunction Ownership with IRS. The program is ultimately owned by its volunteers, especially you. Program The AARP Foundation provides roughly one-half of program funding; an Funding annual grant from IRS’ Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program provides the balance. You should expect: Satisfaction Appreciative customers and strong camaraderie with fellow volunteers. Orientation Orientation to the program, the AARP Foundation, and AARP. Understanding Explanation of: Program ∗ the need for maintaining the confidentiality and security of taxpayer data. Policy, Administrative ∗ the need for service promotion and word-of-mouth recruitment. Needs and ∗ the need for capturing service statistics. Benefits ∗ volunteer expense reimbursement policies and procedures. ∗ volunteer insurance coverage. Self-Study Opportunity to order prior year software or tax training materials for self- study. Classroom Classroom and alternative tax training as well as training on the use of tax Training software and reporting forms to record assistance provided by Counselors. Certification & An IRS, open book, certification exam, taken by yourself, and a commitment Commitment to volunteer an average of four hours per week over the tax season. Pledge to To commit to the AARP Tax-Aide’s Statement of Understanding (next page) Values after passing the exam, as a pledge to yourself about accepting our shared values. Counselors, EROs, and Client Facilitators (all volunteers) must sign the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct form. Site Assignment to one or more AARP Tax-Aide sites to work with and be helped Assignment & by experienced leaders and Counselors, understanding that quality review of Quality Review all prepared returns is the expected norm. Don’t worry about biting off more than you can chew. Your mouth is probably a whole lot bigger ‘n you think. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 2
  • 3. Who We Are AARP Tax-Aide Is… • A free, nationwide, confidential service that prepares tax returns and answers tax questions; • Available to taxpayers with low- and middle-income, with special attention to those age 60 and older; • A charitable, non-profit program administered by the AARP Foundation; • Over 32,000 IRS-certified volunteers committed to high-quality service through intensive training and quality review of their work. Statement of Understanding As an AARP Tax-Aide Volunteer, I will: ◊ Maintain strict confidentiality and protect the security of all taxpayer information and records at all times. ◊ Understand AARP Tax-Aide’s specific program structure and operations and abide by program policies. ◊ Refuse any compensation, tips, etc. that may be offered. ◊ Never solicit business from the taxpayers assisted or use the knowledge gained about them for any direct or indirect benefit for me or any other specific individual. ◊ Work at (a) program site(s) as assigned, record all assistance on sign-in sheets even if “only” to answer tax questions and note the site identification number (SIDN) at the bottom of all program prepared returns. ◊ Serve customers with courtesy and confidentiality, regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, creed, age, disability, or sexual orientation. ◊ Encourage customers to tell their friends about AARP Tax-Aide’s free service. ◊ Promote the toll-free number (1-888-227-7669) and AARP Tax-Aide web site (www.aarp.org/taxaide) for site locations and volunteer recruitment. ◊ Treat fellow volunteers courteously and respect them as valued colleagues. ◊ Use AARP Tax-Aide resources in a prudent and cost effective manner. In addition to the above and as an AARP Counselor, I will: ◊ Learn tax law through classroom tax training using IRS materials, and pass the IRS-certified exam. ◊ Assist taxpayers to the extent of current AARP Tax-Aide provided tax training referring any taxpayers needed assistance beyond that training to paid professional tax preparer or the IRS. No specific paid preparer or business can be named. ◊ Refer service if you do not feel qualified on a particular issue(s) or deny service if you feel that the person is giving misleading tax information. ◊ Encourage taxpayers to participate, to the extent possible, in completing their own tax forms as the taxpayer retains full responsibility for the accuracy of the return. Explain the return to the taxpayer. ◊ Ensure quality review of each tax return prepared. The program standard is to have that review completed by a second experienced Counselor. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 3
  • 4. AARP Tax-Aide Mission and Organization Mission: To provide high quality free income tax assistance and tax form preparation to low- and middle- income taxpayers, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Who We AARP Tax-Aide is the nation’s largest volunteer-run tax assistance and preparation Are service, preparing tax returns and answering tax questions free of charge. AARP Tax-Aide is a program of the AARP Foundation and is offered in conjunction with the IRS. Where We Most taxpayers receive in-person assistance at one of the estimated 7,000 sites Serve Our nationwide. Free electronic filing is offered at over 5,000 sites. Sites are located in Taxpayers malls, libraries, banks, senior centers, and other convenient facilities. We also provide shut-in service upon special request, whenever possible. Year-round tax assistance is offered online at www.aarp.org/taxaide. Quality reviewed answers are sent to taxpayers via email within a few business days. How Many Over 32,000 volunteers make up AARP Tax-Aide. Virtually all provide tax Volunteers assistance, and 6,500 are also volunteer leaders. Serve Program AARP Tax-Aide is a nationwide, volunteer-run program. Regional and state Structure & volunteer leaders share in setting policies while assuming most supervisory and Admin- operational responsibilities. Volunteer tax assistance Counselors provide all service- istration level tax assistance. Instructors provide tax training to Counselors. Coordinator Coordinators recruit and supervise volunteers at all levels. Local Coordinators & Specialist (LCs) ensure volunteer recruitment and training, volunteer certification, site Roles creation, site compliance with program policy, database accuracy, activity reporting, and counselor expense reimbursement. District Coordinators (DCs) manage activity at the district level and recruit and supervise Local Coordinators. State Coordinators (SCs) oversee all state activities and set operation policies. Communications Coordinators (CCs) and Technology Coordinators (TCs) support their specialty interests at the local levels. Specialists support administration, partnerships and communications, technology, and training needs at the state level. Regional Coordinators (RCs) guide and supervise State Coordinators and serve on the National Leadership Team (NLT). National The National Leadership Team (NLT) of volunteer Regional Coordinators and Leadership National Committee Chairs develop and implement AARP Tax-Aide goals and Team & objectives. National committees support the NLT in the areas of leadership, National technology, and training. National Office staff coordinate program policies, Office Staff maintain relationships with IRS and other key partners, provide administrative support to volunteer leaders, and collect/report administrative data, program impact and costs. Electronic AARP Tax-Aide offers free electronic filing at more than 5,000 sites nationwide Filing using IRS provided tax preparation software. Internet Tax Since 1998, AARP Tax-Aide has had a 24-hour year-round Internet tax assistance Assistance service at its web site (www.aarp.org/taxaide). Taxpayers can pose questions online and get quality-reviewed answers back within a few business days. Interested volunteers with web access can sign up online at www.aarp.org/tavolunteers. There volunteers will find a link to the online tax assistance registration form. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 4
