The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide program relies on its credibility for its success. The Standards of Professionalism are the policy statements related to the appropriate treatment of taxpayers and volunteers. Volunteer relationships with taxpayers at sites are one of the largest measures of determining our credibility. At the same time, we recognize that volunteers deserve to be treated with respect and work in a safe environment. To that end volunteers are encouraged to immediately involve your supervisor at any time you feel your respect has been diminished or your environment is unsafe.
Together with the IRS Volunteer Standards of Conduct, the Standards of Professionalism outline basic expectations for volunteers. If, at any time, a volunteer violates the Volunteer Standards of Conduct or the Tax-Aide Standards of Professionalism, the District Coordinator shall be notified of the circumstances. The DC shall determine whether the individual needs to be removed from the position, counseled, receive further training, or another action should be taken. This decision should be discussed with the SC. The supervisor will complete an Incident Report in accordance with Section 7.9 and forward it to the DC for submission through the leadership chain per the instructions. Should the DC be the person found in violation, the State Coordinator will be immediately notified and will perform these duties. The National Office will provide guidance and support to all levels of volunteer leadership to reach a final determination of action to be taken.
Standards of Professionalism
- A hallmark of professionalism is to limit conversations to topics necessary to accurately complete an income tax return. Discussion of politics, race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion and the impact of income tax policies are inappropriate, since each of them can become an unnecessary source of conflict between volunteers and taxpayers.
- Treat all taxpayers equally and with courtesy regardless of, but not limited to,race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion.
- Follow AARP Foundation Tax-Aide policies at all times. Only prepare tax returns that are identified as being “In Scope”, regardless of any additional knowledge of income tax law that you may have. There are no exceptions to this policy since if volunteers do not follow this policy, they will be subject to dismissal from the program. Volunteers will also be working outside the protection of the Volunteer Protection Act and will be personally liable for their actions.
- Quality review following appropriate policies and practices is a required part of the Tax-Aide tax preparation process and there are no exceptions.
- Do not discuss or share a taxpayer’s information with anyone who does not have the “need to know” in order to complete the return.
- When an issue arises regarding the completion of a tax return that requires consulting another volunteer, discuss the issue (without mentioning the taxpayer’s name) away from the taxpayer and in a low voice. This ensures not only the protection of the taxpayer’s privacy, but also that any difference of volunteer opinion is resolved in a way that sustains the taxpayer’s confidence.
- If a taxpayer should become angry, do your best to diffuse the situation. If that is not successful, move the discussion to a quiet area, if possible, and immediately involve the Local or Shift Coordinator.
- Provide appropriate needed assistance to those with a disability to ensure they feel welcome at your site and that their specific needs are accommodated. If requested assistance is not readily available, report the concern to your Local or Shift Coordinator who will involve the District Coordinator and others as appropriate.
- Do not provide the full name, address, phone number, email address or other personal information for any AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer to a taxpayer or agency. Refer such inquiries to your supervisor who will respond or forward to their supervisor for action.
Conflict of Interest: AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers must avoid either a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest when conducting AARP Foundation Tax-Aide activities. A conflict of interest, or the appearance of a conflict of interest, occurs when an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer engages in providing a service with a profit motive conducted as an employee or an independent contractor, or when a member of the volunteer’s immediate family or household participates in such an activity. All volunteers are required to disclose any conflict or potential conflict of interest to their supervisor who will escalate the disclosure through chain of command to the State Coordinator (or Regional Coordinator if the person with the conflict or potential conflict is the SC), who will determine if the activity described is an unacceptable conflict of interest or not. That determination will be sent simultaneously to the initiating supervisor and others in the chain of command. Failure to disclose may be grounds for removal from the program. Failure to cease the activity is grounds for immediate removal from the program.
Obligation to Avoid Unacceptable Activities: AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Volunteers, while representing the AARP Foundation or participating in an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide activity, shall not promote products, services, or political candidates or issues nor make use of their relationship with AARP, AARP Foundation, or AARP Foundation Tax-Aide for personal profit or the profit of any other individual(s). Volunteers, representing themselves as AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers, are specifically prohibited from engaging in any legislative and/or lobbying activity. Certain AARP activities, such as advocacy and AARP membership drives, may not be suitable for AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers or for co-programming at Tax-Aide sites. Volunteers who violate this policy may be removed from the program.