Public Insight Network

Harried accountants rush to meet IRS deadline

Mercy San Miguel knew Monday would be rough, so she arranged chair massages for her staff and settled in for a busy day.

After putting in long hours, a difficult tax season reached an important deadline for San Miguel on April 15, the date individual tax returns had to be filed, or payments sent and an extension requested.

“This has been the worst year ever, because the IRS took three weeks to put out certain forms,” said San Miguel, a certified public accountant whose office is in Coral Gables.

As a result of the Internal Revenue Service’s delay, certified public accountants got behind in their work, she said. “They said they will be lenient on penalties and interest, but that doesn’t help us to try to meet April 15.”

In fact, the 2012 tax year’s filing season started out with a late kickoff on Jan. 30, eight days after its originally scheduled date, said Michael Dobzinski, IRS media relations specialist for Florida.

Then, because of legislative changes, four forms had to be updated and were not ready until middle or late February, he said. That included forms for residential energy credits, depreciation of property, general business credits and educational credits.

Individual filers, as well as businesses, were affected because small businesses that qualify as S corporations or partnerships have their income flow through to the owners’ individual tax returns.

“The first big deadline for accountants is March 15 for businesses, so there’s a crunch to do that, and that had more extensions than ever,” said San Miguel, who is treasurer of the South Dade Board of the Florida Institute of CPAs.

Next came the April 15 deadline.

This tax season, San Miguel is completing 100 personal and 90 business returns – for everyone from retirees with $20,000 in annual income to millionaires. An early riser, she has worked from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays for the past couple of weeks to get it all done.

Another issue also caused headaches, San Miguel said. Some brokerage houses gave their clients end-of-year statements, and then sent corrected statements a couple of weeks later.

“If you already did the return, then you have to do an amended return, and that is super frustrating,” she said.

As of April 5, the latest date that information is available, 96,573,000 returns had been filed nationwide, down 3.4 percent from 99,979,000 filed as of that date last year, said Dobzinski, citing the late start of the tax season and the delay of the forms.

But on Brickell Avenue in Miami, Dana Kaufman, a certified public accountant who heads a practice with three other CPAs, seemed to have everything under control Monday.

“Today is making sure the extensions get filed and payments get made so our clients are penalty-proofed,” said Kaufman, president of Kaufman and Co., which handles several hundred tax returns, including those for businesses and their owners.

He also noted the IRS delay.

“We got a little bit of a late start, but we have it pretty much down to a science here, and we will put a lot of clients on extension and make payment so we don’t make mistakes,” he said.

Still, Kaufman said he has been working longer hours because of the late start.

“You got a break at the beginning of the year,” he said, “but now you have to make up for it at the end.”

For certified public accountant Arnold Slotkin, the filing season’s woes have put a real strain on his clients, some of whom he has worked with for 50 years.

“It’s been a ridiculously bad season, I think for all accountants, because it started so late, and in my case because I am 84 and most of my clients are older, it’s worst, because my clients are not computer savvy,” said Slotkin, who lives in Hollywood and has an office in Miami Beach. “They get confused by electronic filing.”

Slotkin figures that of 100 returns he will complete, 16 will be extended — which is double the usual amount.

“It’s stressing out the elderly something awful,” he said. “My clients are really very confused, and that is sad.”

At the IRS, Dobzinski said it remains to be seen if more filers, overall, will extend their filings this year.

In Florida, a total of 10 million returns will be filed, and 870,000 are expected to ask for extensions, he said.

“In spite of a getting a little late start in the filing season,” he said Monday afternoon, “we are pleased with the way the returns are coming in so far.”

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