Agency News & Updates

New Client Question: “Do you file married filing joint returns for same sex couples?”

Absolutely. Married filing joint returns can and will be filed for any couples who are legally married (same or different sex). The Gray Agency does not discriminate on the basis of anything: race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, income level, political affiliation. Nothing. The only returns we refuse to file are those for people who refuse to provide accurate information and/or payment. We welcome your business and are happily accepting new clients.

New Client Question: “How much do you charge?”

My post on choosing a #taxpro mentions that price should not normally be one of your top five questions. Still, I recognize that people want to have at least some idea of what they will be charged for return preparation. The problem is that it is extremely difficult to estimate charges without at least seeing last year’s return. My fees are based on a set price for a Form 1040 and then an additional fee for each additional form or schedule required. If I don’t know the forms and schedules you will need, it is hard to give an accurate estimate. Even if I have last year’s return to make a more accurate estimate, changes in your tax situation or in, for example, IRS due diligence requirements for certain tax credits means that you may need to file forms that weren’t necessary last year. Occasionally your tax situation changes in your favor and forms that were required the previous year (maybe you were able to itemize deductions or maybe you had some capital gains or losses) aren’t required this year.

My last post mentioned a 4+ hour trip “down the rabbit hole” doing due diligence for a client with a political campaign. Preparing an accurate return and working to ensure that you are in tax compliance (that is actively working to prevent ‘nasty surprises’) sometimes means that estimates (no matter how carefully they are created) don’t always conform to the reality of a given situation. The longer you work with your chosen #taxpro the easier it is to get an accurate estimate. I encourage my clients to call during the year with questions. A certain amount of basic Q&A is built into the cost of your tax return preparation fee and if your questions get more complicated, I will always warn you that you are straying into “billable hours” territory before we proceed. Usually if we stray into that territory I will ask you to make an appointment to come in for a consultation that is billed at an hourly rate.

If you landed here simply wondering how much The Gray Agency charges for return preparation, please call one of the offices for more information. I can assure you that we work hard to keep our prices within the average in the areas we’re serving (Albuquerque, NM and Nye County, NV) and that we are committed to providing value for your return preparation dollar.

Remember, the lowest bidder is not always your best option. When choosing a #taxpro, choose wisely, choose well.

Why We Are Not “While you Wait” #TaxPros

The complexity of the tax code and the uniqueness of each client’s circumstances are why I don’t prepare your tax return while you are in the office. If I had a quarter for every time someone called with a “quick question” or said “my taxes are really simple” I could probably retire (not that I want to). If you’ve ever called me with a “quick question” you’ll know that most of the time my answer is either “Off the top of my head I’d say this, but let me do some more checking and call you back.” or “I’ll have to run the numbers and call you back.” Truth is, in general, there are no quick questions. The tax code is complex and highly dependent on individual facts and circumstances—not to mention actual numbers. Just because a friend or relative or neighbor got this or that credit or deduction doesn’t necessarily mean that you get that credit or deduction too. Even if you think you are in similar financial circumstances you may not be. It never hurts to ask of course and our offices welcome your questions, but we may not always be able to give the answer you are hoping to or expect to receive.

When it comes to answering your questions and preparing your tax return, I like to ensure that we have a chance to enter all the data; review the numbers, your situation from last year, any new information, and this year’s return; and prepare a list of our own questions if necessary. To do this requires a great deal of focus and, I’ll admit, I just don’t have the focus I need when I have an audience (and neither does Anna). On more complex returns we like to set the return aside and review it a day or two later just to make sure we have thoroughly considered all of the circumstances and haven’t missed anything. We also like to spend some time just talking with you each year and maybe planning for next year and it’s easier to do that when we’re not trying to work at the same time. That’s why we offer you an appointment to come in and review your return and sign it. Of course if you would rather skip the appointment (and the chitchat) that’s OK too. Occasionally, Anna (in the Tonopah office) will do a “while you wait” return for a returning client with an extremely simple 1040 or a 1040-EZ, but that is the exception, not the rule, and it is solely at her discretion.

Returns prepared in the office must be mailed in, uploaded, or dropped off at the office. If you are a returning client and would like some time to review the information in the organizer when you bring it in (or after we have received it) we can consult with you in the office for an additional charge. New clients are asked to come in for a (free) intake interview for identity verification and a brief document review. All clients should be aware that there are many questions I cannot answer until I have had a chance to enter the data into my software and review the results.

