Friday at the tax center

I was back to the tax center on Friday, after taking a break for Boskone, and got immediately plunged into a whirlwind of interesting tax situations.

The first customer wanted to file an amended return for last year because when she’d come in last week to do her 2013 return she learned about the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker Credit. This is a lovely arrangement we have in Massachusetts for low and moderate income seniors where if their local property tax is more than 10% of their income, the state gives them a tax credit. This makes so much sense in helping keep elders in their homes and out of subsidized housing. But she hadn’t known about it and hadn’t claimed it in 2012. So I got to learn about how to get into last year’s data, and how to file an amended return. And got the lovely lady a nice refund, which was a great way to start the afternoon.

Then I handled a simple single man with one W2. How often does that happen?

Then we had a divorced couple who were still living together and the guy was paying child support, but the mother was claiming the child as her exemption, so we had to explain that he could neither take the child as an exemption or deduct his child support. (I got help from our resident CPA on that one, just to be sure.) This guy was Spanish-speaking, with a little English, but he had brought his grown daughter along to help translate. Both were lovely people and very grateful to get the help. The daughter clearly wanted to learn how to do taxes herself and followed everything carefully.

Then the opposite situation – two unmarried people living together with their kids. They initially both wanted to claim Head of Household, each with one child. That is not allowed in the rules if they’re living at the same address. So then we went through a calculation to figure out which one would get the better Earned Income Credit for the kids. It looked like the woman, who had the lower income, would get nearly $5000, $700 more than the man would get. But then it turned out that neither had a social security number – they were working under ITINs. An ITIN is a tax identification number for non-citizen that are not eligible for a social security number. And people with ITINs aren’t eligible for the Earned Income Credit. So that was disappointing. All three of us were working on that one couple together, but it still took us 30 minutes past the nominal shift end point to get them sorted out.

I’m still hoping that eventually some of this stuff will seem routine. But right now, just about every client is a new challenge. Thank goodness we have a CPA working with us on our shift.