It’s tax season so – you guessed it – 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 (yes, the questions may get posted so read on to find out more about privacy). If I notice a similar bunch of questions, I’ll try to answer those first either as a Q&A or as a post. I also think about timing: 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 everything, down to a diary of phone calls to IRS and names of dependents. Keep it simple: 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 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 or why your return wasn’t accepted as filed. I can’t do those things without a Power of Attorney, and I’m not your tax attorney unless you have a representation letter from me (to find out more about my law firm, check out this page). So please don’t ask. And don’t send me your personal information like your Social Security number or W-2 info 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 personally. It’s scary.
- I rarely answer specific state or local tax questions. 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 line 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.
- That spam filter I just mentioned? It also flags messages that only contain attachments. If you’re texting me from your cell phone and your provider will send your text as an attachment only, you should know that the attachment might not make it to me.
- Make sure that you send your email to the right email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please don’t send direct messages via Facebook or Twitter: the notifications rarely work for me and your question might get lost. That goes for comments tacked onto old posts, too: if you have a question, it’s almost always best to direct it via email.
- If you post on social media or in the comments, remember that your personal information – including your name and question – may be visible to others.
- I am almost always happy to help out a fellow journalist with a piece or give an interview about taxes. 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 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 and a couple of Twitter chats, coming soon.
Because paying taxes is painful… but reading about them shouldn’t be.