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Tax Time Is Thank You Time for Tax-Aide Volunteers

posted Apr 17, 2013, 1:56 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:20 PM by Wayne Culp ]

President's Corner

Older taxpayers benefit from free service

by: Jo Ann Jenkins, from: AARP Foundation, April 12, 2013

There is no way we could run AARP Foundation without our volunteers — including the 36,000 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteers who on April 15 will wrap up two and a half months of free service helping older, vulnerable taxpayers file their federal and state income tax returns.

Learn more about AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.

Many Tax-Aide volunteers are retired accountants, tax lawyers and tax preparers. Others discovered or refined their tax-preparation ability while taking the training course before the beginning of the tax season — every year.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn that Independent Sector recently raised the hourly value of volunteer time to $22.14 an hour — the amount that would have to be paid to an hourly worker to get the same work done. This figure can vary by state, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s way too low. 

No figure is high enough to reflect the value of the work of AARP Foundation’s thousands of volunteers, nor the value of the tireless hours they donate to help struggling older people get back on the road to opportunity. But we can celebrate the volunteers themselves during National Volunteer Week (April 21-27). Even better, we can thank them every day of the year.

Jo Ann Jenkins is executive vice president & chief operating officer of AARP and president of AARP Foundation.

Survey Says:

posted Apr 17, 2013, 1:54 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:20 PM by Wayne Culp ]

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

95% Satisfaction, Says Recent Survey

Since 1968, volunteer-based program has helped nearly 50 million low- to middle-income taxpayers

by: Becky Squires, from: AARP Foundation, November 9, 2011

Become a Volunteer

Sign up to be an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer. Go

When a program has been around for 43 years, it's easy to take it for granted. But the results of the 2011 AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Customer Satisfaction Survey show that the 2.6 million people who use our free, volunteer-run tax preparation service every year understand its value. In fact, 82 percent say Tax-Aide gives them a more favorable impression of AARP itself.

The AARP Research and Analysis survey found that a stunning 95 percent of those who use Tax-Aide are very satisfied with its service, and 96 percent would be highly likely to recommend it to others needing help. Eighty-one percent have already done so. Almost all — 98 percent — said the quality of service was excellent (86 percent) or good (12 percent.)

OK, talk is cheap. It's possible that the 247,071 clients who took the time to fill out and return the mail survey were just being nice. (Highly unlikely, but possible.) But coming back for the service year after year is something else. Among AARP Foundation Tax Aide's clients, nearly 80 percent have used it more than once, and 16 percent have used it for at least seven years.

Who uses Tax-Aide? Primarily the people the program is designed to serve — older, low-to-middle-low income people. Almost four out of five (78 percent) are 60 or older, 63 percent are women and 59 percent are AARP members. Household incomes aren't high: 8 percent say theirs is less than $10,00024 percent report it's between $10,000 and $20,000; and 25 percent receive $20,000 to $30,000 a year. Only 9 percent reported an annual income above $50,000.

In 2010, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide's 35,000 volunteers helped their clients receive $1.2 billion in tax refunds and $233 million in earned income tax credits. More than half — 55 percent — of those surveyed said they used their refunds to pay bills. One in four (25 percent) bought food, medicine or clothing, and one in four put the extra money into savings.

Finally, 51 percent said they would have paid someone to do their taxes if Tax-Aide weren't available, and 19 percent said they would call on friends or family for help. Just 17 percent said they would do their taxes themselves. The answers to this question no doubt are as much a reflection of the increasing complexity of tax forms as they are of Tax-Aide, but they're also another strong indicator of the value of the program to all those it serves.

The only downside to the survey, in fact, is that relatively few low-income African-Americans and Latinos are using Tax-Aide's free service, despite a two-year outreach effort. Nine out of 10 clients in 2011 were white. AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is recruiting volunteers — particularly minority volunteers — for the 2012 tax season through Dec. 15. Learn more and sign up today.

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered in cooperation with the IRS.

Congratulations and thank you! from National Director and Vice President, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide

posted Apr 16, 2013, 2:21 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:23 PM ]

April 15,  2013

To: CyberTax volunteers (all volunteers with a valid email address in VMIS)
From: Bonnie Speedy, National Director and Vice President, AARP Foundation Tax-Aide
Subject: CyberTax 2013-014: Happy Tax Day! End of Season Reminders

Congratulations and thank you! You and 35,000 of your fellow volunteers have successfully completed the 46th tax season of this program. I'm always amazed when I think about how far we've come.  In 1968, volunteers helped 100 taxpayers.  AARP Foundation Tax-Aide continued to grow from there and in 1977 volunteers helped over half a million taxpayers.  By 1982 it was over one million and as e-filing cleared 70% in 2006, volunteers helped over two million taxpayers that year.  Wow! As we make the transition from e-filing to TaxWise Online, we continue to grow. Growth has its share of challenges, but you persevere and continue to help so many in your community.

