The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) on March 11 offered a tax season briefing on Capitol Hill for House and Senate staff so that they would be better prepared to answer tax filing questions from constituents.
Kristin Esposito, CPA and Eileen Sherr, CPA, senior technical managers on the AICPA tax staff, explained the significant new changes for tax year 2014 and described the problems taxpayers are encountering with tax return identity theft and tax scams. They identified steps that taxpayers can take to protect themselves and what to do when someone is a victim of tax ID theft or a tax scam.
Eileen Sherr, CPA, left, and Kristin Esposito, CPA
photo: Sam Kittner/ kittner.com
Sherr kicked off the briefing with information about basic tax terms and calculations and a discussion about areas of the tax code that taxpayers find especially difficult to understand that might lead to questions from constituents; for example, education credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit, charitable contributions, the Alternative Minimum Tax, provisions pertaining to self-employed individuals or small business owners and the rules governing dependents. She also reminded the staffers that taxpayers can cut their tax bill by using education and retirement savings tax breaks and flexible spending accounts.
Esposito led the attendees through an explanation of the health insurance information filing requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act. She explained what minimum essential coverage is and is not, the types of exemptions, who qualifies, how to obtain an exemption and how to report the exemption on the tax return, and who is responsible for paying the individual shared responsibility penalty. She cautioned the staffers that the penalty for not having minimum essential coverage increases for 2015 and 2016. In addition, she discussed the Premium Tax Credit, which is available to eligible taxpayers to help defray the cost of the health insurance they obtained through the Health Insurance Marketplace. For their small business owner constituents, Esposito reminded the Hill staffers about the Small Business Health Options Program, which offers a health care tax credit to qualified small businesses.
The attendees included representatives from Democrat and Republican U.S. House of Representatives and Senate offices. They asked a number of questions related to inquiries they have received from constituents and about their own tax returns.
This is the fourth year the AICPA has offered the free program.