How people can give back by becoming an #IRS-certified #volunteer

The IRS and its community partners are looking for people around the country to become IRS-certified volunteers for the upcoming tax season.

These long-standing programs offer valuable help to America’s taxpayers:

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offers free tax return preparation to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $57,000 or less, people with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly is mainly for people age 60 or older. Although the program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors, most taxpayers can usually get free assistance. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.

New processes make volunteering safe and easy To keep everyone safe, potential volunteers can tune in virtually to learn more about the programs, ask questions and find out which volunteer role is right for them.

Some volunteer sites will offer virtual help to taxpayers in place of face-to-face assistance. This allows volunteers to help taxpayers complete their tax returns over the phone or online. Other volunteers will conduct a virtual quality review with the taxpayer before e-filing their tax return.

While virtual volunteering will be an option this tax season, some VITA and TCE sites will still offer in-person free tax help. Safety and social distancing will be emphasized during face-to-face interactions.

There are many available volunteer roles:

  • Greeters to help screen taxpayers to determine the type of assistance they need.
  • Interpreters to provide language services.
  • Tax preparers to use electronic filing software to complete tax returns.
  • Tax coaches at some sites, to encourage taxpayers to prepare their own tax returns and help them through the process.

 Other benefits of volunteering include:

  • Volunteers can work flexible hours. Volunteers can generally choose their own hours and days to volunteer. The programs are usually open from late January through the tax filing deadline in April. Some sites are even open all year.
  • No prior experience needed. Volunteers receive specialized training to become IRS-certified. They can also choose from a variety of volunteer roles to serve taxpayers. VITA and TCE programs want volunteers of all backgrounds and ages, as well as individuals who are fluent in other languages.
  • The IRS provides free tax law training and materials. Volunteers receive training materials at no charge. The tax law training covers how to prepare basic federal tax returns electronically. The training also covers tax topics like deductions and credits.
  • Tax pros can earn continuing education credits. Enrolled agents and non-credentialed tax return preparers can earn continuing education credits when volunteering as a VITA/TCE instructor, quality reviewer or tax return preparer.

People can sign up through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program by visiting the sign-up page on IRS.gov. Shortly after signing up, interested participants will receive an invite to attend a virtual orientation.

IRS YouTube VideoVolunteer Income Tax Assistance Recruitment

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: How people can give back by becoming an IRS-certified volunteer. https://go.usa.gov/xArEy 

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BE AWARE IRS SCAM!

IF YOU RECEIVED A REFUND CHECK OF UNKNOWN REASON DO NOT DEPOSIT THE CHECK. PLEASE RETURN THE CHECK TO IRS WITHOUT CASHING IT.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers of a quickly growing scam involving erroneous tax refunds being deposited into their bank accounts. The IRS also offered a step-by-step explanation for how to return the funds and avoid being scammed.

Following up on a Security Summit alert issued Feb. 2, the IRS issued this additional warning about the new scheme after discovering more tax practitioners’ computer files have been breached. In addition, the number of potential taxpayer victims jumped from a few hundred to several thousand in just days. The IRS Criminal Investigation division continues its investigation into the scope and breadth of this scheme.

These criminals have a new twist on an old scam. After stealing client data from tax professionals and filing fraudulent tax returns, these criminals use the taxpayers’ real bank accounts for the deposit.

Thieves are then using various tactics to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers, and their versions of the scam may continue to evolve.

Different Versions of the Scam

In one version of the scam, criminals posing as debt collection agency officials acting on behalf of the IRS contacted the taxpayers to say a refund was deposited in error, and they asked the taxpayers to forward the money to their collection agency.

In another version, the taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice saying he is from the IRS and threatens the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant and a “blacklisting” of their Social Security Number. The recorded voice gives the taxpayer a case number and a telephone number to call to return the refund.

As it did last week, the IRS repeated its call for tax professionals to step up security of sensitive client tax and financial files.

The IRS urged taxpayers to follow established procedures for returning an erroneous refund to the agency. The IRS also encouraged taxpayers to discuss the issue with their financial institutions because there may be a need to close bank accounts. Taxpayers receiving erroneous refunds also should contact their tax preparers immediately.

Because this is a peak season for filing tax returns, taxpayers who file electronically may find that their tax return will reject because a return bearing their Social Security number is already on file. If that’s the case, taxpayers should follow the steps outlined in the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft. Taxpayers unable to file electronically should mail a paper tax return along with Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, stating they were victims of a tax preparer data breach.

Here are the official ways to return an erroneous refund to the IRS.

Taxpayers who receive the refunds should follow the steps outlined by Tax Topic Number 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund. The tax topic contains full details, including mailing addresses should there be a need to return paper checks. By law, interest may accrue on erroneous refunds.

If the erroneous refund was a direct deposit:

  1. Contact the Automated Clearing House (ACH) department of the bank/financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS.
  2. Call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 (individual) or 800-829-4933 (business) to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.

