Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.
Chapter VITA Program Overview – 2014 Tax Filing Season
Bigger and Better Business Program
Quentin Goodwin, International Director of Bigger and Better Business
The Voluntary Income Tax Assistance Program is a community service program of the Internal Revenue Service. The VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $51,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities. They can inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. (www.irs.gov)
In 2008, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. established a partnership with the US Department of Treasury (IRS-VITA Program) to establish a nationwide Tax Preparation Program for low-income families. Bro. Winston O’Neal, International Director of Bigger and Better Business, launched the program internationally through the establishment of Sigma Super Tax Sundays, where chapters would assist in the income tax preparation at existing VITA sites in their communities. In addition, each Regional Bigger and Better Business director participated in an IRS-sponsored HBCU Symposium; during this event, the fraternity was asked to support the IRS in their attempts to extend their services to HBCU campuses.
Since 2008, the focus of Phi Beta Sigma’s VITA Partnership program has evolved into three service areas: 1) Promoting tax understanding and awareness; 2) Preparing complimentary tax returns for low-to-moderate income individuals; and 3) Encouraging personal asset building and self-sufficiency through tax incentives.
Why Participate in VITA?
Free Income Tax Software for Preparers
Any brother who becomes certified as a VITA Tax Preparer will be able to file his own income tax return at no cost.
Matching Grants from the IRS
By operating a VITA site, a chapter can apply for a matching grant from the Internal Revenue Service. This can help in enhancing its outreach program to its community.
VITA participation can be very beneficial to Accounting majors and young accounting professionals. Through the certification training, the brother will receive the most up-to-date resources relating to tax laws and accounting procedures. Also, his experience with this IRS-sponsored program will give the brother a competitive advantage as he enters the competitive job environment. Additionally, the student will benefit from volunteer service hours accumulated through his service.
Continuing Education Credit
Brothers who are Accounting Professionals, Enrolled Agents and Other Tax Return Preparers can earn continuing education credit by volunteering as a VITA instructor or quality reviewer for the upcoming tax filing season. In this capacity, he will be responsible for instructing volunteers to be tax preparers and/or as a Quality Reviewer at a VITA site.
Ways Chapters Can Participate in VITA
Set Up Your Own VITA Site
This option is beneficial if your chapter has enough resources—human, logistical, and financial—to operate a VITA site. Your chapter can engage in site management in the following capacities:
1. Establish a VITA site at your chapter facility.
Chapters interested in pursuing this venture should contact IRS-SPEC at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information refer to Publication 1084—Volunteer Site Coordinator’s Handbook and visit www.irs.gov (keyword Partner and Volunteer Resource Center). Please be mindful that the IRS prefers its VITA sites to be located in areas that are easily assessable for those eligible to receive free tax preparation – individuals within the income limits of the VITA program. Many cities also have existing VITA sites and coalitions that can assist your chapter during your site inception. The primary purpose of these sites is to assist with best practices for quality tax sites.
2. Partner with another entity to coordinate a VITA site
If your chapter does not have a facility, you can manage a VITA site at another location in the area. For example, many churches lend their facility to organizations wishing to coordinate a site in their communities. This option is beneficial in that you will establish partnerships with other entities to serve your community. The site must meet all requirements outlined in Publication 1084. Existing VITA site and established community coalitions will be able to assist with this effort.
You will need at least five dedicated individuals to staff your VITA site throughout the tax period. A consistently functional VITA site consists of the following individuals:
Site Administrator – this person assists the site coordinator with the logistics of the VITA site. He ensures the facility is properly equipped to support the tax preparation operations. Typical responsibilities include: 1) securing and scheduling the space for income tax use; 2) ensuring the internet/wi-fi is connected to the computers; 3) connecting the printers to the computers; and 4) ensuring that the space is comfortable for both the volunteers and the tax filers.
Site Coordinator – this person works with the volunteers to ensure they are properly certified and scheduled to work at the VITA site. He works directly with the IRS SPEC site manager to make sure the returns are properly filed in accordance with the IRS guidelines. Most importantly, the site coordinator manages the troubleshooting process for the site.
Tax Preparer – this person must complete the IRS SPEC certification process before serving in this capacity. He can either be certified to perform basic or advance tax preparation. On average, the tax preparation process would take 30-45 minutes, so a busy site would need about three or four preparers to ensure as many tax filers as possible are served during the site’s operating hours.
Greeter – this person must complete the IRS SPEC certification process before serving in this capacity. Through the certification, he will understand the ethical requirements for a VITA operation. The greeter conducts the pre-screening process with the tax filer, and ensures that the filer has all the forms and identification needed to continue with the tax filing process.
Facilitated Self Assistance Partnership
Facilitated Self Assistance (FSA) is a concept that’s part of IRS-SPEC’s Volunteer Income Tax Preparation program designed to provide increased taxpayer access to free tax preparation services. The program allows taxpayers the opportunity to prepare their own taxes and ask questions of a certified tax coach during the process of filing their return. This program empowers taxpayers to embrace the process of filing their own tax return.
