If you ever have massive URL’s that you need to put in an email . . . but worry the email program will break the URL thus rendering it useless . . . sorry about the link yesterday. Try this one: makeashorterlink.com.
Bob Fyfe: ‘The one two-digit number divisible by 9 that doesn’t add up to 9 is 99 (adds to 18). To be 100% correct, the digits of all numbers divisible by 9 sum to a number also divisible by 9 (not necessarily 9 itself). Same is true for divisibility by 3.’
Jim Kozma: ‘I think it’s even neater that the reverse is true: All numbers whose digits (recursively) add up to 9 are divisible by 9. So 111111111 must be divisible by 9, and voila, it is: 12345679*9=111111111. Or how about 123456789? 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9=45 and 4+5=9, so 123456789 is also divisible by 9.’
☞ Why do I start these threads?!
Michael Burns: ‘The ‘Jensen Noisebusters’ part of the quote you have for me yesterday is incorrect. The Jensen headphones are different from the Noisebusters headphones. Two different companies, although both go for about $40.’
TAX PREPARERS ON PARADE
Le Moore: ‘You talked about two things in your February 16 PARADE article [unfortunately not linkable] that I felt needed to be addressed: First, you said ‘many tax preparers type your information into the very same software packages you could type it into yourself.’ Do you realize that most tax professionals don’t just use TurboTax or other off-the-shelf software to prepare tax returns? My husband is a CPA and we purchase the professional version of TurboTax (it is called ProSeries) made by Intuit. This program usually costs several thousand dollars EACH YEAR, and it is MUCH more than TurboTax. Many times the tax programs people buy off the shelf have an ‘interview’ process. If a person has something unusual going on with their tax situation, or if a they have heard of some ‘new’ tax law that they think applies to them, then many times they end up guessing during the interview process, or just putting information where they ‘think’ it needs to go. Some of these self-prepared returns we have seen are done so poorly it is no wonder that these people end up coming to us when the IRS sends them a letter with questions about the return. The software ‘interview’ process does NOT take the place of an experienced tax professional asking probing questions that might result in additional deductions the client overlooked because he opted to go the cheaper route, or suggestions very specific to the taxpayer to consider for their next year’s return (i.e., doubling up real estate taxes in order to itemize every other year). Many times it is the people with the less complicated returns that need to ask us questions while we are preparing their taxes about things they might be considering and wanting to know how it will affect their taxes next year (i.e. buying a house, going back to college, looking for another job, unreimbursed employee business expenses, office in the home, etc.).
‘Also, the software programs that people purchase to do their own returns seem to be lacking tremendously when a problem is encountered (i.e., e-filing and the return is rejected – the standard answer given by the IRS in many cases can be misleading and confusing [surprise] and it has taken us many years of ‘fixing’ problems in order to QUICKLY help when a problem occurs.) There are many situations we have had to correct and prepare amended tax returns when the client decides to ‘do it themselves.’ Granted there are many returns that are the same each year and perhaps those people could do their returns with no difficulty. But, they need to remember that in general, they are going to get what they pay for. It is important that they remember that they have just forfeited the right to have a professional looking out for their best interests.
‘Additionally, I would like to point out that there are a lot of people who think that everyone who prepares taxes is a CPA. Our office is in Texas, and anyone who decides to prepare taxes can do so with no training, or supervision, or having to answer to anyone regarding their ability to prepare taxes. We end up helping a lot of people with tax problems after their tax preparer drops out of sight and there is absolutely no recourse that these people have against the missing tax preparer.’
☞ So maybe my admonition in PARADE to ‘beware professional tax preparers’ was not entirely unjustified, but what I was aiming at with that caveat was the tendency to push Refund Anticipation Loans . . . and, in some H&R Block offices, then charging an additional $50 or $75 to cash H&R Block’s own Refund Anticipation Loan check. I.e., you are a low-income person who comes in with a simple return. Of your, say, $900 refund, H&R Block takes a tax preparation fee, a fee for getting you that $900 a couple of weeks early, and a fee for cashing its own check. It adds up.
Le continues: ‘The second thing I wanted to bring up is the other side to the expensive Refund Anticipation Loans (RAL) situation. When my husband and I started our tax office over 10 years ago we offered RALs only because the competition was doing so and clients were asking for them. However, we made every effort to discourage people from doing these because of the extremely high interest rate, and we continue to do so. We have also discovered over the years that most of the people who do these RALs are claiming the Earned Income Credit (EIC) as you mentioned in your article. What seems to happen in almost every case is that these people consider the EIC as ‘free’ money since they are getting back so much more then they had paid in federal withholding. I can’t tell you the number of times we have tried to talk these people into waiting for their money by explaining to them about the high short term interest rate, only to hear them say something like: ‘Well, it’s only about $100 or so – that’s not so much, and I really want my money tomorrow.’
‘We feel that we are here to help people from being ripped off by trying to keep our prices reasonable. There have been many times we have had people tell us of very outrageous prices being charged for these RALs. In light of these facts, we have begun to feel that we should CONTINUE to offer these products to provide a reasonable alternative to the companies out there who continue to push these products for unreasonable. I don’t think that the RAL program is going to go away anytime in the near future, so perhaps you should attempt to direct your thoughts on what people should be looking out for if they are absolutely determined to get a RAL. It is important for them to call around and check prices, or ask someone they know to refer them to a reputable company before just walking into a tax office. Please consider both sides of this issue and not just the fact that the fees are so high. Sometimes these people are really desperate and unfortunately they are really counting on getting this money in 24 hours or so.’
Quote of the Day
Triumphant wife to down-and-out husband: I've consolidated all our bills into one missed payment.~Frank Cotham cartoon in the October 11, 1999, New Yorker
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