Tax professionals feel the seasonal sting


Monday was the final day for Americans to file their federal tax returns, and while tax season can be a stressful time for the public, it’s just as hectic for tax professionals.

For certified public accountants and tax preparers the and three and a half month period between New Year’s Day and April 15 is filled with nearly non-stop activity.

CPAs

Lee Hardin, a CPA with Hardin & Associates on Olive Street in Pine Bluff, said that the 2013 tax season has been even more hectic than usual.

“This year has been a little different namely because of problems with electronic tax filing,” Hardin said. “Individuals could not electronically file until February. That wasn’t so bad, but corporate and partnership returns, which is my bread and butter, could not be filed until March 7 and they were due on March 15. So I had eight days to do them and that got us behind.

“I actually did those returns back in January but I had to wait until March 7 to file them,” Hardin said. “When it was finally time to file I realized I didn’t remember what the numbers were so I had to virtually redo all of those returns.”

Hardin said that aside from these issues things have gone pretty smoothly.

“Today we are trying to get as many returns done as we can so they don’t go on extension,” Hardin said. “We’ve got people with returns that have been ready to pick up for weeks who are just now coming by. I’m kind of hiding in the back today because I just don’t have time to visit.”

Hardin has put in grueling hours in the race to the finish line.

“I was here until 10:30 last night and back in the office at 4:30 this morning,” Hardin said.

Roy Boyd of Newton, Owen, Boyd & Smoke Ltd. on Main Street was in the thick of things early Monday afternoon.

“Everything was delayed because of the changes to the tax law at the end of the year,” Boyd said. “It compacted the season even more and we’re pushing it down to the wire.”

Tax preparers

Mary Harris is a franchise owner of 80 Jackson Hewitt Tax Service locations throughout Arkansas.

“The tax season started out with the fiscal cliff and we couldn’t file some tax forms,” Harris said. “It was not a happy beginning for taxpayers or tax preparers. Then the sequester hit and there were some cutbacks in IRS personnel. This really hurt us. A few days ago I was on the phone with the IRS for 73 minutes to get a question answered. I just put my phone on speaker and went about my business until someone picked up.”

Harris said that apparent problems with the popular TurboTax software program brought several last-minute filers to her branches.

“TurboTax had a failure today so we had some come in to see us today,” Harris said.

Harris said that the software while popular is not all-knowing.

“What we find is that with the returns prepared online sometimes a person can find the answer that they want but not necessarily the right answer,” Harris said. “Yes, TurboTax has hurt us but in the long run people will find that they need to meet with someone face to face.”

Harris said that business for this tax season has overall been down from previous years.

“There are millions of people on unemployment and others who don’t make enough to have to file a return,” Harris said. “Because of this business is down much more than it has ever been in the past.”

Al Vern is regional manager for H & R Block and works from the company’s Olive Street location.

“Tax season has been pretty smooth,” Vern said. “We haven’t had many problems. The only bad side to things is that we had to wait until January 23 to file returns electronically because the IRS had to redo their computers. That backed us up some having to wait for them.”

Vern said that several people were stopping by on tax day.

“Today we’re steady,” Vern said. “We have some last-minute shoppers.”

Vern said the use of online tax preparation programs tends to be generational.

“It goes about 50/50,” Vern said of online users versus those who patronize a tax preparation office. “The younger crowd knows how to do a computer but the older folks still enjoy coming in and speaking to someone face to face.”