As I've mentioned on more than one occasion, tax season for me carries all the enjoyment of a two-hour MRI. True to form, this year was no different - exacerbated by the fact that the national payroll vendor that my wife's company employs was apparently unaware of the correct rate at which bonuses received in the state of Connecticut are to be taxed. As a result, you can imagine my surprise when my preparer delivered our completed returns. I couldn't have taken a Lear jet to get a refund.For chain tax preparers, the 2006 season hasn't been too cheery either. Last month the Government Accountability Office released a limited, but nevertheless troubling, study of myriad errors unearthed on federal returns.

The GAO sent undercover staffers to 19 offices of unidentified chain preparers in a major metropolitan area. I won't list all the errors the GAO found here, but several of them were glaring enough to have the investigative arm of Congress classify them as "serious." These ran the gamut from cash income disclosed by the investigator but not noted in the return, to discrepancies in child-care benefit deductions, not claiming all available deductions and overcharging a customer for having to redo a return.

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