As tax deadline approaches, NYers still confused about new law

Taxes are different for everyone, but several certified public accountants said one thing is constant: more people are seeking professional help this year.  Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

“More people are owing money and their refunds are smaller,” said Peter Nussbaum, a CPA at Mazars USA LLP.

Taxes are different for everyone, but several certified public accountants said one thing is constant: more people are seeking professional help this year. 
Taxes are different for everyone, but several certified public accountants said one thing is constant: more people are seeking professional help this year.  Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

As Monday’s tax deadline approaches, several accountants throughout New York said more clients are stuck owing money this year than in years past and some added they’ve seen their client lists grow as confusion around the new tax law swirls. 

While taxes are different for everyone and dependent on many factors, several certified public accountants said one thing is constant: more people are seeking professional help this year. 

"I think everybody has just decided, well, maybe they need somebody to prepare their tax returns because of the tax cut," said Sallie Mullins Thompson, a CPA and personal financial specialist who has seen her business grow by about 25 percent this year. "I really was kind of slammed with all this."

Peter Nussbaum, a CPA at Mazars USA LLP, said that people with incomes under $100,000 per year are seeing smaller refunds than they typically do and that people making larger incomes are struggling with the loss of itemized deductions.

"There are some clients that are getting more, some clients are getting less. It's been all over the place," said Kwame Matthews, a senior tax specialist at an Upper West Side H&R Block.
"There are some clients that are getting more, some clients are getting less. It’s been all over the place," said Kwame Matthews, a senior tax specialist at an Upper West Side H&R Block. Photo Credit: Colter Hettich

"More people are owing money and their refunds are smaller," Nussbaum said. "People were told, but they’re always surprised when they owe money." 

Warren Bergstein, a CPA and partner at Adelman Katz & Mond, said the people who were most surprised about their smaller return were salaried employees.

"I’m not finding as many people as surprised as I thought they would be. I think a lot of people realized they were losing deductions," he said, but added that he did see more clients this year. "They are more confused, they are reaching out for help."

According to the Internal Revenue Service, just over 92.8 million people nationwide had filed their individual income taxes as of March 29, a 1.4 percent drop versus March 30, 2018. The average refund was $2,873, virtually on pace with last year’s average refund of $2,893. 

Statistics were not available for New York State or New York City.

Kwame Matthews, a senior tax specialist at the H&R Block on the Upper West Side said, "taxes are like DNA: everyone’s situation is different." He’s seen all sorts of results when it comes to tax returns this year, he added.
"There are some clients that are getting more, some clients are getting less. It’s been all over the place," he said. "We get more questions about tax reform. People are confused about the tax law."

Grace Louis, who oversees the city’s NYC Free Tax Prep, a program for New Yorkers who make $54,000 or less with children or $30,000 or less without children, said she hasn’t noticed a huge difference between filings this year and the year before.

"We certainly had a slow start to the tax season. But we’ve seen traffic is on pace and have certainly ramped up," she said, adding that the slow start was due, in part, to the federal government shutdown at the start of filing season. "At this point, the difference between this tax season and last tax season is negligible."

Ridgewood resident Michael Simpson, 35 and a photographer, filed with his wife this year and spent time researching the new tax law online. 

"I read up on the new rules on the internet. I had a bit of difficulty writing off some medical expenses — in the end I didn’t do it because it was too much trouble," he said. "We had a good CPA, but I mostly had all of my questions answered online.”

Park Slope resident Joyce Ragard, 30, a writer and yoga instructor, hasn’t filed yet and hopes to get a bigger return this year. 

"We just kind of accepted it," Ragard, who will file jointly with her husband, said of the tax changes. "We don’t have any control.”

With Ivan Pereira

Monday, April 15 is the last day to file your taxes or file for an extension. Here are the three most crucial tips via tax experts on filing last minute: 

1) Be prepared. Have your documents ready, double-check banking and routing numbers, and have a copy of last year’s tax return for your adjusted gross income

2) Check your eligible deductions. Make sure you don’t miss eligible deductions, such as student loan interest, changes in status (like getting married, having a child, or getting divorced), or education credits for going to school or taking a class

3) File for an extension. Estimate what you think you owe and pay that, or you may end up paying penalties.

Alison Fox and Ivan Pereira