With tax season in full swing, my inbox is chock full of ask the taxgirl® emails. While I can’t answer every question, I’ll do my best to answer as many as possible. Here are a few tips to make sure that your email gets the best attention:
- I get a lot of emails and I read every single one. I’m not ignoring you but yours is also not the only email I’ll get today. Or tomorrow. Or next week. So please be patient.
- I consider a lot of factors when I choose a question to post. If I notice a similar bunch of questions (for example, about glitches in filing tax returns or security concerns), I’ll try to answer those first. I also think about the timeliness: if something is making headlines now or affects tax filing, I’m likely to post that before a more general question.
- Your question may be too broad or too specific. I do get questions like “Should I file Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately?” without another word. In contrast, I’ve gotten questions that include absolutely every detail, down to a diary of phone calls to IRS and names of dependents. Fill me in on the details and state your question plainly without giving me too much information. I don’t need your shoe size or your mother’s maiden name. And hey, I’m a chatty girl. I get that you might fear that you’re leaving something out but don’t worry – if it’s just a little piece of info and I think I’ll need it, I’ll ask you. I don’t redact your question before I post it (except for the email address) so don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want your mother – or mine – to see.
- Don’t send a note asking for favors: I won’t call the IRS and find out where your rebate checks are, why your refund isn’t what you expected or why your return wasn’t accepted as filed. Notwithstanding that I can’t do those things anyway without a Power of Attorney, I’m not your tax attorney unless you have a representation letter from me. So please don’t ask. And don’t send me your personal information like your Social Security number out of the blue. Honestly, I’m a good person – just ask my mother. But you shouldn’t take such risks with anyone you don’t know. It’s scary.
- I rarely answer specific state or local tax questions. I just can’t. As much as I’d love to help – and I would – I just don’t know the specific property tax laws in Petaluma or the sales tax rules in Peoria.
- I have a spam filter. I have to. Mostly because of, well, you know, evil spammers. My spam filter will almost always dump your email into spam if your email doesn’t have a subject. Try including a word or two in the subject to tell me what your question is about, like “mortgage interest question” or “I don’t have my 1099” – it will help make sure that the emails end up where they need to be.
- Make sure that you send your email to the right email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can post on Facebook or via Twitter but remember that your personal information – including your name and question – will be visible to others. That said, please don’t send direct messages via Facebook or Twitter: the notifications rarely work for me and your question might get lost.
- I am almost always happy to help out a fellow journalist with a piece or give an interview about a tax story. If you’re looking to seek me out for a story, please don’t contact me through the askthetaxgirl email. Send me an email and be sure to give me a quick idea of what you’re looking for and whether you have a deadline. (If you’re a reader and you just want to say hi, try following me on Twitter or like my page on Facebook – you’ll probably hear from me sooner.)
- If you’re actually sitting in an audit or jail, I can’t stress enough how much you need to put down the computer and find yourself a good tax professional right now. Run, do not walk, to the phones and call someone to help you.
- I love answering your questions. I really do. It’s why I do it. But I’m a writer and a lawyer, not a miracle worker. I’m also not a marriage counselor, doctor or investment advisor. So ask accordingly.
With all of that in mind, ask away. And keep an eye out for my Ask The Taxgirl LIVE segment (coming soon). Because paying taxes is painful… but reading about them shouldn’t be.