  • 5. Web Page Located at www.aarp.org/taxaide, our website offers tax assistance, frequently asked Features tax questions and program information. Information on AARP Tax-Aide volunteer opportunities, which are available from February 1 to April 15 at individual program sites, is also available on the website. Volunteer Located at www.aarp.org/tavolunteers (case sensitive), this site offers information Extranet and tools to assist volunteers in performing the responsibilities of their AARP Tax- Aide position. CyberTax Any program volunteer with email is encouraged to receive CyberTax, a nationwide E-Mail email newsletter containing periodic updates on the program, taxes, and IRS. Email Newsletter your name, program position, and state to taxaide@aarp.org to join the CyberTax distribution list. How to Interested persons call toll-free, 1-888-OURAARP (1-888-687-2277) and follow the Volunteer prompts. Or at www.aarp.org/taxaide where an online volunteer recruitment form Via can be found. Volunteering can be done in either tax preparation assistance and/or Telephone leadership positions. and the Web General Tax Assistance positions require training, successful completion of the IRS volunteer certification exam, and agreement to the IRS Standards of Conduct. position descriptions Leadership positions coordinate program delivery by volunteers at sites at the local, state, or regional level or manage specific program activities such as technology, training, administration, or communication. Although tax training and certification is encouraged, it is not required for many leadership positions. Organizing the Geographic Territory AARP Tax-Aide regional boundaries are predetermined by the AARP Tax-Aide National Office. State boundaries apply except for California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These heavily populated states are split, with multiple AARP Tax-Aide “states” within their geographic borders. Within states, State Coordinators may organize into whatever geographic districts will provide the most efficient, equitable, cost effective or manageable division. A district is the responsibility of one District Coordinator. District Coordinators may divide their district into workable entities for assignment to Local Coordinators. In all cases, the boundaries should be clearly understood by all volunteers and delineated by the responsible Coordinator. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 5
  • 6. AARP Tax-Aide’s Customers How Many During the 2006 tax season, from February 1- April 17, we served over 2,000,000 Customers customers. Over the past 38 years, we have served more than 40 million customers. Who They Are (from 2005 survey) Customer Age 10% 18-49 34% 70 – 79 8% 50-59 20% 80+ 24% 60-69 4% no answer Customer 36% Married 60% Not Married Marital Status Gender 61% Female 35% Male Race/Ethnicity 78% White non-Hispanic 4% Hispanic 3% Native American (from 2004 6% Black or African American 2% Asian/Pacific 1% Other survey) Household 42% Under $20,000 18% $30,000-$49,000 Income 25% $20,000-$29,000 4% $50,000 or more (Annual) Repeat 24% Once 38% Four+ Times Customers 37% Two - Three Times Working Status 72% Retired 24% Not Retired Customers’ 55% 0 - 3 miles 12% 6 - 9 miles 2% No answer Proximity to 20% 4 - 5 miles 11% 10+ miles Site What They Think Excellent Good Fair Poor Overall quality of AARP Tax-Aide’s Service 81% 16% 1% 0% Helpfulness of Volunteers 83% 13% 1% 0% Tax Knowledge of Volunteers 74% 21% 2% 0% Would they recommend AARP Tax-Aide to others? 94% 5% 0% Who would help them with their taxes if they didn’t 52% 35% 8% use AARP Tax-Aide? Pay for Self or IRS assistance friend (Source: 2005 AARP Tax-Aide Customer Satisfaction Survey) Volunteer Organization Chart AARP Tax-Aide 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 6 The reporting structure on this chart flows down from the Counselor, our top resource.
  • 7. Electronic Return Counselor Client Facilitator Originator (ERO) (COU) (CF) Local Coordinator (LC) Communications Coordinator (CC) Technology Coordinator Instructor (TC) (INS) District Coordinator Prospective Volunteer (DC) Coordinator (PVC) Training Specialist Technology Specialist (TCS) (TRS) Administrative Specialist Partnership/Communications (ADS) Specialist (PCS) State State Coordinator Management (SC) Team (SMT) Regional Coordinator National Committee Chairs (RC) Technology, Training, Leadership National Leadership Team (NLT) (Staff & Volunteers) AARP Tax-Aide (National Office Staff) AARP Tax-Aide is a program of the AARP Foundation, offered in conjunction with the IRS. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 7
  • 8. AARP AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine published monthly, AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our quarterly newspaper in Spanish; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50 + educators; our web site, www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Our State Offices are staffed with an AARP State Director and other employees who work in partnership with volunteers serving in roles such as: * State President * State Executive Council which includes: - State Director - State President - State Leadership Volunteer for Advocacy - State Leadership Volunteer for Community Service - State Leadership Volunteer for Communications * State Volunteer Community Specialists * AARP Chapters and NRTA units This field structure creates a dynamic presence in every community and responds to the needs and interests of AARP members at the local level. . AARP’S VISION, MISSION, GOALS AARP’s Vision “A society in which everyone ages with dignity and purpose and in which AARP helps people fulfill their goals and dreams.” AARP’s “AARP is dedicated to enhancing quality of life for all as we age. We lead positive Mission social change and deliver value to members through information advocacy and service.” AARP’s Three AARP’s three great goals: Great Goals * To be the most successful and acknowledged organization in America for positive social change; * To deliver on our promise to each AARP member; * To be a world leader in global aging. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 8
  • 9. Welcome to AARP Foundation and AARP! The AARP Foundation and AARP have a long-standing commitment to community service. Through our collective efforts, millions of people are well served each year in communities across the country. AARP Foundation and AARP volunteers are the heart of our community service programs. In your community, you exemplify AARP’s commitment to helping others when offering services through the AARP Tax-Aide program. AARP Foundation The AARP Foundation is AARP’s affiliated 501(c)(3) charity for helping in communities like yours all across America. Founded in 1961, our mission is crucial: to build a society in which everyone ages with dignity, purpose and independence. Foundation programs provide security, protection and empowerment for older persons in need. Low-income older workers receive job training and placement they need to re-join the workforce. Free tax preparation is provided for low-and middle-income individuals, with special attention to those 60 and older. The Foundation’s litigation staff protects the legal rights of older Americans in critical health, long-term care, and consumer and employment situations. Additional programs provide information, education and services to ensure that people over 50 lead lives of independence, dignity and purpose. Foundation programs are funded by grants, tax-deductible contributions and AARP. AARP Foundation AARP Foundation Board (appointed by AARP Board; 4 AARP Board Members, CEO of AARP, 2 external) Director COO of AARP AARP Foundation Managing Director AARP Foundation Core Office Director Director Chief Development Officer Director AARP Foundation Programs Financial Management Foundation Development Legal Advocacy -DOL: SCSEP -Direct Response - Direct Representation -IRS: Tax-Aide Director -Planned Giving - Amicus -HHS: Legal Hotlines Business Operations -Major Gifts - 3rd Party -HHS: Nat'l Legal Training Project -Institutional Support -DOJ: Telemarketing Fraud -HUD: Reverse Mortgages -CO: ElderWatch -Benefits Outreach -Money Management 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 9
