Training - Getting Started

On this page you will find a description of the tax software & online digital manuals that are available for tax law training and research that are provided by the IRS.

To see links to the resources without these descriptions please click here to go to the Just Links! page.

How are your search skills?

It will be fairly important to have your electronic document search skills in good form!

How To Search for Words or Phrases in a PDF Document


Classroom Training

Important Events & Dates



TAXSLAYER VITA/TCE. The IRS is in the fourth year of their contract with tax software provider TaxSlayer. A training module, called TaxSlayer® Practice Lab, has been set up for us to prepare practice returns so that we can become familiar with the mechanics of the TaxSlayer® software.

If you would like to set up a TaxSlayer® Practice Lab account, click here for an explicit explanation on how to proceed on this site’s Getting Started with TaxSlayer® Practice Lab page.

Click here for the springboard into TaxSlayer® Practice Lab.

Reminder: When signing into TaxSlayer® Practice Lab, you first enter the universal password: TRAINPROWEB. You can think of this as the gateway to your personal TaxSlayer® account.

The NTTC Workbook

This workbook, compiled by AARP’s National Tax Training Committee (the NTTC), is published both digitally and in paper. You can access the digital version from the Libraries menu tab once you have signed into AARP’s New Volunteer Portal. If you are a volunteer who has made contact with a member of the AARP Tax-Aide program, a paper copy has probably already been ordered for you.

There are a variety of exercises in this workbook have been modeled after the Advanced Test scenarios. The problems (vignettes or scenarios) have varying degrees of complexity, just like our tax clients’ tax returns. They cover any and every situation that could possibly exist that is within our Scope of Service. To the volunteers that put this training manual together for us, we salute you!

at-home + online learning


Our Resources

The resources we have available for at-home and online learning deserve an introduction because they have different purposes.


Link & Learn taxes

Link & Learn Taxes is the self-paced online training platform that is hosted by the IRS. Many volunteers prefer this platform over the other methods for learning tax law. This is a robust presentation of all the tax law that is needed in order to pass the Advanced exam. The topics are delivered in a slide format; you click forward through the topics.

Everything delivered to you in this format is also presented in Pub 4491 (see below) which is frequently referenced in Link & Learn lessons. If you are unsure about a subject you are studying in Link & Learn, switch over to the alternate format in Pub 4491 (more of a ‘textbook’ approach to teaching) to see if that may suit your learning style better.

Pub 4491 - the training guide

This is where the tax law is taught in a textbook approach to teaching. It presents tax law and information about all aspects of the Tax-Aide program.

In this publication you will

  • Learn the Volunteer Standards of Conduct

  • Receive tax law training necessary to prepare an accurate return

  • Acquire research skills using the reference guides and other tools

  • Gain skill in interviewing taxpayers using the Intake/Interview questionnaire

  • Assist taxpayers prepare their tax return

Pub 4012 (“forty-twelve”) -
The volunteer resource guide

Every volunteer gets a copy of this reference manual. Most volunteers will bring this manual to every shift they work at our tax sites. It is lovingly called the “Forty-Twelve(Pub 4012).

This is more of a guidebook that keeps us ‘on track’ both logically and organizationally for all areas of volunteer responsibilities, most importantly applying tax law.

Pub 4012 has within it’s covers every aspect of individual tax law we are allowed to tackle. That is called our scope of service. Some tax situations can get quite complicated. Those returns are outside our scope of service and we must decline preparing the return.

The common situations that our “In Scope” taxpayers present to us can appear tricky but are made manageable with the guidance provided in this manual.

ENDNOTE: Without getting too deep into technicalities and AARP protocol (- Take that back, that is exactly what this is!), the NTTC makes important modifications to this document and makes their marked-up/enhanced version available on the New Volunteer Portal. For training purposes, the IRS version of Pub 4012 will serve your needs.

SCOPE. Because Scope differs between the two tax preparation programs, VITA and TCE, and Pub 4012 is written for the VITA program, differences exist in a few areas. For example, you may read in Pub 4012 that something is Out Of Scope (OOS) and yet it is being taught in class! Over the years, particularly in the area of income related to retirees, some of the more complex items have been incorporated into the TCE training & Scope of Service. It is now necessary to have this enhanced version of the 4012 for AARP’s TCE tax clients for explanations and guidance.

IRS Guidance. Also, as we head into filing season 2019, the NTTC is in close contact with IRS obtaining guidance, as necessary, in areas of ambiguity that require clarification.

This updated information becomes integrated into the modifications found in the NTTC Modified Pub 4012 as IRS determinations are finalized and guidance is provided. Therefore, we could have 3 to 4 versions or iterations of ‘mark-ups’ leading up to the opening of tax season.

As we enter tax season and head to the tax sites, our LC’s, ERO’s or District Coordinators will provide guidance on how to use this NTTC Modified Pub 4012.

Pub 17 - Tax Guide for individuals

This publication covers the rules for filing a federal income tax return. It provides a “deep dive” into the rules beyond the scope of the Form 1040 Instructions booklet.

In years past, this would be a dog-eared volume found in close proximity to many tax preparers. This year, there will be very few copies printed in paper.

It will be relatively important to have your electronic document search skills in good form!
The EPA did a great job in describing how to do this in their post:
How To Search for Words or Phrases in a PDF Document

At this writing, 2018 Pub 17 is not available.

Click on image at left to open the e-version of Pub 17 - The current year publication will display once it becomes available.

Study Tips

  1. Pace yourself. Studies have shown that when studying, taking planned breaks increases your brain’s ability to assimilate what you have read.

  2. Tackle the ‘hard’ stuff first. If you only have 15 minutes, choose a more complicated topic to tackle. Then, let your brain continue to work on it while you are busy doing something else.

  3. Start early. There is no substitute for this. Give yourself time to take it all in, look up things you don’t understand or ask a question.

  4. Switch it up. Switch between the Top Down - Bottom Up approach to learning something new. To prepare the Form 1040 (Top) you will need to have a basic understanding of Tax Law (Bottom). As you are learning about a tax law topic, take time to see how and where it fits into the Form 1040. Pub 4012 - Volunteer Resource Manual will guide you through the accurate application of the Tax Law and show you how to enter that information into the tax software. So, with your understanding of the format and structure of the Form 1040, along with the Tax Law that supports it you are better able to find what you need, understand what it means as well as enter the information into the tax software.

Putting it all together.    Pub 4012 FORM 1040 Job Aid  on p B-1 showing the  Top  - the resulting tax return and  Bottom  - location within publication for the guidance on underlying tax law. Click on image to go to  Pub 4012 page B-1

Putting it all together. Pub 4012 FORM 1040 Job Aid on p B-1 showing the Top - the resulting tax return and Bottom - location within publication for the guidance on underlying tax law. Click on image to go to Pub 4012 page B-1