Tax preparers Feed

H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation

H&R Block sees about 13 million people a year in its retail offices across the country. But there is a physical limit for everything. So H&R Block is, once again, looking into virtual reality as a way to reach more taxpayers. H&R Block revealed its foray into virtual tax offices to CNBC's Jane Wells, who reported that a couple of weeks ago in a room in Los Angeles, "three women put on Oculus virtual reality headsets (and so did this reporter) in order to experience what the new office might look like." John, the virtual tax pro: The testers found... Read more →

If you didn't get acceptable Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, medical coverage last year and owe the health care law's shared responsibility payment, make sure it's being handled properly. The Internal Revenue Service is getting reports that unscrupulous tax preparers nationwide are instructing clients to make these penalty payments directly to the preparer. Wrong. If you owe this penalty, it should be made only as part of your tax return, not as a separate payment to the person who helped you complete that return. Correct payment processes: In most cases, the shared responsibility payment comes out of a taxpayer's expected... Read more →

Tax scammers don't just go after average taxpayers. They also are looking to hook tax professionals. The latest criminal effort to haul in tax pros is a new phishing scam. This bogus email asks tax professionals to update their Internal Revenue Service e-services portal information and Electronic Filing Identification Numbers (EFINs). The links provided in the fake messages appear to be a phishing scheme designed to capture tax pros' usernames and passwords. This email was not generated by the IRS e-services program, notes the IRS, which urges recipients to deal with it as they would any suspicious email: Disregard it... Read more →

The only thing worse than messing up your own taxes is paying someone who can't do the job. If you're looking for professional tax help, once you figure out which type of tax preparer to use, then you must sure that person is competent. Here are five quick tips to help you check out your tax pro. 1. Inspect Internal Revenue Service ID: Make sure the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. This ID number is required by Uncle Sam of folks who file returns for others for a fee. Note, however, that a valid PTIN... Read more →

If you can afford to hire a tax professional to help you file your returns, good for you. A lot of folks, however, are not able to come up with the money for a paid preparer. Free File can be a big help, allowing anyone with adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less to use the no-cost online tax preparation and e-filing service. But if you want a more personal tax help touch, you've got options, too. Free tax help from trained volunteers: There are more than 12,000 free tax preparation sites -- those numerous tax help locations earn this... Read more →

Tax software was supposed to put an end to the tax professional business. Right. Congress, unwittingly (insert your own joke) or not, has helped keep the tax preparer business alive by continually changing the tax code. And we're not talking just small tweaks. Some of the modified and new tax laws are outrageously complicated, by design as well as due to unintended consequences. Just look at the Affordable Care Act tax issues that taxpayers and tax pros alike are wrestling with for the first time this filing season. Turning to a pro: Even if tax software can do the job... Read more →

Remember the warning from the Internal Revenue Service that we taxpayers shouldn't expect much help from the agency this filing season? Budget cuts, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, mean fewer staff to answer phone callers questions. Well, the same is true for tax professionals. On Friday, the IRS alerted tax pros that the agency's e-Help Desk hotline is cutting back its hours. The same budget woes that could, according to the most recent National Taxpayer Advocate report, lead to less than half of individual taxpayer calls being answered, also are being blamed for the end of the e-Help Desk's extended... Read more →

The annual tax filing season is here, with the Internal Revenue Service preparing to accept 2014 tax year returns on Jan. 20. Many of those returns submitted in the coming weeks will be the work of paid tax professionals. More than half of U.S. taxpayers hire someone to help fill out and file their 1040s. That number could increase this year, as millions of taxpayers will find themselves having to answer Affordable Care Act questions in order to figure out what they owe, or will get back, from Uncle Sam. The new Obamacare tax wrinkles are just one reason that... Read more →

I generally try to stay away from gender stereotyping. Such sweeping observations present, at best, an overly broad, and frequently incomplete, look at groups. At worst, they are flat out offensive. Maybe that's why I was drawn to taxes as a professional focus. It's impossible to make a sweeping statement about all taxpayers or all tax laws. Taxes are intensely personal. Specific details are necessary so that individuals can make the best decisions for their situations. Taxes also are, for the most part, egalitarian. The tax collector doesn't care whether you're a man or a woman. Tax departments, both federal... Read more →

In addition to updating tax forms and instructions and getting its computer systems ready for the Jan. 20 start of the 2015 tax filing season, the Internal Revenue Service has been touching base with tax preparers who've had some recurring problems with some returns. Rather than penalizing the tax pros who have filed questionable claims for clients, the IRS is, for now, opting for pre-season tax filing reminders encouraging more diligence and a little bit of homework. In November 2014, around 2,500 preparers (according to Kiplinger Tax Letter) received letters recommending the recipients, in the IRS' words, "consider taking continuing... Read more →

