Tax talk: Clients’ hot topics this season

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As tax season winds down, preparers are reporting that clients talked about just a few subjects this year -- but they talked about them a lot.

“Two things: what’s going to happen with health care and what’s going to happen with taxes,” said Laurie Ziegler, an Enrolled Agent with Sass Accounting, in Saukville, Wis.

“President Trump and politics seem to be the topic of discussion,” said EA Joel Grandon in Marion, Iowa. “This typically shifts to anticipated tax reform once they realize I’m not going to discuss the political climate for long.”

‘The frustrated’

Some topics were also more specific to location. “Most clients are talking about how angry their friends are at the delay in refunds,” said Enrolled Agent Jennifer Brown of Implex Tax & Accounting, in Clearfield, Utah. “Federal held some until Feb. 15, and Utah held all refunds until March 1.”

“I think taxpayers are jaded when it comes down to refund delays in the beginning of tax season,” said Theodore Prioleau, an EA at Parkton, Md.-based Teddy The Tax Man. “It’s been happening seemingly every year for about 10 or 11 years, so there weren't that many complaints regarding the delay this year. The frustrated taxpayers – a.k.a., the ones not receiving refunds – are wishing that the current administration would do away with the IRS.”

Healthy curiosity

The collapse of the Republican health-care bill last month seemed to cap a season’s worth of clients’ questions about the ACA and its tax implications.

“I have clients asking about the ACA and how they can’t afford the rate increases,” said Trish Evenstad, an EA at Evenstad Tax Service, Westby, Wis. “They want to know what is going to happen to it and if it is actually going to be repealed or fixed.”

“Support for the ACA is not very strong in my practice,” Grandon said. “Most people want some type of health-care reform, but few want it to be mandatory that you cover yourself.”

‘A better deal for themselves’

The president has hinted that his long-awaited tax reform plan will stress job creation and economic growth and that controlling costs may not be Trump’s primary concern. A recent survey by the University of Maryland Program for Public Consultation showed that most Americans preferred reform that increased revenue and didn’t raise the national deficit.

The majority, representing both Republican and Democratic respondents, also preferred raising taxes on high earners and raising the estate tax, among other moves.

Clients have frequently asked preparers to pinpoint future changes. “I tell them that I don’t expect anything big to happen in the short term,” Ziegler said. “I’d be surprised if anything much changes for 2017, except for maybe those items that are still extended to get extended longer.”

“Many are hopeful to see meaningful tax reforms. The type of tax reform they want greatly varies by age and income level,” Grandon said. “Those with dependent children want more help with daycare costs and child tax credits. Those in retirement want tax breaks for investments. Everybody wants a better deal for themselves.”

One safe response: Stay tuned. “I tell them that as things are finalized, I’ll be updating through newsletter and social media,” Brown said.

Said Helen O’Planick, an EA at HELJAN Associates in Manchester, Pa., “I’m telling them … we will discuss it as it happens.”

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