End of Tax Year 2017, Start of Tax Year 2018

We’re wrapping up loose ends for TY2017 and gearing up for TY2018.

Please remember that we work on a fiscal year basis that ends on 30 September. For those volunteer leaders who incurred expenses after the normal season — please be sure to submit your final expense voucher before 30 September.

Recruiting for next season is well underway and we’ve had quite a few new applicants already; but we can always use more volunteers. If you’re not sure if your site/district needs more people — please contact your local or district coordinator.

If you’ve logged onto the volunteer portal recently, you may have noticed that the One Support Help Center isn’t there anymore. The material that used to be there has been transferred to the Libraries (look at all your tabs and you’ll see it near the top of the screen). There are five sub-Libraries: General Information, Position Information, Tax Law and Training, Technology, and Volunteer Portal.If you’re not sure where something might be, there’s a search box in the upper left. If you have trouble accessing the libraries, please contact your local or district coordinator — in most cases they should be able to help you.

New Volunteer Recruiting

Our new volunteer recruiting season kicked off with a press release distributed to media outlets state wide, a recruiting announcement on the AARP Massachusetts website, plus a feature article in the AARP Massachusetts August 2018 email newsletter (that I’m sure many of you received). Please note that media outlets do not run every press release, so if you know someone in the media or your area needs more volunteers, you might consider contacting your local paper/news outlet to let them know there’s local interest.

Our best recruiting tool is always our existing cadre of volunteers – you can help by spreading the word. The link to sign up as a volunteer is http://www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaidevolunteer.

Schedules for new volunteer training vary by district, but typically are in either late October, November, or early December. We’ll start ordering training material around 1 October, with future orders every one to two weeks as new candidates volunteer.  Training material should start arriving in mid November.

Introducing our New Training Specialist

This is a guest post from our new Training Specialist.

I want to introduce myself and to talk about one of my favorite subjects – training.  My name is Frank Dutt and I have been with the Tax-Aide program for 13 tax seasons.  I spent six years in New York and the past seven years here in Massachusetts.  For the last four years, I have been part of the District 25 training team.  The past two years I have worked with Peter Viles in the transition to TaxSlayer and with Harry Gong to develop training materials that can be used in multiple districts.  I am honored that Joan has asked me to be the state Training Specialist (TRS)

My experience says that good training is difficult.  People learn and train in different ways.  Providing materials to meet everyone’s need is a challenge.  Meeting that challenge is almost impossible without participation by many people.  My concept as TRS is to bring together a team of people interested in training and together develop a list of training needs and prioritize what needs to be done.  The work would be parceled out to those interested and qualified to help.  How to do that is a challenge, given we are spread over a large area, but tools like Go To Meeting and old fashioned tools like emails and face to face meetings help to make the task possible.

Harry, Joan, and I have collected a list of projects we feel need attention.  This is our list to get us started.  I am looking for input on what others feel is missing.  This list includes (but in no way limited to):

  • New Tax Law changes
  • Mass Manual update
  • Training workbook problems, especially to make more applicable for MA
  • Impact of Circuit Breaker credit on Federal return
  • Instructions for Non-Resident and Part-Year Resident Returns
  • Instructions for Amendments
  • Tax law material to go with workbook problems
  • ERO Training, including efile status monitoring
  • Second Person Return Review process

So, my plea is that if you have an interest in training, or you think our training could be better, or if you think we are missing some need, please let me know by commenting on this post (comments will not be published).  I need your input to do my job, so I look forward to hearing from you.

Massachusetts Update – Week 10

And that should be a wrap for us.

Thanks to everyone for all the hard work this season.  I certainly appreciate it and, more importantly, I know the taxpayers do.

I hope to have our final production numbers for our state wrap up meeting in early May.

