H & R Block agents have received 'empathy training' to take care of people who are upset by lower tax refunds or surprise tax bills


Some tax preparers are duplicating as therapists in this tax season, reassuring clients who are appalled to realize they will get a lower tax refund – or worse, they will receive Unexpected tax bills.

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puts forward 30 hours of training before filing tax returns to ensure their effectiveness – and the law on tax cuts and employment passed by Congress at the end of 2017 was already giving them a lot of work to do by cutting many deductions and modifying the restraint tables.

But this year, agents also followed an "empathy training," which includes a "surprise repayment training module" to guide their responses to customers shocked or upset by a refund of money. reduced tax or a surprise tax bill, said the service at MarketWatch. For example, the new training included a scenario in which a client who had received a $ 1,500 refund last year had learned that she owed $ 575 this year because she had not adjusted her source deductions under new tax laws.

"Imagine how you would feel if you saw a very big tax bill; you are not indebted for money and now you owe $ 1,500. And few people have seen it, "said Susan Waldron, director of communications for H & R Block. "An officer might say," I know you're not used to the money from the IRS. Let's discuss options that can help. "Many people do not realize that the IRS has payment plans and we can help people get settled."

Or in the case of a smaller refund, agents are advised to say something like, "The smallest repayment could be a shock this year, and I understand that, but the good news is that this money was actually in your salary and you had the use of this money throughout the year, "added Waldron. Then, agents can give instructions on changing W4 payroll deductions to get more tax on your paychecks if you wish. make want to get a lump sum refund next year.

And many taxpayers end up in these positions, since the first group of refunds counted up to February 1st decreased by 8.4% over last year, averaging $ 1,865 compared to last year. $ 2,035 for the same period last year, reported the IRS. "The updated federal tax withholding tables, released in early 2018, largely reflected lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction resulting from the new law," writes the IRS in a statement. "This usually meant that taxpayers had less withholding taxes in 2018 and were seeing more in their paychecks."

Do not miss: the tax season starts with repayments lower by 8%

However, losing certain deductions under the Congress Tax and Abatement Act at the end of 2017 – such as personal deductions, job search deductions and Moving expenses and travel expenses – has also hit many people hard, even though the standard deduction and the child tax credit increased. The Government Accountability Office expects about 4.6 million fewer tax filers to get a tax refund this season, and another 4.6 million will likely need money that has never experienced this experience. So furious taxpayers share their stories on social media in such themes as #neverowedbefore, #taxstory and #GOPtaxscamstories.

And accountants are on the front line, answering the questions and concerns of taxpayers who do not understand what happened to their usual repayments.

Nathan Rigney, senior tax research analyst and tax refund preparer at H & R Block, told MarketWatch that he found a lot of confusion among clients. He therefore demonstrates listening and fiscal discernment. "When you complete your tax return, you share a lot of personal information about your life. [getting married or divorced, having children, deaths in the family, losing or switching jobs, etc.] then you have long conversations, "he said. "You advise them … it's not like you're just mechanical and you say," OK, that's how something affects your tax liability. "You usually feel a lot of empathy for the client."

Ted Greenberg, a CPA in New York, said his office was spending more time reviewing customer statements this year and comparing their taxable income, withholding taxes and deductions from 2017 to changes made in 2018 under of the new law. "We explain tax returns in more detail, explain the rules to people and explain what is no longer considered a deduction," he said.

And Arthur J. DaPonte, head of audit at Raich Ende Malter & Co. LLP, said his firm had also "budgeted an increase in the time needed to prepare the statements, as well as to explain some of the changes and the new tax structure for business owners, "he told MarketWatch. "We hired more people and put in place different types of skills to handle these changes."

TaxSlayer agents also had "rigorous training" before the tax season "to guide customers through these changes," Molly Richardson, Director of Strategic Communications at TaxSlayer, told MarketWatch. And last year, they also launched a major online information campaign to explain the impact of the new tax codes on some customers and advise them to check whether they applied a sufficient withholding tax. "We've posted a lot of content on our website and on our blog to provide accessible articles and resources that customers could read and prepare in advance," Richardson said.

H & R Block also published a number of taxpayer information guides last year. According to Waldron, traffic on their site increased by 30% year-over-year in October. "People do not usually think about taxes until January," she said. "We were really surprised to see people doing research on things like child tax credit in the fall."

But customer service training can only withstand the impact of an unexpected tax bill. Michelle, a mother of two from Long Island who asked to keep her last name, was taken aback when her accountant revealed that she and her husband owed $ 3,000 this year, the first time that They owed to the IRS after receiving $ 8,000 last year. "He was nice to that and offered us a cup of coffee," she said. "But I feel that if he was really nice, he would not have charged us $ 550 to prepare our taxes."

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