Hiring Seasonal Workers for Tax Season
United Way Erie FREE Taxes utilizes a combination of paid and unpaid volunteers throughout the VITA tax filing season. All site coordinators are paid, either as employee-volunteers of a VITA host organization or as temporary, part time United Way employees, and assume the role of quality reviewer.
Research through the Annie E. Casey Foundation has suggested that using paid staff as reviewers improves the quality of VITA tax return work. Characteristics cited as contributors to improved quality were number of hours worked per week and number of years of tax experience held by quality reviewers, both generally accomplished through utilization of paid staff.
Understandably, not all VITA programs are able to pay their site coordinators. As an alternative, however, recruiting VITA host organizations that are able to dedicate staff to complete site coordinator and tax preparer functions, in addition to donating space/equipment, results in cost savings to VITA programs and enhance volunteer retention.
When seeking individuals from the general public to fill paid positions, Erie FREE Taxes recruits through newspaper ads and word-of-mouth. Candidates submit a resume and three references. Interviews are held with those whose resumes suggested a generally acceptable fit with VITA work. They receive a copy of the job description for the position which is then reviewed during the hiring process.
After the candidates have been interviewed face-to-face, and unqualified recommendations have been received from references, selections are made based on a number of factors, including:
- Prior work history and experience
- Organizational skills
- Supervisory experience (for site coordination work)
- Interest in tax work
Starting this filing season, volunteers from the general public and local universities are required to have criminal background checks completed –at no cost to the volunteers. After hiring is completed, as program director, I send both paid and unpaid volunteers a copy of the training overview, training sites and schedules, and ensure IRS training materials are available during their training experience.
In five years, I have had only one site coordinator, out of nine hired, who was not invited to return the following VITA season due to poor performance.
(Ed. note: You can view sample job descriptions, tips, and more at our site staffing resources page.)
By Cheryl Bates, Program Director at United Way of Erie County