Medicare Supplement and Advantage Plans through Aetna
For those with Medicare or soon to be I offer Medicare Supplement and Advantage Plans through Aetna, which is a 5-Star Rated Medicare service provider accepted at all Maine hospitals. It is illegal for anyone selling Medicare insurance policies to make outbound calls to discuss Medicare co-insurance plans or to discuss annuities or life insurance on the same day as Medicare policies, so if you are interested you must contact me.
What’s New This Year
Dealing with slowdowns
It has been a few years since I did a newsletter. I will start by thanking you for staying with me as I know my quality of service has suffered as I have had both health and personal issues to deal with. Many things have changed in my life and one of them has been my inability to handle stress from seemingly little things. I have been receiving 100 -plus spams a day to sort through and during tax season some days over 300. Robocalls and nonrobocalls: literally over 100 calls some days. I bought a call blocker and have logged over 2,300 bogus numbers in the past two years. In September, I started a new telephone system that requires a random number to make the phone ring and I am down to 2-3 per day. Between the new phone system and email system, both of which seem to be working to cut junk, I am less stressed other than the fact I am also some days without either email or telephones working.
The two biggest issues to work on are IRS-related and work/time management. Every year I send extensions by mail as it very fast and easy whereas e-filing them is very time-consuming. I have never wanted to charge for extensions as every other preparer does. However, the time has come as every year the processing center for extensions process less the a third of them and I wind up spending 50-plus hours a year writing letters and making copies of proof of extension files—and sometimes I have to do it multiple times as the IRS sends out penalties. The due dates I am setting does not mean your taxes will not be filed on time but I need time to process efile extensions and cannot wait till the last minute as I have done for mailing them in. For corporations, fishermen, and farmers who have not submitted everything requested by February 14: Either you will have to file an extension or pay me $50 to do so. Individuals will have until March 20 to have all their paperwork to me (obviously if you are a simple return that I usually prepare while you are here and in before April 15, there is no need for extension).
Tax laws are getting more complex and everchanging as Congress will not stand by a position. This is causing early filers to have to file amended returns when Congress changes the law. Some of the changes are barely announced and tax software needs to be updated. In the past three years I have lost up to a month during regular filing season due to waiting for corrections to be processed to the software. The IRS is taking two and three years to reconcile filed tax returns with data they have from others and this is unacceptable. Sadly, they are often not interpreting the information that they have correctly, which can result in hours of additional work to correct.
IMPORTANT: Please get needed information to me ASAP!
The second issue affects very few, since I have dismissed the real problem people, but it still needs to be addressed. I know everyone wants their return done. I work as fast and as long as possible. When we make an appointment, I schedule enough time for most individual returns to be prepared in the first meeting. Sometimes people forget something; it happens, and isn’t a big deal. For businesses returns, we generally do the review; if I see something missing, we make a list to get for another time. The issue is calling in missing information; there is no good reason not to give that information to my receptionist. I hire only someone I can trust; they do not care or even understand usually what you are giving them for me—they simply add it to the file for me to work on. If I need to call you back because you would not leave the information with the receptionist, I will be adding $50 on top of your normal billing to cover the additional time.
The workflow procedure that has worked for many years is simple: If I cannot do your return while you are here but it appears to be ready to process you go to the list to be processed in order of appointment. If you come unprepared, your file sits until all information is in and then it goes into the pile in order. Just because you came in three days ago but were missing something does not mean I stop all work and prepare your return as soon as you provide the missing data. I may have seen 50 or more people who are in queue ahead of you at this point. As always, I will call you when I am either done or have gotten back to your file to find that it’s still not complete. Calling me multiple times asking where your return is, or returning your calls because you would not tell the receptionist the missing data, wastes time. I could be working to finish returns to the tune of over 70 hours a tax season lost returning calls that did not need to be returned.
“Where is my refund?”
The third time issue is calling to ask, “Where is my refund?” I changed my answering machine for a long time last year and even stopped answering the phone due to so many of these calls. I prepare and email taxes; as long as I receive an accepted code, there is nothing further I can do. The IRS is supposed to send approvals to the Treasury, which then approves issues of the refund; from there, at some point your bank should receive the money, and banks are no longer allowed to put holds on tax refunds. Usually, the process takes 35 business days; however the IRS/Treasury will take as long as they want to and this is 100% beyond my control—and they do not accept calls from preparers regarding, “Where is my refund?”
On the irs.gov web site there is a link to “Where is my refund?”; however, for the last two years it has not been updated on a regular basis. There are also links to third-party vendors where you prepare personal returns for the federal without charge. This is not the IRS doing your returns; it is a third-party software company that you contract with and prepare your own return. You will pay for state return, and there is no support to answer questions; retrieval of your tax return, if you need it later, it is difficult and some do not print out normal tax return pages without a fee. While “free” for the federal, it is because they sell your data. Tax preparers are prohibited from selling, giving or sharing any information about you but when you choose to use a third party online they can sell everything about you other than your Social Security and date of birth (other than month and year, which they do sell to anyone who asks).
On the nomoredillydallying.com web site I will post a form I am hoping many of you will send to your representatives they need to know everyone is tired of them not doing the job they are hired to do. We will start with basics and I set the form to be easy to use. Please share the link with all your friends and social media.
Until I am caught up and have procedures in place, I am not accepting any new clients. Effective early January, the email you are used to contacting me, firstname.lastname@example.org, will not be used. My new email is email@example.com.
As always, please call if you have a tax question.
Calvin W. Cousins, ChFC