In 2013, with official season closing today and service still being counted, we know we will once again help over two million taxpayers.  We have  to remind you about tying up some of the loose ends below, but we hope you'll take a moment to celebrate all that you've accomplished this season as an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer.  Please accept my gratitude on behalf of the taxpayers you've helped in your community. For those that didn't remember to say thank you, I'll say it again and again- THANK YOU!

Please be sure to report the number of tax answers you give to taxpayer questions to your supervisor for reporting, no matter where that conversation took place.   I'm sure you report those questions and answers that occur at the tax site, and we want to reflect all your service to our funders.   I am also sure, as the respected "tax man" or "tax woman" in your family and community, you get tax questions all the time when you are away from the site and outside of the tax season. Report those too!   Thank YOU for answering those questions, preparing so many tax returns and for your part in this successful season.  I know success does not come without its challenges, but I appreciate how you and your volunteer leadership have tackled those challenges head on, always pushing the program to be better and to serve the taxpayers in your community well.

Here are a few more general reminders and resources as you close out the season, but we ask that you please follow instructions from your local volunteer supervisor.

End of Season
End of Season procedures are listed in the IRS Pub 3189  in TaxWise Post-Filing Season sections. Here are a few highlights and items specific to AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.

Process to ensure all e-filed returns have been submitted and accepted: Be sure that you continue to use and/or double check your process to ensure that all e-filed returns have been submitted and accepted. It's particularly important for balance due returns. Unfortunately, we have had situations where late penalties and interest has been incurred because we failed to transmit returns. Please help your taxpayers avoid this situation. For returns timely filed by April 15, 2013, please make sure all rejects are resolved as soon as possible, but no later than April 20, 2013.

Data Deletion should occur on IRS computers using the Wipe Disk program provided software and on all other computers using ClearTaxpayerData v6.6.2. It is available on the Volunteer ShareNet (https://volunteers.aarp.org) in the "Technology Hardware" section under "Security" .  Please use this new version of ClearTaxpayerData v6.6.2, it is the most up-to-date version available.

For TWO, do NOT delete any taxpayer data.
Deleting the taxpayer data from TaxWise Online will render all your returns "invisible" to the carry-forward routines for next season, and will require a cumbersome process to recover them. For off-season security, all users other than Admin should be made inactive. Alternatively, the user's role can be changed to Return Preparer, and all tax returns removed from these users' accounts. Move the returns to ADMIN or the account of another user permitted to access them in the off season. This will allow the user to access the TWO Training website to practice during the off-season without accessing any taxpayer data. You may also want to keep a very limited number of supervisory users in a role that allows them access to returns that may require amending during the off-season. See Pub 3189 or the TaxWise User Guide if you need instruction for these procedures.

Data Retention: Taxpayer data can be retained for the following season. Data retention for TWO is automatic, and requires no action from volunteers. Data Retention for the Desktop software is permitted and the following procedures are required if you wish to retain your taxpayer information for next year.  The retained data for a state must be maintained by one person in the state (designated by the State Coordinator and Technology Specialist). If you only retain a backup of returns created by the TaxWise program no further encryption is required, but if you retain the complete program file (i.e. the UTS12 folder), it must be stored on encrypted media. Per policy, only the current year data (in this case Tax Year 2012) can be retained. This data is primarily used to "carry forward" selected taxpayer information for preparing next year's returns, so previous years are not needed. It can also be used to amend a prior year return, but retaining more than one year's data presents too great of a security risk. See the "Securely Sending Taxpayer Data" document in the Security Section on Technology Hardware page of the Volunteer ShareNet for more details on this topic.

For IRS computers, additional end-of-season details can be found in IRS publication 4473 "IRS Equipment Loan Program Welcome Package"  including:
*Return Depot computers by May 15 to:
Internal Revenue Service
Attn: VITA/TCE Depot
1040 Waverly Avenue, Stop  800
Holtsville, NY 11742

A return label should have been included with your shipment, but publication 4473 can also help with:
*What to do if you are missing boxes or shipping labels *How to arrange for UPS pick-up using the toll free number: 1-800-833-9925. Use this number only! If you call any other number, you may be charged a $10 pickup fee.