  • 10. AARP Foundation Programs and Services AARP Tax-Aide volunteers annually provide free tax assistance and preparation service to approximately two million low and moderate income taxpayers, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Electronic filing and on-line tax assistance are also offered by the program. The program’s funding sources include the Internal Revenue Service, AARP and private contributions. 1-888-AARPNOW (toll-free for sites and volunteer opportunities) or www.aarp.org/taxaide. AARP Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) helps individuals age 55 and older with limited income gain the job skills and work experience necessary to transition to permanent employment. In addition, the program provides over 8 million hours of community service annually to local nonprofit agencies that assist with training program participants, enabling them to expand and provide key services. The program, funded by the US Department of Labor, is sponsored by the AARP Foundation in 76 communities in 22 states and Puerto Rico. www.aarp.org/scsep AARP Money Management Program offers financial education materials for older adults and their caregivers plus daily money management services through volunteers to help older or disabled people who have difficulty budgeting, paying bills and keeping track of financial matters and who have no family or friends able to help. This program is funded by AARP. www.aarpmmp.org AARP Benefits Outreach Program offers assistance to older people with low or moderate incomes to find public and private benefit programs for which they may be eligible, to help pay for prescription drugs, doctor’s bills, groceries, heating bills, property taxes and more. One way this program offers assistance is by encouraging the use of a free website developed by the National Council on Aging: (www.benefitscheckup.org). The Benefits Outreach program is funded by AARP. AARP Foundation Grandparent Information Center (GIC) provides information, referral and outreach for grandparents, policy makers, corporations and direct service providers, with a special emphasis on support for grandparents who provide care for their grandchildren. The program’s funding sources include AARP and private contributions. www.aarp.org/grandparent AARP Reverse Mortgage Education Project is the nation’s leading source of independent consumer information and free counseling about reverse mortgages and less costly alternatives. It trains, tests and provides referrals to a national network of 75 non-profit counselors. The project’s funding sources include the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and AARP. www.hecmresources.org AARP National Legal Training Project trains lawyers and other advocates throughout the country in substantive law and advocacy skills to enhance their free and reduced fee services to older Americans, and conducts a “training of trainers” program to produce a cadre of elderlaw trainers who expand the reach of the program. The program’s funding sources include the US Administration on Aging, AARP and private contributions. www.aarp.org/ntltrpro AARP Technical Support for Legal Hotlines Project provides technical assistance, training and materials to statewide legal hotlines that provide free legal advice and brief services by telephone to persons age 60 and over. The project provides similar assistance to help legal aid programs develop legal hotlines and continuously tests new methods for enhancing the productivity and quality of hotlines. The program’s funding sources include the US Administration on Aging, AARP and private contributions. www.legalhotlines.org AARP Elder Watch Projects fight financial exploitation of older Americans in the states of Colorado and West Virginia through direct client assistance to help resolve consumer-based disputes, extensive outreach and education and collection of data. The program’s funding sources include the State’s Attorneys General Office, AARP and private contributions. www.aarpelderwatch.org AARP West Virginia Senior Medicare Patrol Project is a consumer education project dedicated to preventing Medicare and Medicaid fraud, error, waste, and abuse. The program trains retired professionals to educate older West Virginians and their advocates on the identification and reporting of Medicare and Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse and provides a system to report suspected errors. The program’s funding sources include the US Administration on Aging and AARP. www.aarp.org/foundation/wvsmp 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 10
  • 11. Partners for Independence: Restoring Hope to Seniors is a program to recruit boomer volunteers to provide critically needed services to victims of the 2005 hurricanes. The Foundation is partnering with AARP state offices in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas as well as with Faith in Action and Rebuilding Together in this initiative. The program is funded by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and private contributions. AARP Consumer Fraud Prevention Program works with qualified not-for-profit organizations whose volunteers call victims and potential victims of telemarketing and other frauds to inform and educate older people, with a focus on preventing victimization or further victimization. The AARP Foundation Women's Leadership Circle leverages the philanthropic power and passion of women to improve and enhance women's lives as they grow older. The AARP Foundation Women's Leadership Circle (WLC) provides women with the opportunity to explore the image and language of aging; to define paths to economic security and to encourage healthy lifestyles as we lead a national movement to raise awareness of issues faced by women as they age. AARP Foundation Litigation (AFL) defends and expands the rights of older Americans by representing them in significant court cases and by writing friend-of-the-court (amicus) briefs on behalf of AARP. (AFL) is involved in litigation before state and federal appellate courts, state supreme courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court. AARP Foundation Litigation addresses legal issues that affect the daily lives of older persons such as health and long term care, consumer protection including predatory lending, age and disability discrimination in employment, pensions and other retiree benefits. AARP Foundation Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund: Making a Difference The AARP Foundation continues to make a difference on the Gulf Coast region with disaster relief and recovery grants to over 40 local agencies. These agencies are serving older victims of hurricanes who have been displaced, or have health, legal or other needs. Grantees include state and local organizations as well as national organizations such as Rebuilding Together, Boat People SOS, and the National Housing Law Project. Grants made to these agencies are helping with immediate, transitional and longer term needs. As the Gulf Coast begins to recover and rebuild, the AARP Foundation will continue to support state, local and national agencies with grants made from its Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund. In total, the Foundation has donated nearly $1.6 million to organizations operating on the ground in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. AARP Foundation Development Donating to the AARP Foundation lets donors have “the power to make it better” ™ by strengthening and supporting the Foundation’s efforts to help people over 50 lead lives of independence, dignity and purpose. There are a variety of giving options including outright gifts of cash or appreciated securities, bequests, real and personal property, and through charitable gift annuities and charitable remainder trusts. As a charitable organization, gifts to the AARP Foundation are tax deductible, and they can make a positive difference in the quality of life of our most vulnerable elderly in society. For More Information on AARP Foundation Programs and Services: WEB: You may visit us on the web at www.aarp.org/foundation MAIL: You may write us at: AARP Foundation 601 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20049 PHONE: Or you can call us at 1-888-OUR-AARP (687-2277) 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 11
  • 12. AARP Tax-Aide Counselor Position Description No matter where you ride to, that’s where you are. Program & AARP Tax-Aide provides free personal income tax assistance to low- and Purpose of middle-income taxpayers, with special attention to those age 60 and older. Position Counselors provide assistance in accordance with policies and procedures of AARP Tax-Aide and IRS grant requirements. Responsibilities ∗ Prepares tax forms and/or answers questions to the extent of his/her current of Position tax training, at assigned tax assistance sites. ∗ Explains tax returns prepared to taxpayers as taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of the return. ∗ Adheres to site schedules and guidelines, and accepts no money or other gratuity for services. ∗ Maintains the strict confidentiality and protects the security of all taxpayer information and records at all times. ∗ Adheres to program policies and procedures especially the Counselor Guidelines and Confidentiality and Security of Taxpayer Data sections in the Counselor Digest. ∗ Promotes and supports the AARP Tax-Aide program through word-of- mouth, ensures sites are well identified by AARP Tax-Aide posters and banners, and wears an AARP Tax-Aide name badge while serving at a site. ∗ Records all assistance given on the Site Sign-in Sheet. ∗ Works well with diverse populations. Qualifications Counselors must pass the IRS test to be certified by the IRS for the purpose of providing tax assistance and agree to, by signing, the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct form. Length of Qualified Counselors (those passing the exam and signing the IRS Standards Service & of Conduct) are certified for the tax season, and contingent upon satisfactory Eligibility annual review, may be re-certified for subsequent seasons. The tax season is February 1 to April 15 (all year if assisting taxpayers through the program’s website and through Oct 15 if assisting taxpayers beyond April 15 with questions or with late returns). Counselors are eligible for other AARP or AARP Foundation volunteer positions. Time, Training, Counselors must volunteer an average of four hours a week from 2/1 to 4/15, & Travel plus 3-5 days of training in January. Counselors must acquire tax knowledge through attendance at Counselor class or self-study (if allowed locally). Counselors must also be trained in program policy and to properly record assistance given on the site sign-in sheet. Counselors travel locally to training and AARP Tax-Aide sites. If you’re gonna go, go like hell. If your mind’s not made up, don’t use your spurs. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 12