The Bigger and Better Business Program has partnered with IRS-SPEC to deliver Remote Filing Sites that will allow each Chapter to post a unique URL on their website to an FSA software provider. The software provider chosen is My Free Taxes, who is in partnership with IRS –SPEC. Through this website, individuals within the income limit will be able to file their federal, state and multi state income tax at no charge.
Phi Beta Sigma will be given credit for each successful tax return completed through the special website. Your chapter will also be given resources—which lists you as a partner—you can use to market myfreetaxes.com to those who may benefit from the opportunity to file their taxes at no cost. This option is optimal for all chapters—especially collegiate chapters who do not have the resources to conduct a full-fledged VITA program.
A detailed overview of the MyFreeTaxes program is included at the end of this document.
Participate in an existing VITA Site in your area
This option is beneficial if your chapter cannot manage a site on its own, but have brothers interested in volunteering as certified VITA tax preparers.
To become a tax preparer, you must successfully complete an open book test each year with a minimum passing grade of 80% multiple choice questions. Once certified, you will be able to assist taxpayers prepare and e-file their taxes. Please note that the certification does not allow you to give tax advice or prepare taxes for pay.
In preparation for the certification test, you will participate in a training program—either in a classroom setting or online (at your own pace).
The IRS has SPEC representatives located throughout the United States who can assist you in becoming a certified tax preparer. However, to begin the certification process, you must complete Form 14310 – VITA/TCE Volunteer Sign Up. This form is found at www.irs.gov/individuals/IRS-tax-volunteers.
The submitted form will be forwarded to the local IRS Spec Representative, who will subsequently contact you to provide additional information about the VITA programs and volunteer opportunities.
Volunteer at an existing VITA Site
This option is beneficial if your chapter cannot supply tax preparers, but would like to serve as greeters or supporters of an existing site. To learn of volunteer opportunities at existing sites, your chapter should
1) Contact your Regional Director of Bigger and Better Business, who will provide the contact information of the local/state IRS representative; or 2) Contact your existing local existing VITA sites or coalition to learn of the needs of their existing sites.
Planning Your VITA Program
Step 1. Determine the capacity in which your chapter will support VITA
By August of the preceding year, your chapter should have selected which VITA support option works best. Because this process requires more training and certification, you begin the process of setting up your own VITA site much earlier than the other options.
Step 2. Contact your local IRS VITA/SPEC representative
If your chapter desires to provide certified tax preparers or trainers, you should first complete and submit the application electronically. The SPEC central site will then forward your information to your local VITA representative.
To get your local VITA Representative’s information, please contact your Regional Director of Bigger and Better Business.
Step 3. Become Certified
Chapters should prepare to take training and be certified between October and December proceeding the implementation year. When the local VITA office receives your application, he will notify you of the training dates. Please remember that you will also be able to take the training classes online. All volunteers must be certified on an annual basis to become knowledgeable of new and amended tax laws affecting the current tax season.
Step 4. Inform the Community
Make sure you let your community members know of this tremendous opportunity to file state and local income taxes at no charge. Please visit www.irs.gov (Keyword EITC Information for Partners) for marketing resources.
Step 5. Perform Your Service
The VITA program should occur between January and April of the implementation period, which is the income tax season in the United States.
Step 6. Follow Phi Beta Sigma Protocol
If you are managing a site, make sure you submit the Phi Beta Sigma event insurance form for each site session you plan to operate. For each activity, make sure you evaluate it through the Chapter PIA form.
Conducting Free Tax Filing Program
The Bigger and Better Business program of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is excited to offer collegiate and alumni chapters an opportunity to enhance its V.I.T.A. program requirement for the 2014-15 period.
Myfreetaxes.com has provided Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. with a custom URL, allowing the Fraternity to provide free online tax filing to individuals earning less than $58,000 per year. Through this URL, Phi Beta Sigma will receive credit for any submitted and accepted federal, state and multi-state tax filing. This feature will greatly assist collegiate chapters in their effort to fulfill their VITA program requirement with minimal effort. Also, this is an added benefit for our fraternity members who fall within the income limit.
The URL is myfreetaxes.com/PhiBetaSigmaFraternityIncFSA. The initial plan is to have this link placed on the international website from January 28, 2015 until the end of tax season. Also, we will ask chapters, regions, and states to place the link on their pages. Chapters will then either sponsor a tax filing event during the tax season, or encourage their network to click on the link either through their page or the international website.
Because MyFreeTaxes is part of the Facilitated Self Assistance partnership with the Internal Revenue Service’s SPEC service, any chapter participating in the MyFreeTaxes program will receive credit for completing the VITA program requirement for Bigger and Better Business.
Measure of Success
This program’s goal is to generate 500 income tax returns filed through Phi Beta Sigma’s URL by April 15, 2015.