For other computers, including AARP-purchased and loaned or donated computers, please work with your local volunteer supervisor to make sure data is deleted and the unit is included in your state's inventory appropriately.

Reimbursement: Please submit all tax season assistance/counseling reimbursement requests to the National Office for processing by June 30th. Following your supervisor's instructions, we encourage you to use the FAST Reimbursement system for B, I, &T mileage expenses when no receipts are required for faster payment. Training materials are available on the Portal, https://volunteers.aarp.org, at Volunteer ShareNet > Portal Applications Support. Volunteer leaders, please submit your reimbursement requests for non-counseling expenses at least quarterly.

It might be helpful  to retain your 2012 manuals and training materials if you have room to do so until materials are revised and/or printed by the IRS for the next tax season.  Based on our experiences this past year, it is always helpful to have at least the prior year's materials available.

Thank you for all you do for taxpayers across the nation.

Nebraska ACH debit problem with TaxWise

posted Apr 10, 2013, 7:15 AM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:18 PM by Wayne Culp ]

Nebraska Department of Revenue News release:  http://www.revenue.ne.gov/news_rel/apr_13/taxwise_4-10-2013.html

Published Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 2:42 pm / Updated at 2:51 pm
Software problem means 1 extra step for some Nebraska taxpayers
By Steve Jordon
Omaha World-Herald

Because of a software problem, nearly 900 Nebraskans will have to take an extra step to pay state income taxes they owe.

Nebraska Tax Commissioner Doug Ewald said Tuesday that the department would work to avoid charging penalties and interest if the software problem causes taxpayers to miss Monday's deadline for tax payments.

The problem affects only taxpayers with an exact set of circumstances: those who owe payments to the state, who asked the state to withdraw the payments electronically from their bank accounts, who filed their returns before April 5 and who used software called TaxWise, Ewald said.

Taxpayers who used other brands of tax preparation software are not affected, he said. And those who used TaxWise after April 5 are not affected.

Ewald suggested that people who filed before April 5 and planned electronic payments from their bank accounts check with their tax preparers to see what software they used.

TaxWise is owned by CCH Small Firm Services, a division of Wolters Kluwer of Kennesaw, Ga. Calls to company executives were not returned.

The problem came to light when Ed Leahy got a notice that TaxWise had fixed the problem for returns filed April 5 and later. Leahy is director of the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition and the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in Omaha.

Leahy said about 45 of some 5,000 returns filed by his program's clients before April 5 were affected by the problem, and he has advised those clients to send paper checks for their payments to the state.

After The World-Herald called about the problem facing Leahy's clients, Ewald's office found that nearly 900 returns are affected.

For some reason, Ewald said, when the TaxWise forms went into the state income tax computer, they showed zero in the spaces for the amount and date of electronic transfer, meaning no money would be withdrawn from the taxpayers' accounts.

Ewald said taxpayers who filed those returns should go to the department's website, revenue.ne.gov, and click the “make a payment” button under the “for individuals” heading. Or they can print out paper vouchers and send paper checks to the state.

The Department of Revenue doesn't have a way to notify taxpayers individually about the TaxWise problem, he said, but if tax returns with missing payments turn up, his office will check to see if they missed the payments because of the software problem. In those cases, he said, taxpayers would be allowed to make the payments they owe without penalties and interest.

“We'll make exceptions for these folks,” he said. “It was obviously an error.”

Ewald said the tax collection system this year has had numerous problems, mostly because the federal government was late in approving the provisions for 2012 taxes. As a result, states didn't have time to check software compatibility, update procedures and resolve problems before people began filing tax returns.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1080steve.jordon@owh.comtwitter.com/buffettOWH

IRS Now Accepting All 2012 Returns

posted Mar 4, 2013, 2:29 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:26 PM ]

March 4, 2013

IRS YouTube Video

Do It Yourself Free Tax Preparation:  English | ASL

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it has finished updating its tax-processing systems allowing all remaining individual and business taxpayers to file their 2012 federal income tax returns.

Over the weekend, the IRS completed reprogramming and testing of its systems for tax-year 2012 including all remaining updates required by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) enacted by Congress in January. This final step clears the way for those claiming residential energy credits on Form 5695 and various business tax credits and deductions to file their returns.

The IRS began accepting 2012 returns in phases as it worked quickly to update various forms and instructions and made critical adjustments to its processing systems to reflect the current law. As a result, the agency began accepting most returns filed by individual taxpayers on Jan. 30. Additional returns could be accepted in February. All remaining returns, affecting in relative terms the smallest group of taxpayers, can now be filed. 

