The Internal Revenue Service has two programs that provide free tax assistance to over three million low-income and elderly taxpayers: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA/TCE). For 18 years, Epsilon XR has provided comprehensive blended learning for these volunteers and their instructors through the Link & Learn Taxes program. The IRS’ challenge was to ensure that program volunteers were not only trained, but were tested and certified competent. In contrast, most paid preparers are non-credentialed and are not required to pass any competency tests or take any educational courses on tax return preparation. Only attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), and enrolled agents (EAs) must pass competency examinations and satisfy continuing education requirements.
92 Percent Accuracy Rate Reflects Improvements Made by VITA Programs, IRS.Dan Fair, Tax Coalition
To supply a cost-effective solution, we customized an existing Learning Management System (LMS) to certify, store, and report volunteer tax preparer training records. Our modifications allowed volunteers to self-register and create their own account. Once registered, volunteers could access the most current training and certification tests.
Our customized certification solution provided a segmented training and testing track, including prerequisites, for each volunteer. The LMS includes a personalized home page to display testing attempts, pass/fail results, exam scores, and certificates, as well as links to performance support tools including training guides and job aids. When a volunteer successfully certifies, an IRS volunteer agreement is populated with the volunteer’s account data and includes a digital signature. The form is used to verify a volunteer has completed the program successfully. Each year the certification training and tests are updated to include the latest tax law changes.
Our web-based learning assessment engine tracks the training of VITA/TCE volunteers and has generated over 1,500,000 total certifications in the last seven years. Last year 3,553,540 tax returns were prepared and filed by volunteers trained and certified via Link & Learn Taxes and our customized LMS.