Posts Tagged ‘tax return preparation’

Now Is The Best Time To Begin Preparing Your 2013 Tax Return

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

The exclusive purpose for the information which is provided from this website is to disseminate information, and not to provide tax advice.

This is the best time of the year to start preparing for your 2013 tax return.  The new 2013 tax laws have already been signed in to law, you already know which  problems that you had in preparing your 2012 tax return, and by starting now you can avoid going through the same agony in 2014.  You should also avoid using the Scarlett O’Hara approach from “Gone With The Wind” – “Tomorrow’s another day!”   You could also think about the old adage – “Bad medicine is best when taken in small doses!”

The United States uses a pay-as-you-go approach for your annual tax liability.  You are expected to have on deposit with the U.S. Treasury one fourth of your annual income tax liability each quarter.  This requirement can be fulfilled using several methods such as payroll withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments, backup withholding etc. 

Organizing your records throughout the year is always important.  Having your tax return records easily accessible after December 31st will diminish your stress and reduce the time required to assemble these important documents.

Perhaps this is the time to begin using a tax professional to assist you in the preparation of your tax returns and to advise you regarding opportunities to reduce your tax liability.  The U.S. Congress has succeeded in passing income tax laws that are more difficult to comprehend and require an extensive degree of technical knowledge.  You should ask the tax preparer for an estimate of the cost for the preparation of your 2012 tax return.  Then divide the estimated cost by the total actual number of  hours which you spent accumulating records, extracting data, and preparing your tax return.    What was your conclusion?

If you will be changing your marital status in 2013, contact a CPA or tax attorney as soon as possible.  The Internal Revenue Service tests your marital (filing) status as of December 31st every year.  This is especially important if you plan to be divorced, marry, or separate.  Your final divorce decree or separation agreement does not supersede the provisions of the income tax laws!  If you are living in a “community property state” this task is even more important.  Additional information can be obtained from IRS Publication 504 (“Divorced or Separated Individuals”) or using this link:  http://www.irs.gov/publications/p504/index.html  (more…)

Should You Contact A Tax Preparer This Year???

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The exclusive purpose for the information which is provided from this website is to disseminate information, and not to provide tax advice. 

The key provisions for many (if not most) of the tax laws have now changed, and more changes will be forthcoming during the remainder of this decade as the Federal government attemps to reduce the trillion-dollar budget deficit by increasing tax revenues.  You should also anticipate the fact that the complexity of the income tax laws will also concurrently change.  A tax preparer can certainly assist you with the preparation of all of your tax returns.  However, he or she can also analyze your current tax situation and then provide you with options and recommendations to reduce your annual tax liability. 

Ten Tips to Help You Choose a Tax Preparer

 

Many people look for help from professionals when it’s time to file their tax return. If you use a paid tax preparer to file your federal income tax return this year, the IRS urges you to choose that preparer carefully. Even if someone else prepares your return, you are legally responsible for what is on it.

Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax return preparer:

1.   Check the preparer’s qualifications.  All paid tax return preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask if the preparer belongs to a professional organization and attends continuing education classes. 

2.   Check on the preparer’s history.  Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Also check for any disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified public accountants, check with the state boards of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar associations. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment.

3.   Ask about service fees.  Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers can. Also, always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into an account in your name. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.

4.   Ask to e-file your return.  Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients must file the returns electronically, unless the client opts to file a paper return. IRS has safely and securely processed more than one billion individual tax returns since the debut of electronic filing in 1990.

5.   Make sure the preparer is accessible.  Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return, even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions arise about your tax return.

6.   Provide records and receipts.  Reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts. They will ask you questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for deductions, credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return by using your last pay stub before you receive your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

7.   Never sign a blank return.  Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.

8.   Review the entire return before signing.  Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

9.   Make sure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN.  A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

10.   Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or altered a return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Download the forms on the IRS.gov website or order them by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).  

Additional IRS Resources:

 

 

Tips For Preparing To File Your 2012 Individual Tax Return

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

The exclusive purpose for the information which is provided from this website is to disseminate information, and not to provide tax advice.

