The season for giving is here, and for many people, service is top of mind. As a tax or accounting professional, you have a unique skillset to offer your community. Not only does volunteering within your community beneficial to you as an individual, but it can also have a wide range of positive effects on your business, neighborhood, and city. Serving in the community increases your sense of social responsibility and empathy for those you are helping. Using personal skills to help others also binds co-workers together and strengthens relationships, leading to more workplace harmony.
But even if you want to volunteer your time and efforts, it can be difficult to figure out how to begin. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for you to share your skills with others. Here are just a few of the ways that accountants across the United States give back to their community.
Many state CPA organizations have a CPA Day of Service where CPAs from different communities can come together to work on group community service projects. While some of the projects may not be finance-related, it’s still an excellent way to put in time for service. Check with your local chapter or community group to see what acts of service they have planned and when they are scheduled. These service days are held at various times throughout the year, depending on the state, so be sure to check with your state organization if you’d like to get involved.
Few things cause more stress for people than taxes and related financial issues. Taxes can be a daunting thing for many individuals, especially if they’re facing issues with the IRS. As someone with the expertise to help people resolve their tax and other financial issues, consider taking on a case or two for free, or pro bono. Chances are there are many individuals that could benefit from free assistance, especially the elderly, single moms, and someone who is suddenly unemployed. Pro bono work can be extremely satisfying, and you’ll be able to use your knowledge to really make a difference.
Charitable non-profit organizations often work on a shoestring of a budget. This means that organizers must pick and choose how the money they receive is to be used. Non-profit organizations also depend heavily on volunteers, which means they are always looking for people with unique skills and talents that can keep the organization afloat. If there’s a non-profit group you already work with or that you are familiar with in your area, approach them and see if they would welcome your services at no cost. As a tax professional, you could contribute your knowledge and experience toward a deserving non-profit group and help them navigate the complexities of finances and taxes for their organization.
There are several national organizations of financial and tax professionals that focus on volunteer work. One example is Accountants for Public Interest (API). With nearly two dozen chapters across the country, API focuses on match volunteers with groups, organizations and people that need someone to help them with tax-related issues. Whether it’s consulting on an audit, providing accounting services or educating others, volunteers with API know they are doing good work for their community.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is another national organization that encourages members to perform volunteer work as often as possible. In particular, the organization devotes a lot of time and energy toward financial literacy efforts in various communities. Volunteers are also used to boost the profession by helping other members with education, regulation, and reporting.
Along the same lines as pro bono or non-profit work, you could also become an IRS tax volunteer. These volunteers provide free tax preparation to taxpayers with low to moderate income. The most common types of clients they serve are senior citizens, taxpayers with limited English proficiency, and disabled taxpayers who may need assistance.
Within the IRS Tax Volunteer program are two programs, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). Volunteers receive training and align with a local organization that is linked to those in the community who need tax assistance. Not only are you serving those who desperately need the help, in some instances, you can also earn continuing education credits. The IRS volunteer programs generally run from January to April, with 3-5 hours per week usually required.
Don’t talk yourself out of volunteering by telling yourself you don’t have time or that there are plenty of other people with accounting experience out there providing help. It’s easy to put off volunteering, especially during tax season. However, the feeling of helping others will stay with you and benefit you and your business year-round. If you haven’t made plans to do some volunteer work, there’s no better time than now to get started.
Interested in learning more about pro bono work? Check out this blog post.