With the deadline for filing your annual tax return coming quickly, millions of Americans are putting their 1040s and other forms in the hands of largely unregulated paid tax preparers. But a new undercover report from the National Consumer Law Center finds that many of these preparers either don’t know what they’re doing or are allowing taxpayers to file false information. [More]
While one might assume that it requires a modicum of tax expertise and perhaps some sort of certification to be a paid tax preparer, the sad fact is that most states have little to no standards for selling tax preparation services, meaning that once again millions of Americans are being put at risk when seeking help with their tax returns. [More]
Seeking tax preparation help from the Internal Revenue Service this year might be a futile test of patience, as the agency’s taxpayer advocate predicts services for taxpayers are likely to drop to the worst levels in more than a decade. [More]
When 47 States Have Stricter Regulations On Barbers Than On Tax Preparers, Mistakes Are Going To Be Made
If you visit a legitimate barber, hairdresser, or cosmetologist in any state in the U.S., that person will have gone through some sort of state-mandated education, testing, and licensing procedure. Yet only three states have any substantive requirements for someone employed as a tax preparer. Not surprisingly, a new report finds that this lack of quality control results in a large amount of errors, fraud, and abuse. [More]
Here’s something to keep in mind as you wait in line at 11:30 PM on April 15th: filing your taxes could be so, so much easier. Bills have been put before Congress that would let taxpayers choose to have the Internal Revenue Service calculate their taxes due for them, and send them a bill or cut a refund check accordingly. Only there are companies lobbying to keep things exactly as they are. The biggest spenders aren’t accounting firms, or even Big Tax Cat. It’s Intuit, the maker of popular tax-filing program TurboTax. The company has spent more than $11 million lobbying to keep tax returns around forever. [More]
In what seems to be an effort to lure customers, especially those in the mood to spend after procuring a sizable tax refund, Walmart is offering free tax preparation services for those whose finances aren’t complicated. [More]
Dustin provided a case study in why it’s a good idea to attempt to do your taxes on your own before shelling out money for professional help. And at that point, it’s smart to get an estimate about how much services will cost. After going through an hour of hassle and spending $250, he discovered he could have saved himself time and money by going it alone. [More]
Tax Cat here with a reminder about using a free service to prepare your taxes. Beware sneaky upsells on “free” tax preparation options for people with simple tax returns. We’ve already seen a Consumerist reader get charged for this unawares with TurboTax, and now reader Shane reports that If you miss an option on H&R Block’s form, you’ll be paying extra for access to your own data. [More]
Next Saturday, 250 IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers staffed with IRS agents will open their doors to anyone making $42,000 or less. With money tight for everyone this year, if you qualify, take the government up on its generous offer and let the IRS agents fill out your tax forms.
It’s too late for this year’s tax season (unless you’re doing it wrong), but H&R has issued an apology of sorts by announcing it will give a $100 coupon or free TaxCut software to gay couples who were shut out of their online programs this year due to a programming oversight. Don’t expect to take advantage of the offer if you were turned away online and went elsewhere, though—the offer is only good for “civil union, domestic and same sex partner clients, who started with TaxCut online and then completed their returns in one of our retail offices.” If you fit that requirement, you can request the coupon or software here.
A qualified tax preparer can be the difference between a meaty refund and a soul-crushing audit. The Washington Attorney General has several excellent pointers to help you find the right professional to prepare your return.
Last week we wrote about I-Can! E-File, a free electronic filing service for your federal income taxes. It’s a great idea, and we’re thankful to the Legal Aid Society of Orange County for doing something like this—but you might want to find an alternative this year and give them some time to work out the kinks. Today a reader emailed us to point out that icanefile.org’s password system can be easily cracked, because instead of letting you choose an original password, it requires you to use your name and social security number to set up an account.
I-CAN! is a web-based tax preparation tool that will file your tax return completely free of charge. I-CAN has no eligibility criteria or income restrictions and will eFile your state return for free if you live in California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania or Montana. It almost sounds too good to be true. So why isn’t I-CAN! a member of the IRS’ Free File Alliance?
Kevin sent in this ad for H&R Block trying to market to college kids by giving them $10 in “pizza cash” if you file through H&R Block. This sounds tasty, except that due to their low income, most college kids won’t have to pay any taxes and it’s pretty easy to do with FreeFile through the IRS.gov website, for free, natch. But file through H&R Block and you’ll probably be paying at least $60. So, you could buy yourself $10 of pizza, or pay $50+ for H&R Block pizza. They still teach math in college, right?