  • 13. Appointed By, Counselors are appointed to sites by a Local Coordinator after IRS Supervisor, & certification and program policy and administrative training sessions are Scope of Authority completed. Counselors report directly to the Local Coordinator and do not supervise any other volunteer. Working Counselors work closely with taxpayers, Electronic Return Originators Relations & (EROs) when e-filing, and their Local Coordinator. Local Coordinators Progress Review evaluate Counselors on an on-going basis. Available Counselors will be afforded the necessary guidance, training and materials Resources needed to fulfill their responsibilities. Additional support and training beyond that provided by Local Coordinators are provided from Instructors, EROs, and Technology Coordinators (if they e-file). AARP Tax-Aide reimburses volunteers for reasonable covered program related expenses as set out in the Policy Manual. Volunteer AARP Foundation volunteers will receive equal opportunity and treatment Policy throughout recruitment, appointment, training, and service. There will be no discrimination based on age, disabilities, gender, race, national or ethnic origin, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation. Makin’ it in life is kinda like bustin’ broncs: you’re gonna get thrown a lot. The simple secret is to keep gettin’ back on. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 13
  • 14. AARP Tax-Aide Counselor Guidelines and Policies It don’t matter so much how long a ride you have, as how well you ride it. Age AARP Tax-Aide provides free tax assistance to taxpayers with low- and Thresholds on middle-income, with special attention to individuals age 60 and older. Service Assistance should be provided to individuals under 60 if: ◊ assistance to 60 and older customers is given priority, and ◊ no additional program expense is incurred. Taxpayer Taxpayers retain sole responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their Responsibility tax forms. Counselors should encourage taxpayers to participate, to the extent for Tax Returns possible, in preparing their own tax forms. Since taxpayers retain sole responsibility for accuracy and completeness of their tax return, they should be walked through any return prepared by a program volunteer. Taxpayers who don’t e-file must sign and mail their own tax form(s) using IRS-issued labels and their own envelopes. Confidentiality All volunteers must maintain strict confidentiality and security of all taxpayer information and records at all times (See section on Confidentiality). Identifying Counselors must always mark the site’s identification number (SIDN) in the TCE-Prepared preparer's box of 1040 series tax forms (paper or e-filing) or use forms Returns overprinted with a large “S” in the box. Counselors must not sign, initial, or identify themselves on the tax form in any way. 800# Support IRS offers toll-free assistance to AARP Tax-Aide Counselors (as TCE at Sites assistors in IRS parlance) via 1-800-829-8482. Retaining Counselors must provide taxpayer with the original return if done manually or Records & one copy of the return to be e-filed. Counselors must not retain any taxpayer Making Copies records or returns, even temporarily, except for electronic filing purposes. Additional copies of returns, except for one copy as previously noted for e- filing, can only be provided if at no cost to the program. Working At All tax assistance, except shut-ins and electronic filing transmission, must be Site, Not Home performed at the site, not at volunteers’ homes. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 14
  • 15. Tax Training Counselors will assist taxpayers only on those topics that are within scope. Topics (Scope of Assistance) Scope includes tax topics covered in IRS volunteer training materials or in AARP Tax-Aide training classes provided that Counselors have been qualified under AARP Tax-Aide procedures below. Counselors are not to deal with topics (including state returns) on which they have not received AARP Tax-Aide training. Returns That For tax returns outside the scope of their training, Counselors must refer Are Outside taxpayers to paid tax preparers or to the IRS. Volunteers can and should Training or too Complex decline to prepare a return which the volunteer believes would misstate the taxpayer’s liability or refer service if the Counselor does not feel qualified on a particular issue(s). No specific paid preparer or business can be named. Recording Counselors must record each interview or telephone call, performed during or Service after hours of service, on a Site Sign-in Sheet during or immediately following the assistance. Submitting Counselors should submit completed Sign-in Sheets to their supervisor as Reports instructed. A lead Counselor at a site without a local coordinator present will be assigned this responsibility. Quality and On-site quality review of each tax return prepared is required. The program Intake Forms standard is to have that review completed by a second experienced Counselor. An AARP Tax-Aide Intake and Interview form must be completed, preferably by the taxpayer, for every taxpayer for whom a tax return is prepared. (AARP Tax-Aide Intake and Interview form must be used, not IRS forms.) The form is sent home with the taxpayer as part of the return package and is not kept by volunteers. Diversity Serve customers with courtesy and confidentiality, regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, creed, age or disabilities. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 15
  • 16. Not Accepting Compensation & Potential Conflict of Interest Not Accepting Volunteers must not accept compensation for the performance of their duties. Compensation Compensation includes fees, gratuities, or other dispensations to volunteers or to members of the volunteer's immediate family or household. Conflict of Volunteers must not refer the preparation of any tax return to any specific paid Interest preparer business, including one in which they have a financial interest. Volunteers must never solicit any type of business from the taxpayers they assist or use the knowledge they have gained about the taxpayers for any direct or indirect benefit for themselves or any other individual(s). Volunteers working in AARP Tax-Aide, or any other AARP Foundation activity, which is similar in nature to outside employment or a commercial pursuit in which volunteers or members of a volunteer’s family or household are involved, must advise their supervisor of the nature and extent of the involvement. In the case of an appearance of conflict, those supervisors of the volunteer(s) will consult with higher levels of supervision within the AARP Tax-Aide Organization about any potential conflict of interest. This consultation will include the Regional or State Coordinator. Personal Volunteers may not use computer hardware or tax preparation software which Financial Gain has been purchased by, or donated for the use of AARP Tax-Aide for their personal financial gain. Lobbying & Volunteers, including AARP Tax-Aide volunteers, while representing the Promotional AARP Foundation or participating in an AARP Foundation activity, will not Prohibitions promote products, services, or political candidates or issues, nor make use of their relationship with AARP or the AARP Foundation for personal profit or the profit of any other individual(s). This includes, but is not limited to, membership drives. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 16
