Here’s your weekly DOHA dose – a shot of security clearance appeal cases and their outcome. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals releases (used to release) the results of their security clearance appeals cases. They’re one of the best insights into which clearance cases are granted or denied in the Department of Defense.

True or False: You can blame TurboTax for failing to file your income taxes.

It’s that time of year – tax time. Don’t let any filing extensions make you complacent. And even if the pandemic year put your finances into a tailspin, or you find yourself not making any income, this is a good reminder that you still need to file your taxes. Whether you file them yourself, use a service, or take advantage of a tax software like TurboTax, the obligation is on the individual – this is not a good time to blame your spouse or accountant for a failure to file – it’s your name on the dotted line.

While the buck is supposed to stop here, the vast majority of security clearance appeals case that go before DOHA are trying to throw the blame ‘over there’ somewhere. In one notable case, a security clearance applicant noted that his failure to file taxes for two years came down to one thing – he just really hated TurboTax. He had started the process at one point but just became so overwhelmed, he quit. The TurboTax hatred extended into the next year, and still the applicant failed to file – clearance denied.

Denial isn’t the last word

The cases that are seen at DOHA are appeals – they don’t represent those security clearance applicants who receive the intent to deny a clearance, and move onto a non-cleared job opportunity. The difference between successful applicants and those whose denials remain often comes down to paperwork and preparation. ‘New’ evidence can’t be produced on appeal, but the applicant can note that the initial decision failed to consider something that should have mitigated the conduct, or in some cases an aspect of due process was ignored. This is where the paperwork can work in an applicant’s favor, and why we’ve previously discussed how hiring a professional organizer is sometimes the difference between a security clearance denial or getting the clearance successfully granted.

In the case of the TurboTax defense, the applicant was granted a security clearance upon appeal. The success was probably less related to blaming the tax software, and more related to the fact that the applicant didn’t actually owe the government money, and he subsequently went in and paid his taxes before applying for the security clearance. The order of the mitigating behavior is crucial here – and far too often applicants fail to do even that. If you haven’t paid your taxes – and you’ve taken no steps to do so – do not expect a favorable clearance determination.

True: You Can blame TurboTax.

It was a unique defense, but the attention to detail paid off – the applicant showed the detail in taking care of his tax issues, and was able to document why and how he had failed to file in the past – and demonstrate that he would moving forward. Don’t blame TurboTax for your tax troubles this year. And if you have trouble navigating changing tax laws, find an accountant – they’re cheaper than a security clearance attorney.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.