As always, our goal when preparing your tax returns is to give you the highest quality service while maintaining reasonable prices. Our office processes and policies help us to do that. We are committed to building long-term relationships with our tax clients and appreciate your business and your referrals. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your business in past years and for coming to us in the 2017 filing season.

Looking for a #TaxPro? Both offices are accepting new clients.

The IRS will begin accepting e-filed returns on January 23, 2017. This season’s filing deadline is April 17, 2017. Both offices (Albuquerque, NM and Tonopah, NV) are accepting new clients for the 2017 filing season.

If you need a #taxpro in central or rural Nevada, contact Anna in the Tonopah office. Please note that the Tonopah office prepares only individual returns. Return preparation includes all associated schedules including Schedules C (business income), E (rental income), and F (farm income). If you need to file a Form 1065 for a partnership or an LLC or a Form 1120-S for an S-corporation your return will be prepared by me (Amber) in the Albuquerque office. I am happy to accept business clients from Nevada or other states outside of New Mexico, but I do require a rather extensive client interview before accepting new business tax preparation clients.

2016 Tax Organizers – How to Get One and What to Do with It

The first step in the return preparation process is to request a 2016 Tax Organizer. The tax organizer includes an introductory letter that explains what’s in the packet, a copy of our engagement letter (for you to sign and date), our privacy policy (for you to sign and date), and a questionnaire and supplemental information to help you collect the documents and information you need for us to prepare your federal and state tax returns.

We encourage new and returning clients to use our secure file portal to send and receive documents. The secure file portal is easy to use, only a username and password are required to set up your account (not your whole life story). If you have ever downloaded a bank statement, W2, 1099, or information from your healthcare provider or insurance company you can do this. We use the same type of system and it meets the same level of security compliance that is required of banks and brokerage firms (e.g., it’s highly secure if you use a good strong password and change that password annually). The file portal helps us to meet our security compliance requirements and helps us to keep costs down (which helps us keep our prices competitive). We will also e-mail you a blank organizer or send you one via U.S. Postal Service (snail mail) at your request.

Once you get your organizer, review the engagement letter carefully and sign and date it. Do the same for the privacy policy. If you have any questions about the engagement letter or the privacy policy, please call or e-mail us and we’ll be happy to answer them for you. Complete the questionnaire and use the additional information to help you collect your thoughts, documents, and supporting information. If you have any questions or want to bring something to our attention, simply write it directly on the questionnaire. When everything is ready to go, it’s ready to be returned to our office for processing.

You may return your information by U.S. mail (or another courier service), by scanning and uploading it to the secure file portal, or by bringing it to the office. For the 2017 filing season only, in addition to the West Side office, the Nob Hill office is available for you to drop off documents. Business hours at the Nob Hill office are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also use the outside mail slot to drop your documents after hours at the Nob Hill office only but please be sure to use a sealed envelope and to write The Gray Agency/Amber on the envelope. There are two businesses with “Gray” in the name at the Nob Hill Executive Center so be sure yours gets to me! Please note that we do not begin processing returns until we have your signed engagement letter, so don’t forget to include it with your other tax documents!

Returning Clients: You may bring your documents to the office during business hours but, as noted in the last post, we are no longer offering a free document intake appointment for returning clients. In part, this helps to increase office efficiency so that we can continue to accept new clients while also keeping prices reasonable. But, to tell the truth, part of the reason I am doing this is that I find it hard to discuss your return intelligently before I’ve had a chance to take a look at it. So I like to get the data entry done, take a look at the numbers, and then review your questions (which is why I ask you to write them on the organizer) and then reach out to you via phone or e-mail for additional discussion. If you must see me when you return your organizer, there will be a $42 surcharge (plus NM-GRT) added to your bill (and I probably won’t have any good answers to your questions beyond “I’ll need to run the numbers and/or do some more research.”).

New Clients:  When you have everything ready, please call the office to set up an intake appointment. As a rule, I like to do intake appointments in person in my office when you are returning your organizer (or via Skype for new out of town or out of state clients who return their organizers by mail or upload). In rare cases, I will arrange a meeting at your home or someplace other than my office, but these visits are subject to a surcharge. This initial meeting gives us a chance to meet and go over your situation and concerns. It’s part of what you get (or what I think you should get) when you pay a professional to prepare your tax return. I’m looking to build long-term client relationships and you are entrusting me with your entire financial identity, so it’s important that we meet face to face at least once. Best practices require that I verify the identification of all new clients (even if I know you, I have to check the box). Consequently, at your appointment I will need to see a state-issued driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID and a Social Security card for both the taxpayer and spouse. For any dependents claimed on the return I will need to see a Social Security card and a birth certificate. If you do not have or cannot locate these documents before your intake interview please call or e-mail the office and we can discuss acceptable substitutes.