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful celebration last night and are ready to face a brand spanking new tax year. OK, maybe you need another cup (or two or more) of coffee. Or maybe you just want to wait until the NHL's Winter Classic and today's college bowl games are over before thinking about taxes. I totally understand. My TV is on and I'm flipping between hockey and the Cotton Bowl as I type this. But soon you need to think about taxes. Not only are there tax tasks related to filing your 2014 return, but you... Read more →

Yes, it's the holiday season. Christmas is less than a week away, and you've got a house to clean, meals to plan and cook and gifts to buy. But you also need to think about some year-end tax moves. You probably checked out the 10 tax tasks to take care of by Dec. 31 that appeared a few weeks ago as a Weekly Tax Tip. Thanks. Now here's my gift to you, an 11th tax move. Hire a tax professional. True, this isn't one you necessarily need to do by year's end. But you do need to think about hiring... Read more →

Tax preparers have been under official scrutiny for more than a decade. Many folks, including a series of head honchos at the Internal Revenue Service, say that ill-prepared and unregulated tax professionals produce serious problems for Uncle Sam and taxpayers. Most folks in the tax world are well aware of the IRS' efforts to oversee paid tax preparers who aren't already governed by professional standards. To date, the IRS hasn't had much luck. It has lost in federal courtrooms, and now is fighting for the right to implement a voluntary tax preparer testing system. The tax agency also is attempting... Read more →

I'm back in Florida this week for the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in Orlando. It's a bit of a homecoming. My very first tax forum was here in 2000 when we lived in Palm Beach Gardens. I try to attend at least one continuing education tax conference, either run by the IRS or by one of the tax professional organizations. I always learn stuff, plus it's fun to be among a large gathering of tax geeks. Things have gone pretty well so far, aside from my smartphone freezing up unexpectedly this morning and me losing my reading glasses... Read more →

Most of the folks who participated in Pew Research Center's 2014 Future of the Internet canvass said they expect robotics and artificial intelligence, or AI, will permeate much of our daily lives by 2025. If that prediction is accurate -- and I think it's a bit too soon, personally; I mean, really, we're still waiting for flying cars! -- what does that mean for us and our jobs? "Computers had typically been thought of as best suited for jobs that involve routine, repetitive tasks that can easily be reduced to lines of code," writes Drew DeSilver in Pew's FactTank column.... Read more →

The current filing season isn't officially over until the Oct. 15 extension deadline, but a legal battle over paid tax preparers who will file returns in 2015 is already heating up. As is fitting for anything related to tax, things are complicated and messy. On one side are many independent tax professionals who resent what they see as a heavy-handed patriarchy by the IRS, as well as a respected professional association that already mandates standards for its members. On the other side are the Internal Revenue Service and the National Taxpayer Advocate, whose job is to keep the IRS in... Read more →

If you've watched any of Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen's appearances on Capitol Hill, you know he's nothing if not determined. He hasn't backed down under hostile Congressional questioning, so it's no surprise he's not letting a court ruling stand in the way of credentialing professional tax preparers. Sure, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in February (Loving et al vs. IRS) that the IRS can't force tax professionals to take continuing education courses and pass competency exams. But the federal court didn't prohibit the IRS from offering its program on a voluntary... Read more →

How's your Friday the 13th going? I hope you're not too friggatriskaidekaphobic because today actually is pretty cool. Black cat, Groucho Marx quote poster courtesy Just Cats Today's Friday the 13th coincides with a full moon. It's the first time in nearly a century that this has happened. The moon actually was at its peak at 12:11 a.m. Eastern Time. The last time these two events fell on the same day was Oct. 13, 2000. The next time will be Aug. 13, 2049. Here, courtesy, are the past and future Friday the 13ths and full moon days: I admit... Read more →

Today, May 19, 2014, is the 40th anniversary of the Rubik's Cube. For all you youngsters who don't have any idea of life before digital media, it was an actual cube puzzle. It was such a phenomenon that Google created a doodle for the big day. Click image for interactive cube. Deciphering tax laws is all too often as frustrating as lining up Rubik's colored squares. But as this just-passed filing season was winding down (for most folks), another iconic game captured the interest, and skills, of some future tax professionals. On April 25, more than 60 Kentucky college accounting... Read more →

The Internal Revenue Service's effort to regulate paid tax preparers is over. At least in its current format. The IRS let the deadline to continue the court fight over its plan to establish competency standards for paid tax preparers and measure them via regular testing pass without filing a Supreme Court appeal. The IRS reasons for tax pro regulation: The proposal to test certain tax professionals -- basically folks who do other's taxes for pay but aren't attorneys, Enrolled Agents or CPAs -- began back in 2009 under IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. "When people pay good money, they should not... Read more →