  • 17. Confidentiality and Security of Taxpayer Data Introduction to Whether e-filing or not, protecting the confidentiality and security of taxpayer Confidentiality data has always been a priority focus for this program and you the volunteers. and Security In sharing their sensitive personal data with us, taxpayers have entrusted us and given us a major responsibility to protect that information. In today’s age of stolen identities, this focus is even more critical and urgent. Leaders must ensure that all volunteers understand these responsibilities and abide by them. There are many steps we must take to help ensure that we honor that trust and protect taxpayer information. They are explained below. Standards of All volunteers must sign the Standards of Conduct statement (IRS Form 13615) Conduct which is provided in the IRS test or as a separate form. That statement has three bullets addressing the protection of taxpayer data: a) I will safeguard the confidentiality of taxpayer information. b) I will exercise reasonable care in the use and protection of equipment and supplies. c) I will not solicit business from taxpayers I assist or use the knowledge I have gained about them for any direct or indirect benefit for me or any other specific individual. We have taken the step of clearly noting that the certification of a Counselor now has two significant and critical components. First, the Counselor must pass the IRS test. Second, all Counselors must agree to the Standards of Conduct and note that agreement by signing the statement. We take these statements very seriously and expect that you will as well. Information for Information provided for tax return preparation should not be shared with tax return anyone who does not have a need to know. Individuals have the need to know if preparation their involvement is required to accurately process the information to its final must not be disposition. Examples of “need to know” would include: sharing information for shared the purpose of obtaining guidance in tax return completion, for electronic transmission, and/or for quality review of the finished tax return. In accordance with 18 USC 1905, which applies to Tax Counseling for the Elderly grantees including AARP, it is not acceptable to share information with others, even another volunteer, if their involvement in the tax return preparation is not required. For instance, sharing income information, birth dates, or even the marital status of taxpayers with other volunteers, taxpayers, family, or friends as a matter of curiosity or interest is not acceptable. Form 8879 Forms 8879 have a three year retention requirement from the return due date or IRS received date, whichever is later. These forms, along with W-2s and 1099s documenting tax withholding, must be sent to the local IRS territory office by the end of April for the IRS to maintain per the requirement. Forms 8879 must not be kept by AARP Tax-Aide volunteers beyond April 30th. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 17
  • 18. Document For numerous reasons including taxpayer data security and confidentiality all Retention returns must be prepared in front of the taxpayer and all records given back to the taxpayer at the end of that assistance session. Required retention of some records for e-filing, such as W-2s and 1099s with federal tax withholding is allowed until forwarded to the IRS as noted above . No Sites in Sites must not be located in individual volunteers’ homes. Refer to the section Homes on Site Selection for more guidance regarding sites and maintaining confidentiality. Encryption Appropriate steps to secure computers with taxpayer data must be taken at all Required times. Any piece of equipment, computer (personally owned or site sponsor owned) and/or flash drive, on which taxpayer data resides must contain encryption software. This applies to ALL computers, including personally owned and site sponsor owned computers. Slave computers on a server that never have the taxpayer information on them do not require encryption software. If all taxpayer data is removed by TPClear (or the eraser program from a computer or flash drive prior to its leaving the tax site); it no longer contains taxpayer data and does not require encryption software. However, please make sure that you backup all files and data on an encrypted removable storage media prior to running TPClear (or eraser) because all taxpayer files and settings are deleted by these programs. Delete and By April 30th, taxpayer data must be deleted and purged from all computers, Purge Data by personal or loaned. For IRS loaned computers, use the wipe disk program April 30 loaded on the IRS loaned computers. For non-IRS equipment, use TPClear (if not provided by your site leadership it is available for download on www.aarp.org/tavolunteers). Copies on Once the returns are accepted by the IRS, it is highly recommended to copy Removable taxpayer data to an encrypted removable storage media (memory stick, floppy Storage Media disk, or CD) and delete it off computers throughout the season. This minimizes the number of taxpayers exposed to potential identity theft if computers are stolen. Removable storage media with taxpayer data must be encrypted and secured by volunteers at all times to prevent being lost or stolen. Data must be removed from all storage media by the end of the season. Password The operating system of any computer containing taxpayer data must be password- Protection protected. Additionally, the TaxWise™ program must be password-protected. If you have any questions about how to password-protect either, please see a volunteer leader at your site or go to www.aarp.org/tavolunteers for help. Data retention For states allowing the retention of e-file data for use the following season, Counselors must allow the taxpayer to opt out of retention. Follow your state’s specific procedures for retention. If the taxpayer agrees to allow retention, his or her signature on the Authorization form is required. Only one person per state, determined by the SC, is allowed to retain the data and it must be held on an encrypted removable storage media. All other computers must be wiped clean (see encryption above). 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 18
  • 19. Confidentiality Counselors should act in a manner that promotes confidentiality for the taxpayer. Compromised This includes how they communicate questions and issues during their sessions with taxpayers. Conversations should be held discretely; personal taxpayer information should not be left out in areas that others may get access to, and computer screens should be minimized or the application closed down if a Counselor needs to leave the work area during an individual tax counseling session. If you believe that the confidentiality of taxpayer data has been compromised due to any of these types of issues, report this to the National Office (within 24 hours) by calling 1-800-424-2277, ext 6021 or ext 6027 (during business hours), or 1-202-434-6021/6027 (after hours). Lost, Missing, or Damaged Equipment (with or without Taxpayer Data residing on it) Computers lost, stolen, or damaged with taxpayer data residing on it: Computers used for tax preparation contain information that is private to the taxpayers involved. Should these computers be lost or stolen with taxpayer data on them it may be possible for others not only to obtain access to private financial information, but to use the data to illegally access bank accounts, credit cards, etc. Quick intervention is extremely important to minimize problems for the taxpayer. Below are the actions that must be taken: 1. 1-800-424-2277, ext 6021 or ext 6027 (during business hours), or 1-202-434-6021/6027 (after hours), must be called immediately (within 24 hours) if ANY computer containing taxpayer data is lost or stolen. 2. If the loss is the result of theft, call the local police to report the theft as soon as you realize what has happened. 3. Inform your volunteer supervisor about the situation. Computers lost, stolen, or damaged without taxpayer data residing on it: Even with reasonable care and security, AARP or IRS equipment may be stolen or lost in fire, flood, or other natural disasters. Should a loss of AARP or IRS equipment occur, the state’s TCS must be notified. Please tell your supervisor so he or she can get the information to the TCS. If your supervisor is unavailable call 1-800-424-2277 ext 6021 or 6027 (during business hours), or 1-202-434-6021/6027 (after hours), and AARP Tax-Aide staff will make sure the appropriate notification is made. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 19
