How Well Is VITA Working? The New QSS Report Gives a Snapshot
This blog post was guest-authored by Desmond Leong from Metro-St. Louis Community Tax Coalition and co-chair of the Quality Assurance Working Group.
With the start of the new filing season, the IRS has begun issuing Quality Statistical Survey (QSS) reports evaluating the efficacy and accuracy of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which has evolved into America’s de facto free tax preparation program. The first report on overall quality shows that while the program has declined on some measures, it is still a highly effective program.
The VITA program is graded through a site review, which evaluates the accuracy of the work done by free tax preparation. The reports generated by these visits become public information that is cited in reports to Congress. These reports can strengthen the Tax Opportunity Network’s (TON) advocacy for continued funding of VITA and for its permanent incorporation within the federal budget.
Having high accuracy rates can ensure faith and confidence in the free tax preparation products and services offered by VITA. In addition, being consistently accurate at greater than 90% can bolster the case for VITA’s continued funding before Congress.
The current QSS results indicate that the accuracy rate of tax returns according to adherence to tax laws from site visits is lower than at the same time last year. For the Taxpayer Opportunity Network, this means that there are many opportunities to improve upon an already great program.
The good news is that the QSS results do not account for most VITA sites. Only 320 of a scheduled 2,200 scheduled reviews have been completed this tax season. We encourage all free tax preparation programs stay vigilant in adhering to IRS quality standards to continue providing these valued services to their communities.
Tax preparers can consider these site reviews as a test or a pop quiz. Click here, and you will find:
- Form 6729 series (the test questions): these are the evaluation documents used by the site reviewer.
- Pub 5141, QSS Site Review Job Aid (the test answers): this is what the site is graded on and how. The job aid shows all the questions reviewers ask and specifies what they are looking for.
Using the tools above, VITA tax preparers will know what they’re being graded on should the site review teams arrive. It’s not that difficult to get 100%. These site review teams want to help improve program efficiency and accuracy, so be sure to brush up on what they might ask. As a bonus, tax preparers get to provide accurate returns for no-cost to hard-working families across the country.