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…’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.


Massachusetts Update – Week 7

Last week didn’t start out well, with the TaxSlayer outage last Monday that affected preparation of state returns. Fortunately, it cleared by Monday afternoon, but we’re well aware of the impact it had at your sites.

Helpful tips of the day (thanks to those sending them in).

  • TaxSlayer does NOT carry forward any federal or state TY2016 refund that was applied to the taxpayer’s TY2017 liability.  You need to enter these manually on the “Payments and Estimates” menu.  See the NTTC version of 4012, page H-32.
  • It’s easy to fall into the trap of “over-itemizing.”  Taxpayers bring in all sorts of information for itemized deductions, but their federal/state income is below the level where it helps them. Always take a look at their income (federal and state) to see if it makes sense to itemize BEFORE you do so (unless they’re required to itemize such as some MFS returns).  They may be disappointed you don’t use the information, but explaining the rationale usually helps.

The end of the season if fast approaching… we’ll have the state wrap-up meeting of District Coordinators the first week of May.  In preparing for that meeting, we’re looking for feedback in two areas:

  • What specific changes would you like to see in TaxSlayer, focusing on Massachusetts returns, for next year?  We’ll be submitting our prioritized recommendations to National in May and we’ll be using the state meeting to finalize the list.  So please send your ideas to your local and/or district coordinators so we have time to prepare and prioritize the list.
  • How can we improve training for next year?  Do we need more practice problems, problems that cover different aspects of tax law, more insight into tax law itself?  Again, please send your ideas to your local and/or district coordinators.

Massachusetts Update – Week 6

It’s hard to believe we’ve wrapped up week 6.

I’d really like to encourage all volunteers to share more.  If you learn something new about tax law or how input something into TaxSlayer — rather than have others re-learn what you know — let’s share it.  You can send any of these tidbits to me by commenting on the blog.  They won’t get published automatically, but I will read them.

For example…..

  • The Massachusetts M-1310 doesn’t print correctly and TaxSlayer says it must be sent in via regular mail, even if e-filing the MA return is possible. TaxSlayer has acknowledged the M-1310 does not print correctly.and has created a ticket to correct it. In the mean time, it is best to paper file the MA return with the M-1310; the person filing the return may have to fill in additional information on the M-1310 to satisfy DOR requirements.
  • If you have a taxpayer filing MFS who doesn’t know their spouse’s SSN — you can enter 111-00-1111 – which will allow you to complete the data entry (see 4012, page B-12).  You won’t be able to efile the return unless you have the correct SSN; if the taxpayer doesn’t know it — he/she will have to paper file the return.

For those who might encounter taxpayers with properties larger than an acre who might be eligible for the circuit breaker — Peter Viles developed some calculators to pro-rate the property tax amounts specifically for the circuit breaker calculation.  You can find the links on the Reference Material page (at the bottom).

Heads up if you have a taxpayer who gets a 1095A (even if they don’t know it).  If you file the return without entering that information — the IRS will send the taxpayer a letter asking them to submit the 1095A and Form 8962 before they release the anticipated refund.  It can take up to 8 weeks after the taxpayer sends in the 1095A and 8962.  So don’t think the taxpayer will get their refund faster — it’s better to submit everything in the initial submission.

We’re seeing more and more letters from the DOR asking taxpayers to verify their identities and/or provide backup information to justify their refunds.  Just a word to the wise.




Massachusetts Update – Week 5

And…..we’re half way through the season.

I hope everyone is up and operating with this crazy weather.  After 2+ hours of snowblowing just today and trying to reschedule three days of appointments because of snow and power outages……I am ready for a break!!

Now that we’re half way through the season, I recommend all EROs check to make sure you have not forgotten to efile any returns (especially state returns).  I like to use the TaxSlayer reports feature and review the Management Reports (Site Production Detail Report) to verify what I thought I sent was what I really sent.

We’re starting to see an uptick in amendments.  One of the frequently asked questions is — for MA returns — how to mark them as amendments.  When you’re navigating through the amendment screens, when you see this – click on the words “Edit Amended” – not the pencil icon.  That will allow you to check the required “amended” box on the MA return.


Massachusetts Update – Week 4

And better late than never!  Power outages are not good for productivity.

You can now complete and file returns with the retroactively reinstated energy credit.  If you’d started the energy worksheet before 2 March you might need to delete that information and re-enter it to ensure it’s current.

In the Massachusetts health care section, the default insurance company EIN is 12-3456789.  You cannot delete that.  Simply overtype the correct EIN in that entry box. Most of the time that works without any problem. If you can’t get the correct EIN in, just enter the company name and subscriber number. If the taxpayer has Medicare, VA, or MassHealth and you don’t need to enter an EIN — ignore the 12-3456789.

TaxSlayer recently posted a message from the Massachusetts DOR on their blog.  You can read it here….but in summary, the DOR converted some refunds intended for direct deposit to paper checks.

The IRS and DOR have started sending out letters – especially those asking taxpayers to verify their identify. You’ll probably start hearing from a lot of taxpayers who are getting letters and wondering what to do. The letters are self-explanatory when you read them.

If a taxpayer did not bring in their 1095A and the return was filed without Form 8962, the IRS will send the taxpayer a letter with explicit instructions on how to correct it. Follow the instructions in the letter and submit only what is requested.