Your organizer is date stamped when we receive it in the office and returns are processed on a first in, first out basis.

Intake Appointments and Home Visits 1

Starting this year document intake appointments will be provided for free to new clients only. In past years all clients were able to meet with me twice during tax season (once when dropping off their documents and once when reviewing their return) and both appointments were included as part of the return preparation fee. This year returning clients who wish to have an intake appointment (to meet with me) rather than simply completing and returning the organizer and their tax documents (by dropping them off at the West Side or Nob Hill office, by mail/courier, or by secure file upload) will incur a $42 surcharge.

In general, I expect all clients to return their organizers and tax documents to me at the office via mail/courier, by hand, or by secure file upload. I also expect all clients to come to the office for return review and signature when the return is completed. In rare cases I or a staff member may pick up documents at your home or another location and I may come to your home or another location to review your return and get your signature. Beginning this year, home visits may be subject to a $10-$25 surcharge. Please remember, home visits are a rare exception and are not provided/scheduled simply because it is inconvenient for you to come to the office. If you do not wish to come to the office, we can always process your return using mail/courier or secure file upload for no additional charge.

I did not make these changes in process and pricing lightly. It is necessary to ensure that all clients receive quality service, value for their money, and to ensure that I am able to provide adequate attention to each client’s return and enough time for a full review of each return at your signature appointment. If you have questions please call the office at 505-352-0058 and someone will be happy to speak with you.

Happy New Year!

While today is a bank and work holiday for many of you, I’m here at the Albuquerque office gearing up for the 2017 tax season. I and the government have many changes in store for you this year. In addition to the new office location, I have hired some additional administrative staff to help with the phones, etc. I expect the admin staff to be here full time during tax season and part time the rest of the year. So be on the lookout for new faces (and names and voices)! I’m also implementing some changes to our office processes to make good use of the admin staff’s time, to keep prices reasonable, and to ensure that the office remains in compliance with applicable state and federal laws as well as best practices for tax offices. I’ll be posting specific updates on some of the most important changes over the next several weeks (while you’re collecting your documents).

Finally, reminder postcards will be mailed on January 10th. The postcards are your signal that we are ready to send organizers and schedule appointments.

I am looking forward to preparing your 2016 tax returns and to seeing all of you again this year!

I’ve Moved!

The Albuquerque Office has moved from Nob Hill to the West Side. The new address is 5300 Sequoia Rd NW, Suite 205. Coors & Sequoia. I realize that coming to this office may feel like visiting “the outer limits” to some of you, but it is doing WONDERS for my carbon footprint. I can walk or bike here from my house.

Deadlines are looming!

You may or may not know that this year tax day is April 18th. Between the extra three days in April and this being a leap year there are four more days than we usually have during tax season.

Have you made your appointment/dropped off your documents yet? You might want to do that. This year we are imposing either a $75 “priority processing fee” for initial document drop-offs that occur after March 31st (if you’ve already dropped off most of your stuff but are waiting on a K1 this does not apply to you). If you don’t want to pay that, you can pay a $25 fee to have us file an extension. That doesn’t mean your return won’t be done on time or shortly thereafter, it just means we expect to have to file an extension. If we don’t have to file it, the $25 fee will be applied to your bill.

If you are a new client coming in after March 31st, expect to be extended. We do not like to rush new client returns.

So if you have been procrastinating about bringing in or uploading your documents, it’s time to stop and “git ‘er done!”

Albuquerque clients, please note that I will be unavailable for appointments the week of March 28th. I will be working in Nevada. So you have two weeks to get your docs in if you want to avoid additional charges.

New This Year!

  • Tax clients at both offices can now pay for their returns using debit or credit cards.
  • Tax clients now have the option to access a secure file portal for uploading and downloading documents.
  • Insurance clients can use the links on the insurance page to make online payments to their policy providers.
  • We have a new newsletter that will be e-mailed once a month. The newsletter will contain information about income tax and insurance issues as well as more general tips for money management and personal and small business financial issues. Click here and scroll down to opt-in to the mailing list. We won’t sell or otherwise distribute your information and you may unsubscribe at any time.