CyberTax TY2011-01

From: Tax Aide [TAXAIDE@aarp.org] Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2012 1:54 PM
Subject: CyberTax 2012: 01 – Volunteer Standards of Professionalism
Date: January 17, 2012
To: All Volunteers for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
From: Bonnie Speedy, National Director
Subject: CyberTax 2012: 01 – Volunteer Standards of Professionalism

Welcome to another tax season! We are happy to have you join over 35,000 nationwide volunteers who provide great service to taxpayers through the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program.

This past tax season was a banner year for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide, with over 2.5 million taxpayers served in over 6,100 sites nationally. Taxpayers cite the impact that the program has had on their lives. They respond to the standard questions that we’ve asked consistently since 2001 by stating that they are very satisfied with the service they receive and return year after year for that reason. Using new questions on the 2011 Customer Satisfaction Survey, we learned that the program not only gives nine out of ten taxpayers peace of mind knowing that their taxes are being prepared by a knowledgeable volunteer, it has reduced the anxiety seven out of ten taxpayers have when doing their taxes. In addition, four in ten say that they now have money to cover other expenses. Almost half of those who have used AARP Foundation Tax-Aide in the past report that they used their refund or money they would have paid to a preparer to pay bills. These new questions confirm with a different lens the tremendous respect taxpayers have for you and appreciation for your critical assistance with their tax return.

Despite this extremely high taxpayer satisfaction, many volunteers reported an increasing concern that taxpayers were acting inappropriately at tax sites, perhaps in part due to increased financial pressures caused by a poor economy. As you are aware, we remain concerned about the escalation of inappropriate taxpayer behavior and developed emergency response guidelines sent to volunteers via email last season. Concurrently, the National Office received a few specific reports of inappropriate action by both volunteers and taxpayers across the country. In today’s age of instant and wide-ranging communications available to anyone with Internet, in addition to our concern about the well being of everyone, such reports have the potential to damage the good work that this program (you) accomplish each year helping low- and moderate-income taxpayers.

As a result, the National Office, working with a key team of program volunteers, has created two documents to formalize the best practices and ideals that govern our daily interaction at sites. In the next section, you’ll find the Standards of Professionalism for AARP Foundation Tax- Aide Volunteers. I ask you to review each of these documents carefully, and to ask questions of your supervisor to ensure that you fully understand the expectations for volunteers. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer leadership will be responsible for upholding these standards at tax sites and completing an Incident Review Form if serious problems occur for review by their supervisor and the National Office as appropriate.

Knowing that the interaction is a two-way street, we’ve also created the Taxpayer Information and Responsibilities for sharing with taxpayers at your sites to convey our expectations for them. This form is available on the Extranet (www.aarp.org/tavolunteers) if you have not seen it yet.
Volunteers have a right and expectation of respect and safety while volunteering at a tax site. If an interaction with a taxpayer or other volunteer becomes difficult for you, immediately seek assistance from your local site coordinator/leader.

We’re looking forward to another successful year and hope these tools will help pave the road to success. Enjoy the season and the good work you do in your community.

Sincerely, Bonnie Speedy

Go to Standards of Professionalism page