FAQs

 

~ Refunds ~

WHERE IS MY REFUND?

Dollars

During a normal year (which seems a distant memory), most people receive their federal tax refunds within 9 to 21 days of electronically filing. If you want to check on the status of your refund, there are three easy ways to do that:

 

  1. Go to the IRS website. On the left side of the page click the link, "Where is my refund." Make sure you have the SSN of the primary taxpayer, the filing status (single, married, etc...), and the exact amount of your federal refund.

  2. Call 1-800-829-1040 and follow the prompts to talk about "My Tax Account." You will still need the primary SSN, filing status, and refund amount.

  3. Download the mobile app, "IRS2Go." It is very self-explanatory, so I won't belittle you with instructions.

 

* Note that you should wait at least 72 hours (3 days) from the date your preparer electronically filed your tax return to use either of the above options. If you try before those 3 days have passed, the IRS may not have had time to process your return yet.

** 2020 tax returns filed in 2021 are taking much longer than expected. There are as many theories as there are pundits, and we are at the mercy of misinformation as much as you are. If you're still waiting for a refund from a return you filed in February, you're not alone. There is nothing we can do to make that process move faster.

WHY IS MY REFUND TAKING SO LONG? CAN I SPEED UP THE PROCESS?

Hour Glass

That's 2 questions, so hold onto your hat!

 

Remember, under normal circumstances it can take up to 21 days for the IRS to process a return and issue a refund. We usually recommend being patient and checking the IRS website periodically to figure out where they are in the process. Here are some normal reasons why your refund might be delayed.

 

  • ACCEPTANCE. We all want acceptance, but sometimes it's hard to get. The countdown to your refund being issued doesn't even start until the IRS has accepted your electronically filed return. If there were any errors with filing status (Married Filing Jointly, Head-of-Household, etc.) or name/SSN matching on your return, that could delay things by a day or two. Also, sometimes the IRS has to deal with unusually high volumes. This too could delay the acceptance of your return.

  • TURNAROUND. No, not the Bonnie Tyler song. After your return has been accepted, it can take a few days - depending on your refund method - for your money to get from the IRS to you. That's "turnaround." A direct bank deposit is generally the fastest method, taking a matter of hours. If you chose to receive a paper check in the mail, allow a few extra days for the mail to get to you. Finally, if you chose to have fees taken from the refund, a third-party processor manages the dispersal of those funds, which can also take a couple of days.

CAN I SPEED UP THE REFUND PROCESS?

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Legend has it there was once a tax preparer who had a special phone that allowed him to reach a special being at the IRS. That being could grant 2 tax wishes. Why not 3, you ask? It was something to do with public sector cost to services ratio. But just like with any wish-granting entity, the IRS Djinn had a critical limitation. He simply could not speed up the refund process. Rumor has it he was fired for even trying, and he now works for an essential oils distributor.

 

The best thing you can do is avoid the kinds of errors that cause delays, and that has to be done on the front end. I know, that was a dirty, low-down, trick question, but it's true! Once your return has been filed, it's in the hands of a government agency that still uses dot-matrix printers with ink ribbons (you young whippersnappers might have to Google that one). We try to foresee every complication, but ultimately we are at the mercy of the information you provide. If you give us hand-written records, please make sure they are written clearly. If your 5s and 6s look almost identical (you know who you are), take the extra time to clear that up for us.

 

* Please do not call us unless you have checked the IRS website and waited at least 21 days. There is nothing we can do as the IRS will not take a call from either of us about your refund until a certain amount of time has elapsed.

THE IRS WEBSITE SAYS MY REFUND IS DELAYED. DOES THAT MEAN I AM BEING AUDITED?!

Crime Scene Investigation

No. It simply means that your return was selected for additional scrutiny. There is often a reason for the additional scrutiny, but it can also be completely random. Just write down everything the website says and follow the instructions.

 

Please keep in mind that this is usually no big deal and you did not necessarily do anything wrong. Here are a few examples of what has happened with real clients (I've changed their names to fictional characters from the book I'll never have time to write):

 

  • One client - we'll call her Sylvesta, Empress of the Valley People - she was getting the Earned Income Tax Credit and one of her qualifying children had a different last name. This can happen for all sorts of valid reasons. Nevertheless, because this can sometimes be an indicator of fraud or ID theft, the IRS selected Sylvesta's tax return for some extra questions. She faxed them a couple of documents and got her refund within a fortnight.

  • In another case, Lysander and Teagan of the Mountain Cleft Society adopted a special needs child. Because this qualifies them for the maximum adoption credit, it's an area that gets abused a lot. The IRS asked for some adoption paperwork, the clients faxed it to them, and then they got their refund before the new moon (about 3 weeks later).

