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Another model I've heard about but never seen is one more like a doctor's office. The client goes into an interview room and meets first with a paraprofessional who takes care of much of the basic work - address changes, W-2s, interest and dividends, itemized deductions, things like that. Then they leave and let the preparer come in to finish the interview and the return. The preparer gets all of the technical questions (is this person really a dependent?) and reviews the work of the paraprofessional. If everything is in order, they finish up the return and send the client back out to the waiting room while a secretary assembles the return and collects the fee.

Has anyone been in that kind of setting? Either as a client or a tax preparer?

This is basically the way my VITA site operates, absent the fee.

The client first deals with the receptionist, who gives them forms to fill out.

The client next deals with a screener who makes sure that the client has all the necessary documents and meets income limitations. They go over the intake forms to make sure everything's been completed.

The preparer then deals with technical issues and creates the return.

Once the return has been through quality review it's printed and the paperwork processed.

All this is terrific, in theory, if there are sufficient volunteers and everything's working right. Last Saturday we were short-handed, and we couldn't get the network up. I wound up preparing only two returns, spending the rest of my 4 hours doing quality review, helping people with the software, and waiting for someone to come take the data off my machine so the return could be printed.

Here's hoping next Saturday will be more productive.

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