If the erroneous refund was a paper check and hasn’t been cashed:

  1. Write “Void” in the endorsement section on the back of the check.
  2. Submit the check immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below. The location is based on the city (possibly abbreviated) on the bottom text line in front of the words TAX REFUND on your refund check.
  3. Don’t staple, bend, or paper clip the check.
  4. Include a note stating, “Return of erroneous refund check because (and give a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund check).”

The erroneous refund was a paper check and you have cashed it:

  • Submit a personal check, money order, etc., immediately to the appropriate IRS location listed below.
  • If you no longer have access to a copy of the check, call the IRS toll-free at 800-829-1040 (individual) or 800-829-4933 (business) (see telephone and local assistance for hours of operation) and explain to the IRS assistor that you need information to repay a cashed refund check.
  • Write on the check/money order: Payment of Erroneous Refund, the tax period for which the refund was issued, and your taxpayer identification number (social security number, employer identification number, or individual taxpayer identification number).
  • Include a brief explanation of the reason for returning the refund.
  • Repaying an erroneous refund in this manner may result in interest due the IRS.

IRS mailing addresses for returning paper checks

For your paper refund check, here are the IRS mailing addresses to use based on the city (possibly abbreviated). These cities are located on the check’s bottom text line in front of the words TAX REFUND:

  • ANDOVER – Internal Revenue Service, 310 Lowell Street, Andover MA 01810
  • ATLANTA – Internal Revenue Service, 4800 Buford Highway, Chamblee GA 30341
  • AUSTIN – Internal Revenue Service, 3651 South Interregional Highway 35, Austin TX 78741
  • BRKHAVN – Internal Revenue Service, 5000 Corporate Ct., Holtsville NY 11742
  • CNCNATI – Internal Revenue Service, 201 West Rivercenter Blvd., Covington KY 41011
  • FRESNO – Internal Revenue Service, 5045 East Butler Avenue, Fresno CA 93727
  • KANS CY – Internal Revenue Service, 333 W. Pershing Road, Kansas City MO 64108-4302
  • MEMPHIS – Internal Revenue Service, 5333 Getwell Road, Memphis TN 38118
  • OGDEN – Internal Revenue Service, 1973 Rulon White Blvd., Ogden UT 84201
  • PHILA – Internal Revenue Service, 2970 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19104

Get Ready for Taxes: Stay home and stay safe with #IRS online tools

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to take necessary actions now to help file federal tax returns timely and accurately in 2021.

This is the fourth in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. A special page, updated and available on IRS.gov, outlines steps taxpayers can take to make tax filing easier in 2021.

With continued social distancing, taxpayers can stay home and stay safe with IRS online tools and resources that help them find the information they need. These IRS.gov tools are easy to use and available 24 hours a day. Millions of people use them to find information about their accounts, get answers to tax questions or file and pay taxes.  

Free File
Almost everyone can file electronically for free. The IRS Free File program, available only through IRS.gov or the IRS2Go app, offers brand-name tax preparation software packages at no cost. The software does all the work of finding deductions, credits and exemptions. It‘s free for those who earned $72,000 or less in 2020. Some of the Free File packages also offer free state tax return preparation.

Taxpayers comfortable filling out tax forms electronically, can use Free File Fillable Forms, regardless of income, to file their tax returns either by mail or online.

Choosing a preparer
The IRS has several options for finding a tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional, which offers a wealth of information for selecting a tax professional. The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help taxpayers find preparers in their area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS, or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

Other online help
The Interactive Tax Assistant answers general tax questions, including helping to determine if a type of income is taxable or if someone is eligible to claim certain credits and deductions. With changes to income and other life events for many in 2020, tax credits and deductions can mean more money in a taxpayer’s pocket and thinking about eligibility now can help make tax filing easier next year.
 
Taxpayers may qualify for credits like the Child Tax Credit and Child and Dependent Care Credit. Taxpayers whose dependent does not qualify for the CTC might be able to claim the Credit for Other Dependents. Individuals paying higher education costs for themselves, a spouse or a dependent, may be eligible to save some money with education tax credits or deductions. Additionally, low- to moderate-income taxpayers may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Beginning in January 2021, the Interactive Tax Assistant will be updated to include answers to more tax law questions.

Taxpayers can check the status of their refund using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. The status is available within 24 hours after the IRS receives their e-filed tax return or up to four weeks after they mailed a paper return. The “Where’s My Refund?” tool updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so taxpayers only need to check once a day.

The best and fastest way for taxpayers to get their tax refund is to have it direct deposited into their financial account. Taxpayers who don’t have a financial account can visit the FDIC website for information to help open an account online.

For more information about planning ahead, see Publication 5348, Get Ready to File, and Publication 5349, Year-Round Tax Planning is for Everyone.

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