On the third Monday in January, we observe Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service. As the National Taxpayer Advocate, I reflect on Rev. Dr. King’s legacy of advocating for systemic change and find inspiration in his courage, dedication, passionate advocacy for civil rights, international peace, and economic justice. His life and work serve as a remarkable example of selflessness and service to others for the benefit of all. The holiday in celebration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the only federal holiday that is also designated by Congress as a national day of service. It is a call to action to take a role in improving our communities.
One way the public can serve taxpayers in their own communities is by volunteering at a local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site, assisting with free tax return preparation and electronic filing of basic tax returns for taxpayers who earn less than $60,000, taxpayers over age 60, persons with disabilities, and taxpayers with limited English proficiency. VITA and TCE serve taxpayers in communities throughout the country. They provide a vital service to those who need assistance with tax preparation. Often this can mean helping taxpayers prepare and file tax returns resulting in refunds that are critical for supporting taxpayers’ households.
Volunteers receive training and must pass a competency test. Volunteers are assigned to work with a sponsoring organization, first to receive training and then to begin volunteering at a location in their community. Some VITA and TCE sites are open nights and weekends, and the hours can be flexible. More information about registering as a volunteer is available from the IRS here: IRS Tax Volunteers | Internal Revenue Service.
If you are an attorney or tax practitioner, you may also be able to volunteer in other capacities using your specialized knowledge. Opportunities exist to volunteer with your local Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). You can find an LITC in your area by using the LITC locator tool or reviewing Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List and reaching out to individual clinics for volunteer opportunities. You can sign up to volunteer on LITC Connect, which helps LITCs recruit volunteers for needs as diverse as technical advice, pro bono representation, or training. In addition, there are other ways to volunteer, for example, the ABA Section of Taxation pro bono opportunities or other similar organizations such as state and local bar associations.
My hope is that throughout the year, Dr. King’s legacy and words inspire you to serve the communities and projects that aligned with your values and skillset.
Note: Neither the National Taxpayer Advocate nor the Taxpayer Advocate Service endorses any particular outside organization or opportunity and provides this information solely as examples of where qualified individuals may look for volunteer opportunities suitable to their preferences.