  • 20. Activity Reporting Message to Counselors (and anyone else assisting taxpayers) There’s no time to rest when there’s work to be done. Eat on the run, and change horses often. AARP Tax-Aide’s Site Sign-in Sheet will be summarized and the results submitted by a Coordinator to document program activity. Getting accurate and complete data from program sites from sign-in sheets will allow us to fully count and report the number of people served by AARP Tax-Aide to the IRS and others. Due to concerns about taxpayer privacy and because papers get lost from time-to-time, never let social security numbers be recorded on site sign-in sheets or, for that matter, site appointment logs. In the past, anecdotal feedback tells us that we are not getting the full count of number of taxpayers served when tabulating site assistance data! Just like completing a tax return, accuracy counts when filling out the Site Sign-in Sheets. Your careful attention to recording all assistance given is critical. It is easy to lose track of those we help by answering questions only or checking a taxpayer’s self-prepared return for accuracy. To capture this important service, be sure to enter the taxpayer’s name, when known, or write “Q and A” in the “Taxpayer’s Name” column on the Site Sign-in Sheet and check column eight, “Questions and Answers.” Also check “JT Return/Assistance” and/or “Shut In” if applicable. This ensures the full accounting of the number of taxpayers assisted and makes sure that you, your site, and your state receive full credit for all the work that you do! Recording Assistance on the Site Sign-in Sheet Review these taxpayer interview examples, noting how each one is recorded on the Site Sign-in Sheet on the next page. Edward Adams and Mary Brown helped the following customers. All forms were quality reviewed by Alex Cross. 1) A few days prior to working at the site, Mr. Adams visited Mr. Sam Baker, a disabled customer, at his home. He took Alex Cross with him to check any return prepared. Edward prepared a federal return, but a state return was not required. Mr. Baker is single. 2) Mary did a federal and state return for Ms. Jennifer Smith, a young single woman. 3) Mary answered questions of a customer about the sale of stocks & bonds. Mary did not assist this customer in completing any forms. 4) Mr. Thomas Jones asked if he had to belong to AARP to have his taxes done. Edward assured him that he did not, and then prepared a federal and a state return. Mr. Jones is single. 5) Mary prepared a federal return for electronic filing for Mr. & Mrs. Jefferson. The Jeffersons did not file a state return. 6) Edward did a joint federal return, state return and estimated taxes for next year for Mr. & Mrs. Washington. The joint federal return was prepared for electronic filing. 7) Edward helped Mr. John Cage prepare and submit an amended federal tax return. The return was given to Mr. Cage to mail to the IRS. Mr. Cage is single. 8) Mary helped Mr. David Plant with completing a 1040EZ-T. Diane does not have to file any other tax forms because she is on a limited income and does not earn enough to need to file. The 1040EZ-T was electronically filed for Mr. Plant. See the answer sheet, following the page with additional instructions, for correct marking of the customer data above. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 20
  • 21. Additional Instructions for Completing Site Sign-in Sheets Fill in one line for each interview or assistance effort. Taxpayer’s Name: Enter the client’s name each time an interview or assistance was provided to a taxpayer. Q&A: If a taxpayer asks questions only and no forms were prepared or corrected enter the name (or enter “Q and A” if no name is given). (Some Q&A assistance may require you to also mark columns 2 and/or 5.) Column 2: Place a checkmark if the interview or assistance is for a joint return. Column 3: Place a checkmark if federal returns (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ) were prepared. Column 4: Place a checkmark if any state or local returns were prepared or corrected. Local returns include any rebate and relief forms filed without first preparing a state income tax return. NOTE: Columns 3 and 4 are for recording the type of assistance given, not the quantity of forms prepared for an individual taxpayer. Column 5: Place a checkmark if a shut-in visit was made. Column 6: Place a checkmark in one or both sections as appropriate if a separate volunteer quality reviewed the return(s). Column 7: Place a checkmark if a federal return was filed electronically. This column is marked in addition to columns 2, 3, or 4. Do not check this column 7 if only e-filing the 1040 EZT Forms as it will artificially inflate e-filing numbers for an event that will happen for only one year. Column 8: Place a checkmark if the only assistance provided was to answer one or more questions or quickly review a taxpayer prepared return. Column 9 Place a checkmark if the only assistance provided was for the 1040EZT. **NOTES: Treat prior year returns as separate interviews. Since the IRS already tabulated the original 1040 for the taxpayer filing, an amended return (1040X) must be counted as a “Q&A” and not as a “Federal Return.” Appointment scheduling and reception activities should be reported only as Counseling Hours, to avoid double-counting the number of taxpayers helped. TOTALS Column 1: Count the number of rows completed and enter the total in the box at the bottom of the column. Columns 2 - 9: Count the number of checkmarks in each column and enter the total in the box at the bottom of the column. Column 6: Remember to combine the totals from both the federal returns quality reviewed and the state/ local returns quality reviewed sections of the column when transferring the sheet totals to summary report sheets. (The end result should be one number for Column 6 on all summary documents.) Box 10: Counseling Hours include the hours contributed by all volunteers participating in providing the tax assistance recorded on the site sign-in sheet. When more than one sheet is used for a session, it may be more convenient to enter the total hours for the day on one of the sheets, leaving Box 9 blank on the others. The hours should include travel time and time spent for quality review, data entry and transmission (E-filing), appointment scheduling, and reception activities. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 21
  • 22. AARP TAX-AIDE SITE SIGN-IN SHEET Site ID #: Date: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Taxpayer’s Name Interviews Taxpayer Joint Return Federal Return return State/Local Shut In E-filed Return 1040 EZ-T only Initials Counselor Federal Quality Review State/Local Quality Review Question & (also include those helped with Answer Only questions and answers only) PLEASE PRINT CLEARLY 1. Baker,S. √ √ √ EA 2. Smith,J. √ √ √ √ MB 3. Q andA √ MB 4. Jones T. √ √ √ √ EA 5. Jeffersons √ √ √ √ MB 6. Washingtons √ √ √ √ √ √ EA 7. Cage √ √ EA 8. Plant √ MB 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. ← TOTALS → 2 5 3 1 6 3 2 2 1 (Combine QR totals before (Combine QR totals before entering data on summary reports) Use checkmarks to record assistance provided each taxpayer (household). 1. When counselor calls client, he/she puts initials in right hand column. 10. COUNSELING HRS: 2. Before calling next client, counselor records assistance for previous client. 3. Quality reviewing counselor checkmarks “Quality Review” boxes. 4. At end of day, Local Coordinator or designee makes sure any missing “Q&As only” are captured and totals the page. Example: If a taxpayer only asks a quick question(s), just note their name (or “Q and A” if no name is given) in the “Taxpayer’s Name” column. Also check “JT Return or Assistance” and/or “Shut In” if applicable. 5. Completed Sign-in Sheets are collected and submitted as instructed by the supervising coordinator. AARP Tax-Aide is a program of the AARP Foundation, offered in conjunction with the IRS. D18386(1006) Program Promotion 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 22