With just six weeks to go before this year’s April 15 deadline, the IRS reminds taxpayers that the best way to file an accurate return is to e-file, choose direct deposit if expecting a refund and take advantage of the wide variety of tax-filing and tax-help resources available on IRS.gov. People who need more time to finish their returns can easily get an automatic six-month tax-filing extension by going to the Free File link or filing Form 4868.

Untitled Post

posted Feb 11, 2013, 2:03 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:00 PM ]

Go to the portal > Volunteer ShareNet > General Program Communications

W-2 when red => Check if employer was contacted to verify W-2

posted Jan 31, 2013, 8:48 AM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:33 PM ]

The volunteer will need to have the taxpayer give the volunteer the employers phone number so the return can be transmitted at this time. TaxWise is hoping to fix this so that it will only be required if Bank Product is checked instead of Efile or Paper.
From the TaxWise Help File:
Check if employer contacted on W-2 is Red

Question:  Why does the "Check if employer was contacted to verify W-2"  and "employer phone" turn red when I enter information on the W-2

Answer:  The field turns red based off of the amount of withholding entered compared to the Filing Status and amount of Wages entered in box 1.  If the amount exceeds the recommended percentages in IRS Publication 15 the check box and entry will turn red.
Question:  It did not do this last year, why did you make the change?

Answer:  Due to the heightened awareness of fraudulent returns being created in the industry, this is a precautionary measure that helps you identify potentially fraudulent W-2s.  Once you start entering information from employer issued W-2s, you should see fewer instances of this being marked as a required field.
Question:  The help files indicate that this feature should only be turned red if the return is a bank product.  My return is marked as an e-file.

Answer:   This was how the feature worked in TaxWise Online 2011.  We will be updating the help file to reflect the TaxWise Online 2012 current behavior.

Mark Munsterman
Senior Tax Consultant

UPDATE: Agreement with IRS on Brokerage statements and Form 1099-B

posted Jan 19, 2013, 5:57 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:41 PM ]

CyberTax 13-4: Updates and interpretation of  earlier post

Brokerage statements:  If all capital sales transactions from a brokerage statement are listed individually on the Capital Gains Worksheet, there is no need to send a copy of that brokerage statement to the IRS.  If a preparer summarizes all or part of the transactions on a brokerage statement, then a copy of that brokerage statement must be sent to the IRS either as a PDF file attached to the return or as a paper copy attached to IRS Form 8453.  When using the Form 8453, copies of any Forms 8949, generated in Taxwise, must be printed and attached along with the required brokerage statement.

The IRS agreed a few days ago that we no longer need to attach any brokerage
statements when it is convenient to enter summary totals on the Capital Gain
WKT. No 8453 processing. No scanned PDF files. No attached copies to paper
returns. No situation that requires copies of brokerage statements.

The entries need to be made on Cap Gn WKT for the totals for each category A-ST,
B-ST, A-LT, B-LT, and cross-checked with the totals on the brokerage statement.

One method is to enter the Brokerage name as the Description for all lines, up
to four if there are transactions of all types. I prefer to add the type, for
Fidelity B-ST B VARIOUS 01/01/2012 4000 2000
because that will make it easier for the QR person to identify the section of
the report to verify.

Note that in my previous post on this subject I gave links to different sample
reports for 2012 that indicate that most, if not all, brokers will now print a
page for each category, with clear headings at the top for A (Reported) ST or
LT, or B (not reported) ST or LT.

8453 processing is still required for the other areas that need signatures: 8832
(release of exemption), Power of Attorney, and also for 1098-C for donation of

Some of these areas have a method in TaxWise to indicate that you are attaching
a scanned PDF file with the signed document. I have asked for a procedure that
includes QR for those sites where there is a scanner and an ability to store
encrypted files. More later.

Lyn McClure WA DC-10+21, TC, Inst, etc and co-moderator of T-VOG

Jan 17, 2013 New Updated Resources from AARP Tax-Aide

posted Jan 18, 2013, 1:12 PM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:42 PM ]

The attached resources were presented to all of the state Training Specialists on January 17, 2013.  This is our most update information as we go into the tax preparation season.

2012 Publication 4012 is now available online

posted Jan 9, 2013, 9:20 AM by Wayne Culp   [ updated Jul 8, 2013, 1:08 PM ]

Here is the link:  http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4012.pdf

Hopefully the printers will get the paper version out quickly.

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