End of the Season

I want to take this opportunity to thank all our volunteers for another great season — we efiled over 33,000 federal returns and a comparable number of state returns.  I know our taxpayers and sites appreciate all you do for them.

We held our annual wrap-up meeting with the State Management Team, District Coordinators, and others to go over the accomplishments and issues of the season, as well as to plan out our off season activities.  Training, technology, and recruiting are all on the list.  If you have any issues or ideas for program improvements, please channel those through you local and district coordinators.

We’ve already kicked off our off-season activities. The pace is much less frenetic than during the season and there’s time to go in depth on various topics.  If you’d like to volunteer to help, please let your local/district coordinator know.

Active recruiting will start just before Labor Day. Our best source of new volunteers is you – new prospects can apply anytime at http://www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaidevolunteer

One last reminder for all the administrators is to triple-check to make sure all returns have been efiled and all non-administrative TaxSlayer Production accounts have been inactivated.  Volunteers who want to continue practicing can always log onto Practice Lab to keep their skills sharp.

Thanks again and we do hope that most of you plan to return next season.

End of Season

The end of the TY2018 season is approaching very quickly.

All volunteers who have contributed 40+ hours are eligible for a reimbursement — either a flat rate ($50 for leaders, $35 for all others) or actual mileage (note that leaders can also expense some site/filing related items). Instructions for submitting reimbursement requests are available on the volunteer portal (search reimbursements in the library) – your district and local coordinators can provide assistance. Remember that counselors whose mileage expenses exceed $400 must submit a pre-approval request. Please submit all requests as soon as possible, but no later than the final deadline of 30 June 2019.

For those volunteers requesting continuing education credits…..please remember the following:

  • You must have taken your standards of conduct, intake and interview, and advanced tests online via Link & Learn (paper certifications are not acceptable).
  • Submit your volunteer agreement, Form 13615, signed by both your certifying official and your site coordinator, to the IRS NO LATER THAN 30 April 2019. The deadline cannot be extended.
  • CE Credits should appear in your record in the June/July timeframe.

19 March Update

There are just four weeks left in the tax season – so this is a good time for a couple reminders as we near the end.

Now is a good time to check the status of your state acceptances to make sure everything’s been acknowledged so far.  One of the easiest ways to do that is use the built-in management reports (Production Detail). If there are any questions about how to do this, please let us know.

With the new higher standard deductions for all filing statuses, we are seeing fewer instances of the need to itemize. For a refresher on itemized deductions, see Pub 4012, starting on page F-3. One thing to remember – if a taxpayer paid state taxes in 2018 because they owed when filing their TY2017 state return, you need to enter that manually on the Itemized Deductions Taxes Paid screen (see 4012, page F-7) – it’s not carried over automatically.

One credit that’s easy to miss is the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. While this applies to relatively few taxpayers, we need to make sure we add Schedule R to the return when applicable. See 4012, starting on page G-17, for the criteria and how to add the credit. One scenario where you might see it is a federal, state, or municipal retiree with a modest pension and no or very low Social Security. It’s a good idea to add a note to the taxpayer’s return when it applies as a reminder for next year.


Low Income Taxpayer Clinics in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) has provided grants to three Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC) so they can expand their state-specific services this year. The clinics do not provide current year tax preparation services, but may be able to help qualifying taxpayers with collection matters, audits, appeals or responses to DOR notices. If any taxpayers need help with Massachusetts DOR issues (not IRS issues), you can refer them to one of these clinics. The three clinics in Massachusetts are:

  • Boston – Greater Boston Legal Services LITC (800) 323-3205 – provides services to approximately 30 communities in the greater Boston area
  • Jamaica Plain – Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School LITC (866) 738-8081 – provides services statewide
  • Springfield – Springfield Partners LITC (413) 263-6500 – provides services throughout Berkshire, Hampden, and Hampshire counties

These clinics and other resources for tax assistance are listed on the DOR’s website.


1 March Update

TaxSlayer announced that they’d received print approval from Massachusetts and the “Do Not Mail” watermark was removed from the PDFs. You can now mail in any returns you were holding pending resolution of this issue, including amendments.


20 Feb Update

An alert volunteer pointed out an incorrect reference in the Mass Taxable IRA Worksheet TY2018 used when both taxpayer and spouse are taking distributions from IRAs they each contributed to while working. We updated the worksheet and reposted it in the Reference Material tab.

The DOR posted updated guidance on the Circuit Breaker credit.  They will continue to send out verification letters this year — especially to taxpayers claiming the credit for the first time.  So it’s a good idea to give those taxpayers a heads up to expect a letter.

There are two situations in which a taxpayer might be eligible for the Qualified Business Income deduction — one is as a small business owner, the other is if they have Section 199A dividends. These are identified on a 1099-DIV in box 5 (new this year).

Taxpayers are starting to bring in consolidated statements from their investment firms. Guidance for entering capital gains can be found in 4012, starting on page D-20.

We do not have a date for final approval of the Massachusetts forms so do not know when the “Do Not Mail” watermark will be removed.

There is a fillable PDF form of the Intake Booklet posted on the Volunteer Portal libraries.

We posted a list of IRS and DOR addresses to mail original and amended returns in the Reference Material tab.


10 February Update

Most sites kicked off their season this past week. The first week is always challenging and this year was no exception. We received a few questions/comments, so today’s post responds to those.

Schedule C. The IRS released guidance on the QBI deduction and any returns you were holding pending that can now be efiled — but be sure to reopen each return to ensure the calculations are updated. There are two very useful documents in the Volunteer Portal libraries for sites preparing Schedule Cs – Schedule C Guidelines Release 3 and the QBI Deduction Update.

Rejects.  Any ERO who gets an IRS Reject R0000-905-01 should notify his/her DC immediately so we can get it resolved.

Health Care.  A taxpayer who has health care coverage or a valid exemption for all months without insurance is considered to have full-time coverage – so you should check that box in the federal health insurance section.  You no longer need to file a Form 8965 if the taxpayer has a valid exemption for all months without health care coverage, but be sure to document this on the taxpayer’s Intake sheet.

Massachusetts Estimated Payment Vouchers.  You can find the Massachusetts estimated payment vouchers in the State section, under Miscellaneous Forms.  Be sure the click “Yes” in the first drop down menu, otherwise the forms won’t print.

Pub 17 (2018) and Massachusetts Form 1 NR/PY (2018) Instructions have been posted online. Links to these are on the Reference Materials page.

The DOR hasn’t approved the printed forms (Form 1, etc) — that’s why they’re still watermarked “Do Not Mail.”  We have not heard when they will be approved.