In neither of these cases was the taxpayer at fault. However, because their tax situations were statistically similar to those used by some scallywags and ne'er-do-wells, the IRS selected them for slightly closer scrutiny. Most of the time, this closer scrutiny is the reason why your return is being delayed; and most of the time, these issues are resolved quickly and painlessly.

 

~ Filing Your Taxes ~

HOW DO I SCHEDULE AN OFFICE APPOINTMENT?

Organizing the Calendar

The easiest way is by visiting our "Actions" page from the site menu. You'll find an easy form you can submit for a callback from a VTS team member. Alternatively, you can email info@veritastaxes.com with "Appointment Request" in the subject line.

 

Appointments fill up quickly so please allow two to three weeks of planning. Seriously, you cannot contact us on March 29th and expect to pick a convenient day and time before April 15th. Also, if you know you won't have certain documents until a certain date, please don't schedule early and then tell us that you'll send your document when it comes in. That's called an "open loop." Open loops cause errors. We strive to get your tax return done at your appointment.

 

CAN I GET AN APPOINTMENT WITHOUT COMING TO THE OFFICE?

Brainstorming

Contact us the same way (above), but let us know you want us to file your return remotely because the process will be different.

  • We'll share a Google Drive folder with you. Put your documents in that folder.

  • There will be a TIP form in that folder. Fill it out as much as it applies to you.

  • Once your documents are in the shared folder, we we'll set you up with a "wrap-up" appointment block.

  • Binge a TV show, read a book, or work on your dance moves in the living room. But don't agree to a schedule that requires you to multitask.

  • Planned a high-speed chase? Reschedule.

  • Attending a foreign dignitary's dinner party and might be invited to a game of high-stakes poker. Reschedule.

  • In case the absurd humor takes away from the main point, this applies to being at church, the doctor's office, your child's sporting event or recital, etc. **Be available**

  • We will work on your tax return on our own time so that when we call, you should only have to answer a few quick questions and hear about the results of our work.

  • We email you some pages to sign, you sign and email them back, and then we e-file your return and send an invoice.

  • If for some reason you need to send your documents through the post office, please NEVER send originals. We do not intend to send them back to you. When we are finished, we intend to shred and burn them, then bury the ashes under a construction site in Botswana. Not really, but they will be shredded, because shredders are cool.

I AM MAILING / FAXING / EMAILING MY DOCUMENTS. WHAT SHOULD I SEND?

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Since every taxpayer's situation is different, and since the tax laws change constantly, any list we put up here would become obsolete very quickly, and we don't want to accidentally mislead you.

 

The tried and true list is: W2s, 1098s, 1099s, HSAs, and K-1s. Not everyone will have all of these, but if you have them, we need them.

 

Beyond those, here are some ideas to help you get started compiling what you need:

  • IRS.gov. That's right! The IRS Website is where WE look to answer this question as things change.

  • Any form you have received throughout the year that bore the helpful phrase, "Give this form to your tax preparer," or "Keep this form for tax filing purposes."

  • If you plan to take the "Standard Deduction," DO NOT send us a detailed list of expenses and donations.

  • If you plan to itemize instead of taking the "Standard Deduction," then we DO need a detailed list of expenses and donations.

  • Please exhaust the avenues and resources above before contacting us directly. If you still having questions after taking the steps above, feel free to contact us using any of the methods on the "Contact" page.

Also, if you're planning to use regular mail delivery...

  • Kittens. Please send us kittens.

  • For legal reasons, I have to say, "Please don't actually send kittens in the mail."

I HAVE A FACE-TO-FACE APPOINTMENT. WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?

Fresh Coffee

The tried and true short list is:

  • W2s,

  • 1098s,

  • 1099s,

  • Sense of Humor,

  • HSAs,

  • K-1s,

  • Some form of identification,

  • Cute pictures of your kids, grandkids, or pets,

  • Reports of Expenses and Contributions,

  • A random trivia game, garden produce, or a taxidermist.

 

Not everyone will have all of these, but if you do have them, we need them (except for the last one, of course. Taxidermy is a niche market, and we don't have much time for hunting). Also, this list is not comprehensive. Tax laws change, and not everyone has the same tax needs.

 

So, ergo, and therefore...

  • If the list above still leaves you in doubt, feel free to contact us and we will try to tell you if there is anything you're missing. 

  • Coffee. You actually CAN bring coffee to your appointment.

 

~ Extensions ~

SHOULD I REQUEST AN EXTENSION?

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If you are not able to file your individual tax return by APRIL 15th (or whatever ad hoc date the seats of power determine for a given year), you should probably request an extension.

