VITA recruiting volunteers for tax assistance program

United Way of Southwest Louisiana is gearing up for its annual Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Facilitated by a team of trained volunteers, VITA provides free tax preparation for low- and moderate-income individuals, the elderly and those with disabilities.

VITA is seeking volunteers to complete the tax preparer training and serve the community during the upcoming tax season. Becoming a VITA volunteer requires no special tax-related skills, Kimberlie Heckard, United Way community initiatives manager, said.

“They actually don’t have any special requirements. People would think you have to have some accounting background, but no. They will be trained to become certified tax preparers.”

Volunteers are provided free tax preparation training materials and must successfully pass an exam for certification. The training is self-paced but Heckard said she is available to answer questions or provide additional feedback.

“If you simply prepare with the materials, you’ll be prepared,” she said. “Many people, because of COVID, are used to this type of training. If you’re in college and do online studies, you don’t have a professor in front of you. But, of course, I am available if they need anything to be successful.”

Once certified, the volunteer schedule is “very flexible,” she said. “Depending on what area they’re in, they’ll be assigned to the nearest site. And some people may be working, some people may be retired and just want to come in for a couple of hours and that’s fine. I am flexible.”

For the second year in a row the program will also give volunteers the opportunity to work remotely. Such volunteers will have five days to prepare the file at home once received.

Besides passing the certification exam, ideal volunteers need basic computer, math and customer service skills, Heckard said. “You have to be like you work at Chick-fil-A. When you have a client in front of you, you must remain professional at all times.”

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