A few reminders before everyone takes off for the summer (or spring if it ever gets here):

  • If you have any IRS laptops, please send them back to the IRS depot as soon as possible.
  • If you want continuing education credits, submit your paperwork to the IRS by 30 Apr 2018.  Remember, you have to have certified online to do so.
  • All EROs/administrators should “inactivate” all preparers except those who will be responding to off season taxpayer issues.  And remember not to inactivate yourself!
  • LCs/EROs should update the portal with the program metrics for your site (e.g., number of paper returns, amendments, Q&As, etc).
  • Volunteers who are requesting reimbursements should do so as soon as possible.
  • All hot spots should be return to Dean at the state wrap up meeting on 3 May 2018.
  • All LCs/EROs should doublecheck to make sure all returns (federal AND state) have been efiled and acknowledged. The simplest way I’ve found is to look at Reports, Management Reports, Site Production Detail Report – Electronic — sort by federal and state acceptance dates and scan for missing dates.
  • For those who added a custom question to identify which site a return was prepared at, you can check Reports, Question Statistics, to see how many were prepared at each site sharing the EFIN.
  • You can see the number and amount of Circuit Breaker returns by checking Reports, Custom Credit Reports.

Please remember that while TaxSlayer does provide many valuable reports, these CANNOT be shared with your sites or individuals outside the Tax-Aide program. Aggregate numbers such as total number of returns filed, total amount of Circuit Breaker credits allowed (assuming multiple people are eligible and individual amounts cannot be deduced) are acceptable.

Continuing Education Credits

If you are requesting continuing education credits for your training and volunteer time this season you must submit the request to the IRS by 30 April 2018.

Please remember that you must have certified online through Link & Learn to be eligible for Continuing Education Credits. See this FACT Sheet Continuing Education Credits for SPEC VITA/TCE Partners published last fall.  The IRS also published this At A Glance CE Credit Requirements and Tips.

Here’s a quick guide to help fill out the 13615 correctly.

Your certifying official needs to sign the form indicating you’re certified, then your local coordinator needs to indicate you’ve volunteered the appropriate number of hours.  Once you’ve done that, mail or email the completed Form 13615 to your local IRS/SPEC office.

Massachusetts Update – Week 9

Now that we’re fast approaching the end of the season…..it’s a perfect time to learn some new things.

We cannot efile 2015 Massachusetts state returns.  You can efile the federal return, but the taxpayer must mail in the 2015 Massachusetts return.  If you forget and try to efile it, you won’t get an error message.  The only way to know is to check “Client Status” on the Office Client List — the status of the MA return will be “ready” and it won’t be transmitted to the DOR.  You’ll need to print the Massachusetts return and give it to the taxpayer to mail.

Have you ever wondered what a validation error was and when you might get one?  I’m sure there are other examples, but one that we encountered was for a TY2016 Circuit Breaker return in which the preparer entered a different address for the property than the taxpayer’s mailing address. The return was efiled which resulted in a validation error – which was noted on the Client Status page and detailed on the Validation Report.  Upon investigation, we determined that the validation failure was because the zip code was NOT transferred to Schedule CB (even though it was entered) and a zip code is a required field.  We will investigate this further and submit a problem report if needed.

We HIGHLY recommend that you doublecheck any 2015 Massachusetts returns you may have efiled to make sure they’re not stuck.  You should also review the validation reports (for 2016 and 2017) to make sure you didn’t miss any errors that may have appeared there.

Massachusetts Update – Week 8

We’re getting down close to the end of season so it’s time for a few reminders.

Counselors and client facilitators who have worked 40 or more hours can submit either an itemized or flat rate ($35) reimbursement request.  All itemized requests MUST be entered via the volunteer portal.

If your counseling mileage exceeds $400, you must submit a pre-approval request before submitting your actual itemized reimbursement request.

No one can submit both an itemized and flat-rate reimbursement request in the same year (fiscal year – 1 Oct – 30 Sep).

Site leaders will need to input their site program metrics – number of paper and amended returns, question and answers, etc – into the portal at the end of the season.  Now is a good time to look through your logs to organize that data.

National released QSRA-2018-01 on March 29,2018 to emphasize the requirement to conduct a thorough Intake/Interview and Quality Review Process.  Please read and heed.