TRUE CONFESSIONS: For ex-IRS officer John A....


TRUE CONFESSIONS: For ex-IRS officer John A. Knight of Van Nuys, this is his busy season negotiating settlements for clients who owe back taxes. “People make new year’s resolutions like, ‘I’m going to pay my taxes for the last 20 years.’ ” One case he’s close to settling involves an ex-salesman, UCLA grad and longtime alcoholic “who hasn’t filed a tax return in his whole life.” In this case, the IRS may settle for four years of back taxes, Knight says, because it knows there is no more money left.

DOUBLECHECK: Triple Check, the big Burbank-based tax preparation chain, says that of the 150,000 or so tax returns done last year by its 300 offices across the country, there were only 14 claims by clients for mistakes. . . . Several backup software programs help minimize goofs. And the company picks up any penalty and interest charges, but clients are stuck with paying any taxes owed.

FAST CASH: People who file this early in the tax season are hungering for quick refunds. So tax giant H & R Block can arrange loans against tax refunds for up to $3,500, for a $29 to $89 fee, says Diane Lipinski, above, Block’s West Valley district manager. But Block’s traffic jam doesn’t begin until the last week of January, after employers mail out W-2 and 1099 statements.


PC MEETS IRS: Rene Contreras, manager of the Egghead Software store in Chatsworth, used to pay about $100 each year for somebody to prepare his tax return. But for three years now he’s done his own taxes, with the help of one of the several tax-return software programs sold at his store. The cost: under $40. . . . “It’s very simple.”

ON THE NET: The IRS is trying to catch up to modern times. This year, for the first time, taxpayers may get refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts, and probably save a week’s wait, by filing Form 8888 with their 1040 form. And all IRS forms and publications are available now on the World Wide Web at