Updated Documents Posted

We posted two updated documents today.

  1. Massachusetts TaxSlayer Worksheet TY2018.  [Found in the Reference Material tab]  This is a tool with three purposes: serve as a Massachusetts Intake Sheet, ensure preparers make the required Massachusetts manual entries, and track the Massachusetts taxability of the taxpayer’s IRA distributions.  It’s useful to fill this out for each taxpayer, then use the Worksheet to complete the Massachusetts return and do the required quality review. It should be included in the taxpayer’s envelope with the other tax documents.  Please note that once we see the final version of Massachusetts 2018 software, we might need to make additional changes.
  2. Massachusetts Training Workbook Answer Key (TSO2017).  [Found in the Volunteers Only tab]  The answer key for the Burns and Hudson problems was corrected to move the MA Bank Interest entry, form 1, line 5a, from Burns to Hudson. This was a typo and the answer was entered in the wrong column of the spreadsheet.

If you have any comments on the Worksheet, training practice problems, or answer key – please let us know. Note that we are drafting an errata and clarification sheet for the practice problems.  You can always reach up by commenting on this post (comments are not published) or via the contact us tab.

Practice Lab 2018

TaxSlayer activated Practice Lab 2018 this morning. When you open Practice Lab, it defaults to tax year 2018 — so if you didn’t notice the “2018” in the upper left, you might think that all your practice returns disappeared. Not at all….you just need to switch the year to 2017. To toggle between Tax Years 2017 and 2018, click on the words “Change Tax Year” in the upper right of the screen, next to Logout.

Please note that the software is not yet fully functional so any ongoing training should continue with Practice Lab 2017. State software is not yet available.and the new Form 1040 and accompanying schedules have not been approved by the IRS so do not yet display or print correctly.

Circuit Breaker Calculation

Message from John Woods, State Coordinator:

While TaxSlayer has mostly fixed the Circuit Breaker AGI issue, we have just noted that another error was introduced. Specifically, if the taxpayer has a rollover distribution from a retirement account, TaxSlayer includes the gross distribution in the Circuit Breaker income calculation.  This is incorrect and the software should recognize the rollover.  We are in contact with TaxSlayer to get this fixed.

In the meantime, look for it.  If you see the problem, you can subtract the corresponding amount off by entering a negative number in the miscellaneous income line at the bottom of the Circuit Breaker screen.  But be cautious as some day TaxSlayer will fix this – so check that the problem still exists before you put the offset in.

TaxSlayer Update

Edited to add the telephone number and email address for TaxSlayer support.

Just a reminder – if you experience any TaxSlayer system problems we suggest you:

  1. Check to make sure you are not the only one experiencing the problem at the site.
  2. Close browser and clear the cache.

If this does not work

  1. Contact TaxSlayer support to tell them there is a problem. TaxSlayer does not know the extent of a problem if it is not reported by all. The TaxSlayer support number is (800) 421-6346 and email address is support@vita.taxslayerpro.com
  2. If you do not receive a satisfactory response from TaxSlayer, escalate to the National Office through OneSupport. In the body of the email include the SIDN, EFIN point of contact and the date when TaxSlayer was contacted, please describe what happened in detail. This information is needed when we contact with TaxSlayer on the problem.

Some of you have been asked what is going on with MA Paper Returns which have a watermark indicating “do not file”.  There is a problem with the barcode that is printed on the form, which is automatically read by he DOR.  Both DOR and TaxSlayer have acknowledged the issue and are talking so expect a resolution relatively soon.  Efiling is not affected and can be attempted.

Options for Paper File:

  1. If possible, hold the return and print once the problem is fixed.
  2. If that is not possible, one can print MA hand entry forms or get an MA Form 1 book, and have the client copy the information from the “Do not File” copy to a handwritten paper file.

Do not mail the “Do not File” version as the automatic read of the Bar Code will result in the DOR system having erroneous data, likely causing the client downstream issues.

TaxSlayer Online Configuration

The IRS and TaxSlayer have approved the Massachusetts licenses for TaxSlayer Pro Online; EROs have received (or will receive within the next week) two emails to activate their site. The Tax-Aide National Technology Committee has published a detailed Setup Guide for TaxSlayer Pro Online (TSO) – TY2016,  EROs should follow this guidance, not that published by the IRS or TaxSlayer.

John Woods, State Coordinator, released the following additional guidance on 5 Jan 2017.

All user names must be unique nationwide, not just within an EFIN.  We therefore suggest the following user name format: MA1Dnnxxxss, where

  • All user names start with MA1
  • Next is “D” and the two digit district number
  • Followed by an individual identifier, usually the preparers initials
  • Followed by the preparer’s primary site two digit identifier (the last two numbers on the SIDN).

Thus his might be MA1D00JLW02

Note that this naming convention is different from that identified in paragraph 6j of the Setup Guide for TaxSlayer Pro Online paper.

Returns will be tracked at the primary site (EFIN) level. Therefore a preparer can use this single username at multiple sites within the district. If a district wants to track returns at the site level, they can create multiple usernames for a preparer who works at multiple sites by creating an identical user name except for the last two digits.

At this time it appears to be clear that the software will default the SIDN to the SIDN of the site which is associated with the primary site (that is, the one that has the EFIN). It is not clear how one changes, or even if one can change, the SIDN for Ad Hoc sites associated with the primary site. Since this is not critical to the mission of correct returns, for Massachusetts TaxAide, IRS Quality Review Item 8 (use the correct SIDN), for Tax Year 2016, we will define the correct SIDN to be either the SIDN of the primary site or the SIDN of the actual site. This will allow us to accept the software default, and not spend counselor energy on changing SIDNs for each return.

TaxSlayer Blog

The most common way of accessing the TaxSlayer blog is by logging into Practice Lab and clicking on the link on the left-hand side bar.  However, there are other ways you can access the blog without logging in….which may be very useful if TaxSlayer appears to be down for any reason.

The direct URL for the blog is https://vitablog.taxslayerpro.com/.  There is a clickable link on our website’s right-hand side bar under “links”  (along with links to the IRS, DOR, AARP Volunteer Portal). You can also access it from the TaxSlayer Springboard which includes links to Practice Lab, the production site (when activated), as well as the blog.  You can also subscribe to the TaxSlayer blog by clicking on the RSS icon rss on the blog’s upper navigation bar — this gives you the option of subscribing via a web-based news reader (if you use one) or by email.