  • 23. Need for We’re in this to help people, specifically to help them with their taxes. In Promotion order to help as many people as possible, we need to promote the program. Word-of-Mouth We offer an outstanding service and serve huge numbers of people, but many Promotion people still have never heard of us! Those who have are most likely to have been told by one of our customers. Word-of-mouth promotion is our most effective way of reaching our audience – our customers should be bragging about us! Counselors are perfectly positioned to encourage our customers to tell someone else about our service. Need for AARP Tax-Aide is always looking for good volunteers. Word-of-mouth Volunteers promotion from our current volunteers is one of our best recruitment sources. If someone you talk to is interested in becoming an AARP Tax-Aide volunteer, they can call toll-free, 1-888-OURAARP (1-888-687-2277). Or, they can visit our website at www.aarp.org/taxaide and complete our online volunteer recruitment form. In addition, they can write to us at AARP Tax-Aide, 601 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20049. Don’t overlook our customers as volunteers. Many current counselors were pulled from our customer base when we saw what a good job they did preparing their own return! Intent of Tax The Tax Record Envelope contains important legal and other disclosure Record language for clients. It also encourages storage of necessary tax record Envelope information and reminds customers of AARP Tax-Aide how to reach us and find a site next year and increases the likelihood of repeat, and even new, business. Use of Tax Tax Record Envelopes are also available from Local Coordinators. Due to Record the important disclosure information, AARP Tax-Aide envelopes must be Envelope given to all customers for whom a tax return is prepared. IRS envelopes cannot be used in place of the AARP Tax-Aide envelope. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 23
  • 24. Expense Reimbursement Period of Counseling expenses are only reimbursable for training activity after October 1 Eligibility and counseling assistance activity from February 1 to April 20. Non- Expenses for state/local tax assistance cannot be reimbursed when no federal tax Reimbursable assistance is intended to be provided. Meals and refreshments are not Expenses reimbursable for any volunteer --Counselors, Coordinators and Instructors – during Counselor classes and when counseling at regularly scheduled sites, except in rare cases when the SC authorizes overnight stays. The SC must also provide his/her approval signature on the expense statement. Reimbursemen Counselors, Client Facilitators (CF) and Electronic Return Originators (EROs) t Options elect a flat rate stipend of $35, or itemize their expenses. Both reimbursement options cover expenses incurred during the training period and the counseling assistance season ending April 20. These positions may choose only one of these reimbursement options for the entire season, and may always waive reimbursement. Required Without exception, all Counselor, CF, and ERO expense claims require the Approval approval signature of the supervisor. This signature must appear on a Flat-Rate Signature Reimbursement Form or an individual expense statement. Expense claims without this approval cannot and will not be processed. Submission In some cases, volunteers may not be able to wait until May to be reimbursed for Period for training expenses when lodging is involved. A State Coordinator may authorize Counseling Expenses and must approve preliminary reimbursement for these expenditures. “Preliminary” should be written on the top of the Expense Statement when it is submitted. This will alert the National Office staff that the expense statement is not a final request and needs special handling. Let the other fellows run on the rope, but you keep your money in your pocket. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 24
  • 25. Flat-Rate Or No Reimbursement Using Flat-Rate Only Counselors, EROs and CFs who elect Flat-Rate reimbursement will be Reimbursemen asked by their supervisor to sign a Counselor Flat-Rate Reimbursement Form t Forms (CFR) at the end of the tax season. Flat-Rate Reimbursement is a one-time reimbursement option covering all expenses incurred, including training, counseling, and supplies for the year. No names may be added to the CFR, but address corrections are permitted. CFRs are sent to Local Coordinators at the completion of the process of updating the All Volunteer Roster (see Volunteer Roster & Record Keeping section of this guide.) Flat-Rate w/o Any Counselors who seek Counselor Flat-Rate, but cannot use the flat rate form, Forms may submit their claim on an expense statement. Itemized Reimbursement Advance All itemized counseling expenses, regardless of the volunteer’s position within Approval the program, require advance approval as well as the after-the-fact approval Requirements signatures of the immediate supervisor and the State Coordinator or designee. A State Coordinator will establish a dollar threshold under which state-level advance approval and concurrence signatures are waived. Expense Form Counselors, EFOs, or CFs who wish to itemize expenses will receive an expense Use statement from their supervisor at the end of the tax season. Detailed records of all claimed expenses (usually just mileage) must be provided, along with supporting receipts in the rare case of parking charge or tolls. Expense statements that do not provide sufficient detail and receipts will not be processed by the National Office and will be returned. Meal and Meals and refreshments are not reimbursable for any volunteer --Counselors, Refreshments Coordinators and Instructors – during Counselor classes and when counseling at Expenses Not Reimbursed regularly scheduled sites, except in rare cases when the SC authorizes overnight stays. The SC must also provide his/her approval signature on the expense statement. Honesty is not somthin’ you should flirt with – you should be married to it. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 25
  • 26. Insurance Coverage Accident Insurance Who Is The Foundation provides travel accident insurance coverage for AARP Tax- Covered Aide volunteer for accidental death and dismemberment and medical expenses for any injury incurred while conducting AARP Foundation business directly related to the volunteer position. Amount of Accidental death and dismemberment benefit of $25,000, and a medical Coverage expense benefit of up to $3,000 for any injury incurred while conducting authorized program business directly related to the volunteer position. Supplemental The medical expense benefit is coordinated with Medicare Part A and Part B Nature of or an assumed equivalent insurance coverage, regardless of the insured's age. Coverage This is a supplement and should not be viewed as a volunteer's primary insurance. If An Accident If any AARP Tax-Aide volunteer sustains an accidental injury while conducting Occurs AARP Tax-Aide business, they should notify the AARP travel accident insurance staff through their supervisor and AARP Tax-Aide State Coordinator. Notification, preferably via email, should be sent to: AARP Insurance and Risk Management Office Attn: Albert Fierro 601 E Street, NW Washington, DC 20049 Email: afierro@aarp.org; Phone: (202) 434-3245 Liability Protection Protection By The Introduction and Administrative Guidelines of the IRS Volunteer Virtue of TCE Assistor’s Guide states that volunteers are not legally liable under federal law Funding for the returns that they prepare. Volunteer The Volunteer Protection Act of 1997 (S.543) provides that certified Liability Act of volunteers are not liable for harm caused by an act or omission if they’re 1997 acting within the scope of their responsibilities and the harm was not willful. Trust everybody in the game, but always cut the cards. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 26
  • 27. Counselor Certification & Site Volunteer Assignment Certification Counselor certification is crucial to program credibility. AARP Tax-Aide Counselors Requirement (and EROs) must be certified annually by receiving a passing grade on the open-book test developed by the IRS and signing the IRS’ Standards of Conduct. Counselors must pass the Advance level of the IRS test. Client Facilitators are not required to be certified. Grading Instructors grade the test and inform the volunteer by returning the graded test. In the Exams event a volunteer does not pass the test, the volunteer can pass a retest in order to gain certification. The Instructor or another leader (determined by the SC) must keep the Counselor’s signed Volunteer Standards of Conduct until December 31. Passing Or After successfully passing the test or retest, Counselors (and EROs) are assigned to Failing Exam sites and receive necessary program materials. Volunteers who fail to pass the retest cannot be certified or assigned as Counselors, but may serve a variety of customer service functions within sites, especially by serving as Client Facilitators especially in larger, busy sites. Assignment to Counselors, EROs, and Client Facilitators are assigned to the AARP Tax-Aide sites a Site based on program requirements, then preference. See scheduling information form in the back of this digest and the Counselor Digest. At least two Counselors must be assigned