Monday, February 16, 2009

Comments on Basic Level Certification for VITA Volunteers

There were at least 2 questions on the test for certification level that I feel reflects the distance in thinking of the people setting the exams from what is happening in the field.

The first has to do with the question about what to do if a taxpayer is unable to have sufficient funds in the checking account to pay the outstanding taxes. The correct answers include putting the charge on a credit card, setting up an installment payment, or suggesting paying through the savings account. In my judgement, the most helpful answer is the second one (setting up an installment payment) followed by advising the taxpayer to increase the withholding for the current year or sending in estimated payments as they receive the money. The first and third suggests a lack of sensitivity - credit card payments including not only a convenience fee, but also transaction fees and high interest rate, and if the taxpayer had a savings account with money, they probably would know better than to suggest this in the first place.

The second has to do with the form number required for splitting the refund into multiple accounts at financial institutions. As a site coordinator, I have found that to get in the information about financial institutions correctly for one account is very time consuming to get right, so doing it for 3 would be even more time consuming and prone to error, and require even more quality review time. While it may be convenient for the taxpyer to have it deposited in multiple accounts directly, how difficult would it be for the taxpayer to transfer from the original refund from one account into multiple accounts. I consider this form as nice to have, but not essential, and do not go out of my way to encourage its use, but while remembering the number of the form accurately may be a competency required of revenue officers, it does seem to have less value than some other training that would be of greater help to the taxpayers we are serving.

These are one person's opinion, and represents one perspective. No doubt you may disagree, and your views are welcome as comments to this post.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Will you do my 2009 Tax Return?

Question received by email:

I am 21 years old, full time student, part time work. Will you do my 2009 Tax Return? I live in Nassau County, New York.


Answer: I will personally do your tax return if you will travel to my site in California! I imagine you are talking about your tax return for 2008 due on April 15, 2009. (We won't be doing 2009 returns until approximately a year from now.) Failing that, there may be VITA sites close to where you live where they could do your taxes, unless you make too much money or your return is complicated. One way to find the locations is to search in the VITA Volunteers Search Engine II at the top left hand corner below the banner of this page. If there are no suitable locations, the results page will provide more hints on where to find their locations.