 

When an extension is filed (requested by the taxpayer and accepted by the IRS), you have until OCTOBER 15th (or 6 months from the ad hoc deadline) to file your tax return before any "Late-Filing Penalties" or "Interest" begin to accrue. If you know for certain that you are receiving a refund, you do not necessarily need to file an extension (as there will not be any penalties or interest regardless of when you file) - but, we recommend requesting one anyway. Extensions push your filing deadline out (generally 6 months), which can be important for a number of reasons besides just avoiding Late-Filing Penalties.

 

To request an extension, please submit our handy form on the "Actions" page. If you are unable to use that form, you can send an email to info@veritastaxes.com with "Extension Request" in the subject line. Please be sure to include the following information if you use the email option:

  • Your full name as it appears on your Social Security card (same for your spouse, if applicable)

  • Your Social Security Number (same for your spouse, if applicable)

  • Your mailing address

  • Your phone number

  • (Optional) – Any amount you might want to pay with your extension.  Unless you are self-employed or usually owe taxes, this probably will not apply to you.

I OWE TAXES - BUT IF I FILE AN EXTENSION, I WON'T HAVE TO PAY PENALTIES AND INTEREST, RIGHT?

Invoices

Yes and no.

 

By requesting an extension postmarked (or e-filed) by April 15th, you may avoid Failure-To-FILE Penalties and the associated interest. That said, there is NO way to avoid Failure-To-PAY Penalties and interest. This is why we recommend that, if you know or suspect that you are going to owe taxes, you estimate your taxes owed and pay that amount when filing your extension.

 

If you aren't sure how much you will owe in taxes, we can help you estimate them. Just contact us. Of course, we stay pretty busy filing taxes, so if you need those estimates "like yesterday," then you should probably do a Google search for "free tax calculator." Remember, these are estimates.

If we filed your taxes the previous year, chances are we gave you estimated payment vouchers for this year, and we'll be happy to resend those to you by email if you can't find them or if your dog ate them.

While I'm on the subject of "the previous year," I should mention that we will gladly estimate tax payments for current clients in good standing. It's just one more service we offer to the folks that give us meaning. But we will not do this for people who are not current clients in good standing. If you're a visitor to this site, please enjoy the information and free sarcasm, but also accept our sincerest apologies that we simply cannot help you with much. We have all we can handle with our current list of extremely loyal clients. If you're a current client, and you think you might have an open invoice for services rendered, shoot us an email. We'll let you know. No hard feelings.

 

~ IRS Issues ~

I RECEIVED A LETTER FROM THE IRS. WHAT DO I DO?

Image by Kelly Sikkema

If you ever receive a letter from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

 

  1. READ IT.  Most IRS letters are only become scary after you've ignored them for 2 months. While it can be upsetting to see a letter from the IRS in your mailbox, most of the time it’s some mundane issue that you can handle yourself with a phone call.  Anything you can handle yourself saves you money that you would otherwise have to pay to someone else.

  2. FAX or EMAIL it to our office and THEN call us.  PLEASE don’t call us before you send us the letter you received!  Unless we can see the letter for ourselves, we can’t tell you what the IRS wants.

There are a couple of letters that are very common:

 

One is the protection from identity fraud letter. This is NOT because of something you did wrong. It's usually from the state tax commission of the state you worked in most recently (if you earned wages in multiple states, you might get one of these from any of those). Just follow the instructions. They want you to verify your wages and withholdings. That means they want copies of your income statements for the state in question. Those are W2s, 1099s, K-1s, etc. They might want a copy of your Federal Tax Return, including all schedules. All you have to do is follow the instructions in the letter and send in what they want. We cannot do this for you because it's about identity fraud. We are not you, and we cannot pretend to be you, especially when doing so would confirm that someone besides you is sending them information they've asked you to send.

 

Another common one is the "balance due" letter. This doesn't necessarily mean that you did something wrong, although it might. The fact is, the IRS has to assume you are innocent until they can prove wrongdoing (this is America). And by that I mean, they have to prove that what you did was not simply a mistake. Mistakes are the most common reason for this letter. Did you have a credit card debt forgiven and forget to put it on your return? If so, and if you've already either paid taxes or received a refund based on this error, you'll get one of these letters. Did you forget what year it was and claim a child you weren't supposed to claim. It's okay. If you really owe what they say, then pay it. If you think the IRS is in the wrong, let them know in your response. What you don't want to do is argue that you are right when you know you aren't. That turns your innocent mistake into intentional fraud.