to every site to ensure quality review of returns. New Counselors are placed with experienced Counselors for support and encouragement. Special assignments for shut-in visits, isolated locations, foreign languages, and other special events may occur. Sites are never in volunteers’ homes. Keeping If Counselors, EROs, and Client Facilitators cannot fulfill their assignments, it Schedules is essential that they arrange for certified substitutes or contact their supervisor in advance. Special assignments for shut-in visits, foreign languages, and other events may occur. Volunteer After successfully completing the training, passing the test, and signing the Identification at Volunteer Standards of Conduct form each Counselor and ERO should receive Sites an AARP Tax-Aide name card and plastic holder (available via AARP Tax- Aide Order Form). Client Facilitators must attend program policy and administrative training and sign the Volunteers Standards of Conduct form before received the name card and holder for the current year. AARP Tax-Aide Counselor’s Evaluation of Training Your IRS tax training materials contain an Assistor’s Evaluation From 6317. Please evaluate the tax training you received and submit that form along with the Self Study quiz on operations in this Digest. You can just about always stand more ‘n you think you can. 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 27
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  • 29. Self-Study Quiz on AARP Tax-Aide Operations (Please answer the questions below and submit with your evaluation of training.) Questions 1 - 8 are either true or false. Please circle T for true or F for false. 1. The AARP Foundation provides about one-half of program funding. T F 2. Expense receipts are required for the $35 counselor flat rate reimbursement. T F 3. AARP Tax-Aide offers Internet tax counseling. T F 4. AARP Tax-Aide may help people under the age of 60. T F 5. CyberTax is an easy, no obligation way to receive program updates via e-mail. T F 6. Customers retain sole responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their tax returns. T F 7. The AARP Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation. T F 8. Volunteers may not accept compensation, tips, etc. for the performance of their duties. T F 9. All tax returns must be deleted off all computers after the tax season, no later than April 30 T F Questions 10 – 15 are multiple choice. Please circle the correct answer for each. 10. AARP Tax-Aide’s most effective promotion is: a) AARP The Magazine b) Local newspaper stories c) Television ads d) Word of mouth promotion 11. Which volunteer position provides technical tax training e) Coordinators to Counselors? f) Instructors g) Specialists 12. In the preparer’s box of tax forms, Counselors should h) Their name enter: i) Site identification number (SIDN) j) Both of the above 13. AARP Tax-Aide Counselors must be certified: k) Only when joining the program l) Annually m) Every three years 14. For tax returns or questions outside the scope of their n) Provide their best estimation training, Counselors should: o) Refer customers to an unnamed paid tax preparers or the IRS 15. 1-888-AARPNOW is a toll-free way to: p) Locate sites during tax season q) Volunteer for the program at anytime r) Both of the above Questions 16 & 17 are fill-in-the-blank. 16. Counselors are asked to volunteer an average of ______ hours per week from 2/1 to 4/15. 17. The four essential things that Counselors do are: __________________________, ________________________, ________________________, ________________________ 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 29
  • 30. AARP TAX-AIDE COUNSELOR SCHEDULING INFORMATION (Please complete and submit to your LC)) NAME ______________________________ ID# ______________ DATE _______________ ADDRESS __________________________________________________________________ CITY/STATE/ZIP ____________________________________________________________ PHONE NUMBER __________________ E-MAIL ADDRESS _______________________ NUMBER OF YEARS WITH AARP TAX-AIDE AND/OR IRS VITA _____________ Schedule Preferences: Morning Afternoon Evening Monday __________ __________ __________ Tuesday __________ __________ __________ Wednesday __________ __________ __________ Thursday __________ __________ __________ Friday __________ __________ __________ Saturday __________ __________ __________ Site Preferences: Please indicate three choices for sites at which you would like to work, if known. Whenever possible you will be assigned to a site near your home. Returning Counselors will usually be given preference in assignments to sites. Site #1 ______________ Site #2 _____________ Site #3 ________________ Please indicate whether you would accept any special assignments: (shut-in-visits, quality review, evenings or weekends, substitute whenever and wherever needed). Also note any special proficiency which you have: (languages, etc.) _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________ 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 30
  • 31. Volunteer Assessment of AARP Tax-Aide Program You are invited to participate in the assessment of the season and help shape the improvements for next season. Your personal experience is invaluable -- please share it. The two-part assessment form follows. Please fill out each part and give this form to your supervisor by the date in the box below. Your supervisor will consider your views when submitting his/her own assessment. Regional Coordinators’ summaries go to the AARP Tax-Aide national office for national compilation and reporting back to all program coordinators via Happenings. From: Please get this (your name)_____________________________________________________________________ If your supervisor is a: evaluation to him/her by: (your title & state)________________________________________________________________ Local Coordinator April 1 To: District Coordinator April 15 (supervisor name)________________________________________________________________ State Coordinator May 1 (supervisor title)_________________________________________________________________ Regional Coordinator May 15 Staff Person May 31 Date:______________________________ Part 1 Circle appropriate rating numbers All volunteers should rate statements 1 - 14 below. 5=completely agree 4=somewhat agree 3=neutral 2=somewhat disagree 1=completely disagree. Disagree Agree 1 Program goals are clearly stated. 1 2 3 4 5 2 The program is well publicized. 1 2 3 4 5 3 Volunteers are well trained. 1 2 3 4 5 4 Testing & certification are consistent & fair. 1 2 3 4 5 5 IRS provides adequate support. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Information is communicated as & when needed. 1 2 3 4 5 7 Materials, forms & supplies are sufficient. 1 2 3 4 5 8 Necessary equipment is available. 1 2 3 4 5 9 Counseling sites are well managed. 1 2 3 4 5 10 Counseling sites have enough counselors. 1 2 3 4 5 11 All tax returns are quality reviewed. 1 2 3 4 5 12 Reports are submitted accurately & timely. 1 2 3 4 5 13 Sites are monitored & helped as needed. 1 2 3 4 5 14 Supervisors recognize volunteers’ service. 1 2 3 4 5 Counselors should proceed now to Part II on the reverse side of this page; all others should rate statements 15 - 20 below before proceeding to Part II. Disagree Agree 15 Statistical reports (activities & costs) are received timely. 1 2 3 4 5 16 Program advisory committees give needed support. 1 2 3 4 5 17 The program’s organizational charts are helpful. 1 2 3 4 5 18 Our organizational structure makes sense. 1 2 3 4 5 19 Recruiting resources provide adequate assistance. 1 2 3 4 5 20 The program reaches as many communities as need it.. 1 2 3 4 5 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 31
  • 32. Part II (to be completed by all volunteers) 1. What worked well? (describe innovations, successes, goals that were attained) 2. What did not work well? (describe problems that you need help in solving, goals that were not attained) 3. What new group of taxpayers did you serve? 4. What support do you need? (e.g., training in _______________, communication, publicity, supplies, equipment, etc.) 5. Specific ideas for program improvement: (e.g., how to reach more customers, bring in more volunteers, improve training) 6. Other: (let off steam or brag about someone or something) 7. Specific actions I will take to improve AARP Tax-Aide service in my territory or area of responsibility: 8. Counselors only: If a leadership position -- coordinator, instructor, or both-- were available, would you be interested in serving? Yes _____ ___Coordinator No_____ ___Instructor Thank you for your contribution! 2006-2007 Counselor Digest, Page 32