VITA Programs Show Increased Accuracy Rate on Volunteer-Prepared Returns

EDITOR'S NOTE: Our friends at NCTC sent us the press release below, which shows good news for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites and their volunteers' training.

CHICAGO, IL – The accuracy rate for volunteer-prepared tax returns during the 2013 tax-filing season increased two percentage points from the previous year, according to a report released Tuesday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). The findings of TIGTA's annual report reflect the commitment of volunteers and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide quality tax-preparation services for low- and moderate-income taxpayers, according to the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC).

"Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs aim for the highest degree of quality and accuracy for every family we serve," said NCTC President and CEO Jackie Lynn Coleman. "We are always looking for opportunities to improve our efforts, so we take very seriously the kind of feedback that TIGTA provides – feedback that we can put to good use."

NCTC, a coalition of organizations offering free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) for underserved, low- and moderate-income families, is the nation's third largest tax preparer. The organization works closely with the IRS and members of the community tax preparation field to evaluate and act appropriately upon the findings of TIGTA's reports on free tax preparation programs such as VITA.

In its report on the 2013 tax-filing season, TIGTA noted its latest audit findings are based on reviews of 39 volunteer-prepared returns from locations across the country – taken from the 2.9 million tax returns filed by all volunteer programs. Over half of those returns were prepared accurately– an accuracy rate two percentage points higher than last year's. TIGTA notes the limitation of the sample size by describing it as "non-statistical," meaning that the "results cannot be used to project to the population of tax returns prepared at VITA sites."

The recommendation issued by TIGTA to address the report's concerns was to ensure that volunteer tax preparers, quality reviewers, and site coordinators complete intake/interview and quality review training annually. NCTC welcomed this recommendation by the Inspector General, which was also agreed to by the IRS.

The IRS also measures the accuracy of volunteer tax preparation programs and completed a more in-depth and statistically sound review of 339 tax returns to find a 91 percent accuracy rate for volunteer-prepared returns in the 2013 tax season. That internal review was conducted during the tax season and the report, known as the Quality Statistical Sample (QSS) report, was released by the IRS Stakeholder Partnerships, Education, and Communication (SPEC) in August.

"VITA programs across the country have implemented the strongest training and quality control standards to date and continually strive to increase the quality of the services offered," Coleman noted. "Their tax-preparation volunteers undergo intense training, sometimes taking up to 40 hours, and must pass an annual, comprehensive exam before preparing a single tax return. "

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The National Community Tax Coalition is the nation's largest, most comprehensive membership organization for community-based organizations offering free tax and financial services to low-income working families. The coalition's network of more than 2,800 members, across the country, is dedicated to strengthening economies, building communities, and improving lives through tax assistance and asset building activities that produce financial security, protect families, and promote economic justice.

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