 

In general, you don't need us for either of these letters. The only help we can give you on the identity fraud letter is copies of what you sent us, if you sent us anything, and we don't keep those past the end of the season. All we can do about the "balance due" letter is amend your tax return with information you didn't give us (or someone else) the first time. For that, you'll need an appointment, and we very rarely do amendments during the regular tax season. If the stars have aligned and a snowball has actually survived the underworld - you know, if WE made an error on your return - we will handle it for free and as quickly as possible.

WHY AM I BEING AUDITED?!

Outer Space

It’s hard to say for sure. The IRS examination selection process is sometimes random. Most of the time, however, it’s caused by an “unusual” situation on your tax return. It’s not an accusation of wrongdoing. It is simply the IRS saying, “We noticed that your tax return was unusual in some ways. We would like you to clarify some things for us.” Here are a couple of examples:

 

  • Admiral Buckeye from Fleet Command is also a self-employed real estate salesman. He earned 15,000 Imperial Credits in commissions, and he travelled 28,000 star fathoms for business during the year (that's 24,562,010,337,000 miles). All of the above might be true, yet this return has a higher than usual chance of being audited. The reason is that the mileage is unusually high for the amount of commissions Buckeye received. There are plenty of valid reasons why this might have been the case. In Buckeye's situation, he covered 2 star systems to obtain new listings, which led to very high mileage.  At the same time, several closings fell through and he had a bad year with commissions. Everything is true - and for Buckeye, the truth he submitted was also not what the IRS normally sees. In this case the IRS would want some sort of documentation proving his mileage and commission income.

  • Yarven, a probe miner at the smallest moon colony on Ganymede, sold some stocks back in 2214.  Her broker reported the basis of the stocks incorrectly on Form 1099-B (which can happen for several reasons). When filing her taxes, Yarven reported the correct basis on her Schedule D. This return has a higher than usual chance of being audited because most of the time, broker calculations of basis are correct. The fact that Yarven was correct in this case is unusual, and the IRS might decide to examine the return to determine if Yarven’s basis calculation was accurate. In this case the IRS would probably want historical stock prices along with documentation showing how she initially obtained the stock.

I'M BEING AUDITED. CAN VERITAS REPRESENT ME WITH THE IRS?

Helping Hand

Yes we can! At Veritas we often represent our clients when they get audited. However, please keep the following in mind:

 

  • The cost of representing you in an examination (audit) is completely separate from the fee you paid us to prepare your return. The vast majority of tax returns are accepted as filed. Occasionally, and for many reasons - including those noted above - a taxpayer’s return is selected for examination. Unless the audit is the result of a math error or a preparer error, we charge a standard hourly rate for IRS representation.

  • If the error was on us, that doesn't mean you don't owe what IRS says. It means we swapped some numbers accidentally and the IRS is right. Most likely, we'll amend your return for free and take whatever hellfire the Fed reserves for tax preppers that screw up. But if the IRS is correct, the fact that we screwed up does not relieve you of your civic responsibility as a taxpayer. They still want what's due, and it's still yours to pay.

  • You can keep the cost of representation down (and prevent the chance of an examination altogether) by maintaining good documentation and final records. The less time and money you need to spend putting this information together, the cheaper and quicker your audit will be.

  • You can keep the cost of an examination down by doing much of the work yourself. Most audits are pretty straightforward. The IRS will let you know what they want you to prove. If you need to add up receipts for business meals, your calculator works just as well as ours does. The more ground work you are willing to perform, the less time we will have to charge you for.

  • Lastly, we reserve the right to refuse to represent anyone for any reason. Bear in mind that this rarely happens.

When we do have to decline to be a taxpayer’s representative, it is usually because of one of the following reasons:

  • Unfeasibility. Given time constraints, the number of ongoing cases, or the general scope of the audit, we may have doubts that we can represent you effectively. Some examinations are quite comprehensive. Because we want to make sure that we perform our best work for all of our clients, we will occasionally decline an examination with short deadlines that begins during a tax season. We can't perform our best work for you if we're trying to "squeeze you in" between client appointments, or if we feel that you would be better represented by an attorney or other agency.

  • Unsuitability. When we prepare your taxes, we generally take you at your word regarding most deductions and other tax attributes. If in the course of an examination, it becomes clear that a taxpayer hasn’t been truthful with us regarding information on their tax return, we generally refuse to represent that taxpayer before the IRS.

  • Bad Faith. As mentioned above, we take taxpayers at their word unless we have reason to believe that we shouldn't. That is, we give you the benefit of the doubt - we assume that you are a decent person and that you're doing your best. We at Veritas expect the same courtesy. We understand that audits are stressful. However, when a taxpayer treats one of our staff members with belligerence, hostility, or verbal abuse, we generally refuse to continue to provide services for that taxpayer. Just remember to take a deep breath and that we are all on the same team!