published Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Chattanooga area tax preparers open offices, hire staff for tax season

Manager Rebecca
Loud watches assistant manager Ashley
Jackson scan completed tax returns at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service
on Brainerd Road.
Manager Rebecca Loud watches assistant manager Ashley Jackson scan completed tax returns at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service on Brainerd Road.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
  • photo
    Manager Rebecca Loud hands Sidney Hale his tax return at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service on Brainerd Road.
    Photo by Angela Lewis.
    enlarge photo

AARP TAX-AIDE

Anyone can use AARP’s volunteer-run tax counseling program, regardless of income level or membership with AARP. Sites are open between February 1 and April 15. Here’s where:

• Collegedale SDA Church - 4829 College Dr. East, Collegedale - 423-396-2134, open Mondays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Tyner United Methodist Church - 6805 Standifer Gap Road, Chattanooga - 423-892-0444 ext. 21, open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Catholic Charities - 859 McCallie Ave., Chattanooga - 423-838-5073, open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

VOLUNTEER INCOME TAX ASSISTANCE LOCATIONS

If your annual income is less than $52,000, you can get your taxes prepared for free. Hours and availability vary by location, so check irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep for each site’s hours. Here’s where to go:

CLEVELAND

Bradley Baptist Association - 2707 N. Ocoee St., Cleveland - Call 423-476-5493 or 423-488-5470 for Spanish

Cleveland Community Center - 1334 South Church St. SE, Cleveland - Walk-in only

Kmart, Bradley Square Mall - 200 Paul Huff Parkway, Cleveland - Walk-in only

Lee University, Walker Business Building - 1120 N. Ocoee St., Cleveland - Walk-in only

CHATTANOOGA

Brainerd Recreation Center - 1010 N. Moore Road, Chattanooga - Walk-in only

Second Missionary Baptist - 2319 East Third St., Chattanooga - By appointment only

Eastgate Town Center - 5600 Brainerd Road, H110, Room 9, Chattanooga - Walk-in only

Golden Gateway - 1201 Grove St., Chattanooga - Walk-in only

Northgate Mall, 2217 Hixson Pike, Chattanooga - Walk-in only

Northside Neighborhood House - 211 Minor St., Chattanooga - By appointment only: 423-267-2217

Urban League of Greater Chattanooga - 730 M.L. King Blvd., Chattanooga - Walk-in only

SIGNAL MOUNTAIN

Lone Oak Community Center - 1278 US 127, Signal Mountain - By appointment only: 423-280-1394

SODDY DAISY

Soddy Daisy Senior Center - 190 Depot St., Soddy Daisy - Call 423-332-1702

OOLTEWAH

Samaritan Center at Southern Adventist University - 9231 Old Lee Highway, Ooltewah - Call 423-238-7777

This year's tax season is getting off to the latest start in years —the Internal Revenue Service will process the first returns on Jan. 31 — but Chattanooga's tax preparation businesses have already brought hundreds of seasonal jobs online and expect an extra-busy year.

The IRS says the 10-day-delay is a result of October's federal government shutdown, when about 90 percent of IRS operations were closed for the entire 16-day event. About 18 million people who usually file in January will be affected by the delay, said Diana Jacobsen, H&R Block master tax advisor.

"This is the latest start I've known and I've been doing this for more than 30 years," she said.

But Jacobsen doesn't expect this year's late start to slow the flood of filers into H&R Block's 15 local offices. The company -- like most commercial preparers -- is already preparing returns and putting them on hold for the IRS until Jan. 31.

"Think of it like Black Friday," Jacobsen said. "You get in line and that way when the doors open you're the first one in."

Tennesseans will file about 3 million returns this year, according to Dan Boone, IRS spokesman for Tennessee and Alabama. And regional commercial tax preparers are eager to grab a slice of the business.

Don Elsea, who owns five Jackson Hewitt Tax Service locations in Chattanooga, said he expects to handle between 1,500 and 2,000 returns this year. He's hired 24 people to man his locations.

And while the Affordable Care Act's tax penalty for people without health insurance doesn't kick in until filers are working on their 2014 returns next year, Elsea said he's already fielding questions about the requirement.

"There are a lot of questions about Obamacare that people don't understand," he said. "And that's one thing we can do when we do your taxes -- we can tell you if you are going to have a penalty next year or not."

Most filers won't be affected by the Affordable Care Act this year, Boone said. But there are two new taxes on the books that generally affect single filers with an income higher than $200,000 and married couples filing jointly who have incomes above $250,000. And the Affordable Care Act also limits itemized deductions for medical and dental expenses, Boone said. Most filers can only deduct the part of those expenses that is more than 10 percent of adjusted gross income.

At Advanced Tax Specialists in North Georgia, vice president Janie Biddix said she's also seen an influx of questions about how the Affordable Care Act will impact filers.

"I think the biggest challenge this year is educating people about the Affordable Care Act changes next year," she said. "I've already had more phone calls this year than last year about tax questions, and that's the main question I've had."

Advanced Tax Specialist's seven employees will handle about 700 returns across the company's three North Georgia locations. Biddix said she's ready for the rush.

"I'm excited," she said. "I know it will be stressful, but what job isn't anymore?"

Contact staff writer Shelly Bradbury at 423-757-6525 or sbradbury@timesfreepress.com.

about Shelly Bradbury...

Shelly Bradbury covers police and crime in Chattanooga and Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She's been with the paper since 2012, working first as an intern and then as a business reporter. She is from Houghton, New York, and graduated from Huntington University in Huntington, Indiana, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and minor in management. Before moving to Tennessee, Shelly previously interned with The Goshen News, The Sandusky Register and The Mint ...

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