Process for Becoming a Certified IRS Volunteer

The training platform called Link & Learn, the e-learning training platform sponsored by the IRS, prepares you to successfully take the certification tests required to become a VITA/TCE volunteer.

For volunteers that will prepare tax returns, this certification process will include taking and passing the tax law exam and two short ethics tests that ensure you understand the mission of the program, the mandatory privacy of taxpayer information, and basic rules about your personal conduct.

Tests that the Tax Preparer volunteer will take are:

  1. Volunteer Standards of Conduct Test

  2. Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training Test

  3. Advanced Exam

VITA/TCE Central

Volunteers will take these tests online by creating a VITA/TCE Central account.

To establish an account, you will see the page below. Select Group ‘02 - TCE - AARP Volunteer’ and then complete the rest of the form.

This VITA/TCE Central account is separate and distinct from the TaxSlayer® Practice Lab tax software account you create.

Select your  Group  as shown here and click the radio button saying you plan to volunteer

Select your Group as shown here and click the radio button saying you plan to volunteer

Taking the Exams

You’ve Signed Up and Signed In

You are logged into your IRS VITA/TCE Central account. Click on the Basic tab. (see screenshot below to see the location of the Tabs) You will be given the opportunity to take these online tests in specific order such that, with the ‘BASIC’ tab selected, the first two tests (and only) these tests will be listed for you to launch and begin taking. These are the

2018 Volunteer Standards of Conduct - Exam and
2018 Intake/Interview and Quality Review Exam

Note for AARP tax preparers: Once you have taken the exams listed above, You will see the 2018 Basic Exam in your list of Exams. It is not necessary to take the 2018 Basic Exam. Click the ‘ADVANCED’ tab (see below) in order to see the 2018 Advanced Exam, click on that link to start your exam. Of course, you may take the 2018 Basic Exam for practice.

Pro Tip! It is not necessary to take these exams in one session. You are able to launch an exam, answer a couple of questions, and then save and close the application to continue at a later time.

Navigate to ‘Advanced’ Tab to take Advanced exam

Navigate to ‘Advanced’ Tab to take Advanced exam

Sales pitch for the HSA Exam. Finally, now that you are in the groove of how these tests are delivered and you have your confidence up, why not take the 2018 Health Savings Accounts (HSA) Exam?
It is considered an optional test in the context of being a certified volunteer but it is extremely useful. Health savings plans are becoming quite common and we always need at least two people with this level of certification to perform Quality Reviews after the return has been prepared. Your investment of time for this optional certification is very valuable to each tax site you work.



Certification tests

  1. VSOC - Volunteer Standards of Conduct Test must be passed by all volunteers to be IRS certified.

  2. Intake & Interview - Intake/Interview & Quality Review Training Test is ensuring your understanding of the specific processes that occur when you are at a tax site preparing a taxpayer’s (TP) tax return.
    The intake process is where the Client Facilitator greets the TP, looks at ID and tax documents then does a cursory review to make sure the TP’s return is ‘In Scope’.
    Next, the tax preparer Interviews the TP, to obtain a firm understanding of the details and then prepares the return.
    Once the return is completed, a Quality Review is performed, this review is performed by another volunteer (NOT the preparer of the return under review) who is certified at the same level or above for the highest level of complexity contained in the return.

  3. Advanced Test - This is the level all AARP Tax-Aide volunteers are required to take. You are welcome to take the Basic exam for practice but it is unnecessary to take Basic before Advanced.

  4. HSA - (optional) Health Savings Accounts Test. The Health Savings Account is being used by more and more people each year. We wish we could convince everyone to take this test!


Volunteer Roles

Not all volunteers prepare taxes. Listed below are the tests required for some of the different volunteer roles.


Client Facilitators

  • VSOC Test

  • Intake, Interview + Quality Review Test

Local Coordinators

  • VSOC Test

  • Intake, Interview + Quality Review Test

  • Advanced Test

  • (optional) HSA