Tax preparers Feed

One of the things I always suggest to folks who are having tax trouble, be it with filling out a return or dealing with Internal Revenue Service questions about an already filed 1040, is to consult a tax professional. By tax professional, I mean a qualified, reputable person who's up to date on the tax laws and who will help clients comply with them in a legal way that also produces the lowest possible tax liability. Every tax pro I know personally falls into this category. So do, based on what I've read by and digitally discussed with them over... Read more →


Cyber criminals are getting added attention this week in the wake of Democratic National Committee emails that hackers stole and then leaked to the world. But the Internal Revenue Service has been concerned about hackers for a while. It formalized its cyber security worries last year with the creation of its Security Summit, a coalition of federal and states tax officials, as well as the tax industry. One of the Security Summit's goals is to alert and tax professionals about tax identity theft threats and encourage their involvement in fighting the electronic epidemic. The most recent IRS warning was to... Read more →


Millions of folks are working diligently these last few days before the April 18 (19th in Maine and Massachusetts) tax filing deadline. Unfortunately, that tax-focused group includes criminals. This afternoon the Internal Revenue Service issued a warning to tax professionals of a new scam that's just started showing up in some tax prep offices. In this latest iteration of tax identity theft, cyber-criminals obtain remote control of preparers' computer systems, complete and file client tax returns and redirect refunds to the thieves' accounts. The IRS says that although it knows of only a handful of cases to date, it wanted... Read more →


Everybody loves a bargain, even when it comes to paying someone to prepare our taxes. But, say consumer watchdogs, too often taxpayers don't have a good way to comparison shop for a tax pro and find the one that provide them the best service for the price. "The price of preparing a tax return is often only disclosed to a consumer after the return is completed," according to the report "Public Views on Paid Tax Preparation," released on Jan. 20 by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA). The CFA says that mystery shopper tests have found tax prep fees that... Read more →


Hello 2016! Some of us (not me) got up early to welcome you. Others (me, as you can tell from the posting time on this item) are still easing into this brand new year. But one thing that most of us soon will be doing, regardless of our post-New Year's Eve celebration energy level, is making New Year's resolutions. Yeah, I know making resolutions is the annual, and usually temporary, victory of hope over experience. Most of our attempts to make ourselves and our lives better, at least within the strictures of quick and catchy Jan. 1 lists of goals,... Read more →


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 →