Saturday, January 21, 2012

And the prize for "least helpful error diagnostic message" goes to:

The screenshot above is the entire TaxWise error message for New York State efile error code 0911.   How reading the word "Reserved" is supposed to help me "find and fix errors" is beyond me.

Our VITA site submitted six efiled tax returns late Thursday night/early Friday morning.  They went to the IRS as "Modernized e-file" (MeF for short) and to New York State as "Legacy" (the euphemism for "not yet modernized.)

The IRS promptly accepted and acknowledged all six returns, within a few minutes of submission.  Yay! The federal refunds are working their way through the system.  Direct deposits should go to taxpayer bank accounts in less than two weeks.  Paper checks to those taxpayers who requested them should go out about a week after the direct deposit date.

New York acknowledgements came through about 36 hours after submission.  New York State accepted two of the returns and rejected four returns, all with the mysteriously inscrutable "error code 0911."    

This is unprecedented.  We have never had more than a very occasional or isolated reject in the past, certainly never two-thirds of the returns!  Indeed, we typically go weeks without getting rejects and then--once in a blue moon--we get one.

And on the rare past occasions where we have gotten rejects, there has been a clear explanation of the error code.  The most common cause of past rejects is that another taxpayer had already--wrongly--claimed the same dependent on his/her return that our client had rightfully claimed.  If the wrongful claimaint beats the rightful claimant in the race to efile, the rightful claimant is forced to paper-file the return, and eventually the IRS sorts it all out.

In the case of the 0911 efile coded rejects received today, I am sure that dependents are not the issue, since some of the rejected returns did not have even claim any dependents, and moreover all of the returns in question had already sailed through the IRS.  (New York State does not even track the SSNs of dependents on its returns, so it apparently relies on the IRS to catch double-claimed dependents.)

After checking with the TaxWise user discussion boards, I found reports from several other sites getting the same message.

Update:  I found a very helpful link to a complete set of NYS reject explanations online here.   That PDF on the NYS Tax Department website contains a much more helpful explanation of the 0911 error code (screenshot below) than TaxWise shows in its error screen (screenshot above):

What I believe is happening is that when the preparer clicks the button to "Deposit the NYS refund to the same bank account where the federal refund was deposited," TaxWise is somehow not transmitting that bank account information in a way that the New York State tax department computers can understand.

TaxWise reports that they are "aware of the problem and working on it," according to a user message posted on the TaxWise discussion boards.  My guess is that there is an easy fix for the problem.

It is a bit ironic, though, because New York State is really trying to push taxpayers to get their refunds by direct deposit these days, and yet the returns that requested a paper check sailed through through the acceptance process, while the returns requesting direct deposit were held up.

Still, I feel reasonably confident that the problem will be resolved quickly and taxpayers who requested their refunds via direct deposit will still get them sooner than those who requested a paper check.

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