Tax season stress wanes

Published 6:21 pm Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Now that tax season is over, citizens and accountants can breathe a collective sigh of relief. That is, until their state and federal refunds are deposited.

As April 15 reared its ugly head around the corner, people scurried to finish up, some even requesting extensions.

Roy Burnett, manager of Clanton Accounting and Tax Service, said the stress level was off the charts this year as the deadline approached. Even if people asked for extensions, he said he didn’t think it helped but rather only delayed the process. He said he’s enjoyed it, though, because he’s a people person.

Burnett said he continues to notice that people refuse to educate themselves on tax laws, causing them to hire professionals to help them, which certainly doesn’t bother him or his colleagues.

“Some people have their paperwork in better shape than others,” he said. “They depend on tax people like us. They’re not educating themselves on tax laws, and they’re depending on us to do it all. But we believe in spending time with our clients and giving them personal services where we sit down with them to discuss it and figure out the best way to do things.”

Kelly Ellison, an accounting manager and CPA at HH Accounting Service in Calera, said her office had a very busy season but not as much stress thanks to collaborative efforts from a good staff.

She said her office often worked long hours, sometimes extending well past 10 p.m. after they closed and on Saturdays when they were open for the busy season.

“Stress is just part of it,” Ellison said. “You have to expect to work long hours this time of season. Our staffing is at a good level.”

She said federal refunds were higher than usual this year and that state refunds are taking longer to come back than some might have anticipated.

To avoid paying extra to hire a professional to handle their taxes, some people opt to purchase online tax resources, such as Turbo Tax, to walk them through the process.

But instead of educating themselves on tax laws and finding the right documentation, some come up short by hoping the online service simply does it all for them.

“Quite a few people who had used Turbo Tax weren’t as comfortable with it,” Ellison said. “Every time they tried, something went wrong. People are assuming they can just go to Wal-Mart, buy the software and do it, but it doesn’t catch everything.”

She singled out a pair of cases that made for considerable monetary differences in the preparation. She said she saw one $700 difference and another for $3,500.

She said while more people are trying to file their taxes themselves, many who tried the online format last year brought their business to her office after failed attempts.

Making the process easier for her frazzled clients might make for a busier season for her office, but Ellison said the season was smooth overall.

“It went by quickly this year,” she said. “You’ve got to love it to do it. We were well-staffed.”