The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) on March 7 presented a tax season briefing on Capitol Hill for House and Senate staff in order to help the staffers prepare to answer tax filing questions from constituents.
Eileen Sherr, CPA, and Amy Wang, CPA, senior technical managers on the AICPA tax policy and advocacy staff, outlined tax changes for the 2015 tax filing season and emphasized the hazards posed to taxpayers by tax ID theft, tax refund fraud and tax scams, as well as the AICPA’s recommendations to help halt tax ID theft. They also described steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves and what to do when someone is a victim of tax ID theft or a tax scam.
Sherr and Wang covered topics that regularly lead to constituent questions, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the education and child care credits, charitable contributions, the Alternative Minimum Tax, as well as provisions pertaining to self-employed individuals or small business owners and the rules governing dependents. They also reminded the congressional staffers that taxpayers can cut their tax bill by using education and retirement savings tax breaks and flexible spending accounts.
Since the health insurance information filing requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act are still confusing to some and because the penalty for not having minimum essential coverage increased in 2015 and will go up again in 2016, Sherr and Wang explained the basics of the requirements. They also 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, because taxpayers may have to repay part of the credit, which also can generate questions from constituents.
The attendees included representatives from Democrat and Republican U.S. House of Representatives and Senate offices. The congressional staffers asked a variety of questions related to inquiries they have received from constituents and about their own tax returns.
This is the fifth year the AICPA has offered the free program.