Alternative Filing Methods

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Hi. I'm Chamille Houston. I work for the IRS. Were excited to be able to work with the many organizations around the country who are making a real difference in their communities by helping others to file their tax returns, & get ALL the tax benefits they deserve. People also learn to manage their funds, build assets and thus help themselves as well as their communities.

Today we are going to share with you two new innovative ways to file returns from remote locations. This has helped others, expand their free tax preparation programs dramatically. In Provo Utah, Dean Miner, working for the county extension service, decided to make use of the computer technology available and created the following method for filing... Hi, my name is Dean Minor. I'm an extension agent with Utah State University and a member of the Mountainland VITA coalition here in central Utah. Our coalition has always had a difficult time reaching tax payers in rural areas because the communities lack certified volunteers. However, during the past three years we have partnered with the Beta Alpha Psi student chapter at BYU and the Community Action in Partnership of Utah to develop a non-face to face procedure that we call Remote File. Here's how it works.

We work with extension to establish four locations in rural counties. At each site, non-certified volunteers greet the tax payers and provide them with an intake form. When the forms are finished, the intake sheets and other tax documents are scanned and then directly uploaded to a secure document management website. When that's finished, the tax payers are seated at a computer and connected via telephone to a certified volunteer, who is at a separate location that we call the preparation site. At the preparation site, the certified volunteers work with dual monitor computers. One screen is used to access the taxpayer intake sheet and other tax documents. The other one runs the TaxWise software. The screen with TaxWise is shared via the Internet with the taxpayer at the remote site. The certified volunteer reviews the intake sheet and completes the return as the tax payers follow along. When the return is finished, a second volunteer at the preparation site conducts the quality review. Congratulations to Dean and (Provo - Utah County extension service) for finding ways to help those in need.

Another great idea comes from Accountability MN. In the Saint Paul MN area, where the use of Skype worked so well that participation in their program skyrocketed. Here's how it begins.

My name is Acacia Willey with Accountability MN out of Saint Paul, MN. I'm here today to talk about an alternative free tax preparation model focused on serving rural communities. We all know that there is a huge unmet need to provide free tax services in rural communities. And with the economy the way it is, many non-profits have been forced to reduce staff and programming. Through our work with VITA tax sites in rural communities, we know how difficult it can be to recruit and train tax preparation volunteers. And if you're a larger VITA site, this is a great opportunity to expand your customer base and help rural communities in your state.

So what is this alternative tax preparation. What we do is we simulate face to face tax preparation with the use of technology. We use a webcam, which you can get for about $50.00 and a free video calling software called Skype. The alternative model does require two partner organizations, a host site and a preparation site. All the same procedures and quality site requirements required by the IRS, are in effect; the alternative model is based on an already approved IRS non-face to face tax preparation model. But it is enhanced to simulate that face to face experience using technology. So the host site is responsible for the taxpayer intake and screening; so, making sure that the taxpayer is who they say they are, and that they have all the required documents. Once they have done that, they will then fax the documents over to the preparation site, who will then review the source documents, begin the interview using Skype, and then prepare the return. Once the return has been prepared, the final return will be sent to the host site for approval by the taxpayer and signature of the 8879. Once that's done, the preparation site will e-file the return, and do any follow up as needed. This is a great way to reach out to rural communities in your state without spending a lot of money, and helping those who would have maybe spent $200, or not even prepared taxes at all. We strongly encourage you to try this.

Thanks to Acacia Willey and Tim Kenney of Accountability MN. for finding a way to use technology to help their clientele. These are great examples of alternatives to the traditional in-person VITA or TCE tax preparation program. Whether you service clients in urban or rural areas, remember, were here to support you all the way, We want to hear from YOU! Tell us about your new and innovative ways to help people, by working smarter and more efficiently while maintaining quality levels. For more information, contact your local IRS-SPEC relationship manager or If you need assistance to locate your local IRS-SPEC representative, send an email to: partner@irs.gov. So let us hear about your new and innovative ideas as we work together to assist low income taxpayers across America with free tax preparation services!