Friday, May 11, 2012

Keep Calm and Kayak On

This is a neat little variant of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster, available at this Esty site.  I’ve found myself attracted to it because recently life seems extra stressful.

   This is a picture of:
          o   A tiny snapping turtle found floating in the Penobscot
        o   A medium sized slug
        o   A kayak deck
        o   A metaphor for a slow start to the kayaking season.

I haven’t gone on too many adventures recently and this post explains why.  First, I should say I try not to talk about work too much.  After all, most of the world has to work, and every job has its downside.

Some Positive Things about Tax Preparation include:
       o   Almost no chance of hypothermia
       o   Meet wonderful and interesting people
       o   Be a productive member of society
       o   All of the above

  You may not know, or care, that until recently there was no requirement for certification of tax preparers, although many offices have their own requirements.  But that’s changed and by the end of 2013, all paid preparers must pass at a minimum, a standardized open book test.   I was going to put off taking the test, until I read the testing book and discovered that those who pass the test and become Registered Tax Preparers, will not be able to help those who get letters from the IRS, (exception:  if they had initially prepared the return.)

And this bothered me because:

     The Taxpayer Advocacy Office reported in their January 2012 report to Congress that in 2010 the IRS had to reverse ___ of letters issued:
o   10%
o   15%
o   25%
o   55%

Fifty-five percent of those letters were incorrect. Over ten million letters get sent out that year.  Folks getting letters from the IRS deserve to have people readily available to help them understand the letter.  In order to help folks with those letters, I’d have to pass a three part closed book test and register to be an enrolled agent.  So I began studying for part one of the test.

     When you begin taking practice exams to be an enrolled agent you may be surprised to see all of the following EXCEPT:
      o   How many numbers which are indexed to inflation (Like the standard deductions) you are expected to know.  Since they are linked to inflation this means they will change each year.
      o   How easy the whole thing is:  how can so many of the test takers fail?
      o   How many form numbers you’re expected to know
      o   How many taxpayers gift others with rental property

    I thought I had a pretty good handle on this, when I happened on a sample test for the Registered Tax Prepared Exam (the open book test).  The first question asked:  Block 9 on Form 1099-MISC means?
   1099-MISC lists in each block what it means!  Was I going to be expected to memorize every block on every form?  Most worrisome, if I took the Registered Tax Preparer test, the only open books I’d be given to help with the exam are IRS Pub 17, and 1040 Instructions.  Neither includes a copy of a 1099-MISC.  I was faced with the sudden realization that I could actually fail the open book exam.

When you realize you might flunk an important exam a healthy reaction is?
     o   Kick the Computer
     o   Dwell all evening on how inappropriate multiple choice exams are for, well, everything
     o   Go for a paddle, then stop by the IRS office on Harlow Street to pick up a variety of forms
     o   Devour  the contents of a family sized M&M bag.

    Anyway,  I went for a paddle, then picked up the forms, made up the flash cards, reminded myself that many jobs(Teachers, kayak guides, lawyers) have a standardized test folks need to pass, and I was building logic, math and memory skills.   Also, the ocean is really too cold for paddling without a drysuit.  After three weeks of studying, I went to the testing center in Bangor.

If you show up for testing and are suffering from a cold/seasonal allergies you can take into the test center?
      o   As many lotion filled tissues from home as you want
      o   As many testing center tissues as you think you might need
      o   Two testing center tissues you need to account for at the conclusion (AND don’t even think of bringing them home)
      o   A sleeve

  Thank goodness it’s not the last one!
  Anyway, I made it through Part One, and scheduled Part Two for late June.  And I signed a nondisclosure, so I can't say if the test was at all like the samples, but I have one last question:

A good way to celebrate passing Part One of the Exam is:
     o   A new car
     o   A nice Kayak On poster from the CarryOn Esty Site
     o   A study guide for Part Two
     o   Dinner Out

Sometimes there are no wrong answers!

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