Since 2008, the MyFreeTaxes Partnership has provided free state and federal tax preparation and filing assistance for qualified individuals. It’s easy, safe, secure, and 100 percent free. Powered by the Wal-Mart Foundation— in cooperation with Goodwill Industries International, National Disability Institute, and the United Way Worldwide — the MyFreeTaxes Partnership’s online and in-person tax preparation and filing services have helped millions of families claim nearly $6 billion in tax credits and refunds since 2009. Tax filing software provided through MyFreeTaxes.com powered by H&R Block.
(from www.myfreetaxes.com “About” page)
MyFreeTaxes is unique in that it provides a free tax help hotline to assist anytime during the tax filing process. This hotline number is 1-855-MY-TX-HELP. This hotline is operated by qualified live representatives willing to help the filer with any and all tax issues.
The primary target market served for this partnership is individuals earning $58,000 or less per year. Approximately 35% of Phi Beta Sigma’s international membership is currently enrolled at a college or university; the majority of these members—and their networks—will fall in the primary target market, and will benefit from this benefit. In addition, the Fraternity has access to numerous recent college graduates and young alumni members who—along with their networks—also fall within this target market.
Phi Beta Sigma’s chapters service programs target low-to –middle income families. Most chapters are already engaged in income tax preparation services through the IRS VITA Program. Moreover, the majority of these chapters have a functional website, social networking vehicles (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and access to computers. These resources will greatly attribute to the chapters’ outreach efforts to the individuals that fall within the primary target market.
How This Program Works
The URL assigned to Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. that allows for free income tax filing is
Phi Beta Sigma’s international site, www.phibetasigma1914.org, will place this URL on its page from January 28 until April 30, 2015. Chapters and individuals can simply use the Fraternity’s international site to file the tax returns.
Chapters, states, and regions can also market this program by placing the URL on their respective pages. However, please make sure the URL link leads to the correct site for Phi Beta Sigma.
How to ensure you are using Phi Beta Sigma’s link
1) The Site ID for Phi Beta Sigma is S27091965
2) When you click myfreetaxes.com/PhiBetaSigmaFraternityIncFSA, you will see this page
3) On this page, click the “File Now: Safe & Secure” icon. You will then be directed to the H&R Block page below:
5) The URL for this page should include Phi Beta Sigma’s Site ID Number at the end. The URL link should read http://www.hrblock.com/cmpgn/goto.html?tcxd=1&productid=30&otppartnerid=9006&campaignid=pw_mcm_9006_5576&SID=S27091965
6) If the above URL does not contain the Phi Beta Sigma site ID, then please call Quentin Goodwin, International Director of Bigger and Better Business (704-649-7647).
7) Once you ensure the URL matches the Fraternity’s Site ID, you are ready to file!
Reporting Your Activities
Myfreetaxes.com will credit Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. for all accepted income tax returns filed through the Fraternity’s unique URL. The fraternity will receive period reports summarizing the total filings through the site; unfortunately, the system does not break the numbers down per chapter or local site.
To generate an accurate account of chapter performance, we ask each chapter to manually log each tax file and provide a summary via email to email@example.com.
Because MyFreeTaxes is a part of the Facilitated Self Assistance partnership of the IRS SPEC service, any chapter participating in the MyFreeTaxes program will receive credit for completing the VITA program requirement for Bigger and Better Business.
As with any other program, the chapter must report this activity through the Program Implementation Assessment (P.I.A.) process.
Marketing Your Program
To The Brothers
Chapters can market this program as a benefit to its members—especially those reactivated brothers looking for incentives to stay financial. The chapter can have this feature available—and encourage brothers who qualify to file—during a chapter meeting or another official event.
To The Community
Chapters can also offer this program to the community—especially those low-to-moderate income individuals who fall within the income limit. In addition to providing much needed outreach in this area, this program serves as a very easy way to satisfy the chapter’s VITA program requirement for Bigger and Better Business.
MyFreeTaxes provides numerous marketing materials to assist its partners in executing a successful tax filing venture. These materials are found in the following website: http://myfreetaxes.com/collateral/
Chapters are encouraged to use these materials to inform the community of the Fraternity’s free tax filing service.
Of the fliers offered, it is suggested that chapters use the customizable flier. This allows you to enter your local information and directives pertaining to your program. To use, simply download the document and insert your information in the designated areas. Please remember to adhere to Phi Beta Sigma’s International Branding Standards when placing your local information.
It is also helpful to provide the income tax checklist, which details the necessary documents one must bring to file a tax return. This document is also customizable; simply download and enter your local information.
Also included is a fact sheet which explains the myfreetaxes program and the filing process. This document is helpful in that it gets the tax filer more familiar and comfortable with filing through the program. This document is also customizable; simply download and enter your local information.
To Begin The Program
To start the MyFreeTaxes program, the chapter should notify—via email—the International Director of Bigger and Better Business at firstname.lastname@example.org and its Regional Director of Bigger and Better Business. The Fraternity will then follow up periodically on the chapter’s progress in assisting tax filings, so please remember to keep a log of the tax returns filed under your program. Also, if you have an event related to the MyFreeTaxes filing, please remember to file an additional insurance form with the Headquarters office at least 30 days prior to the event and enter the PIA data upon the event’s conclusion.