While the earliest time that you can file your 2012 individual tax return (Federal Form 1040) is not until January 30th, there is information that you may need IF you plan to be among the first to file your tax return this year.   If you do not already have sources for the 2012 rules that are applicable, you can use a search engine and the Internet.  Here is a notice from the IRS website at http://www.irs.gov  

Forms & Publications

For taxpayers who can file their individual income tax returns beginning January 30, all forms and instructions needed have been posted to IRS.gov and are accessible by clicking on Current Forms & Pubs below. Some 2012 tax forms that cannot be filed beginning on January 30 are not yet available. We continue to work as quickly as possible on updates and will post them on IRS.gov as updates are completed.

As of today, the 2012 version of Publication 17 (Your Federal Income Tax [For Individuals]) is not yet available.  Many of the tax laws were changed or extended.  Several media sources are also recommending that you also consult with a tax preparer.  You can review pages 15-17 of my 2012 tax return questionnaire, which is available from this website (http://www.billseabrookecpa.com/resources/2012taxreturnquestionnaire.pdf )    

IRS Offers Tips to Help Taxpayers with the January 30  
Tax Season Opening

 The IRS will begin processing most individual income tax returns on Jan. 30 after updating forms and completing programming and testing of its processing systems. The IRS anticipated many of the tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), but the final law requires some changes before the IRS can begin accepting tax returns.

 The IRS will not process paper or electronic tax returns before the Jan. 30 opening date, so there is no advantage to filing on paper before then. Using e-file is the best way to file an accurate tax return, and using e-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get a refund.

 Many major software providers are accepting tax returns in advance of the Jan. 30 processing date. These software providers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open. If you use commercial software, check with your provider for specific instructions about when they will accept your return. Software companies and tax professionals send returns to the IRS, but the timing of the refunds is determined by IRS processing, which starts Jan. 30.

 After the IRS starts processing returns, it expects to process refunds within the usual timeframes. Last year, the IRS issued more than nine out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and it expects the same results in 2013. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, some tax returns will require additional review and take longer. To help protect against refund fraud, the IRS has put in place stronger security filters this filing season.

 After taxpayers file a return, they can track the status of the refund with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on the IRS.gov website. New this year, instead of an estimated date, Where’s My Refund? will give people an actual personalized refund date after the IRS processes the tax return and approves the refund.

 ”Where’s My Refund?” will be available for use after the IRS starts processing tax returns on Jan. 30. Here are some tips for using “Where’s My Refund?” after it’s available on Jan. 30:  

  • Initial information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after mailing a paper return.
  • The system updates every 24 hours, usually overnight. There’s no need to check more than once a day.
  • “Where’s My Refund?” provides the most accurate and complete information that the IRS has about the refund, so there is no need to call the IRS unless the web tool says to do so.
  • To use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, taxpayers need to have a copy of their tax return for reference. Taxpayers will need their social security number, filing status and the exact dollar amount of the refund they are expecting.   

For the latest information about the Jan. 30 tax season opening, tax law changes and tax refunds, visit http://www.irs.gov     

Additional IRS Resources:   

IRS YouTube Video:   

  • When Will I Get My Refund? – English

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Important Facts to Consider BEFORE You Choose A Tax Preparer

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

The exclusive purpose for the information which is provided from this website is to disseminate  information, and not to provide tax advice.

Based on your own personal experiences or the experiences of those whom you know, everyone who is reading this article will have a different opinion on its importance and relevance.  I would like to stipulate that its importance is much higher today than it was three to five years ago but not as high as it will be three to five years from now.  There are several key factors which support this statement:

  1. The budget deficit for our Nation is at a record high level, at an amount so large that is historically unprecedented;
  2. To partially drive down this deficit to levels considered acceptable by the electorate, there is an urgent need for tax revenues, the greatest majority of which are provided by individual taxpayers;
  3. Advances in technology are providing the taxing authorities with greater opportunities to identify and collect  this revenue;
  4. The complexity of the existing tax laws has tended to increase over time which has simultaneously increased the challenges for all taxpayers in understanding the myriad of tax laws, interpreting them correctly, and filing accurate income tax returns;
  5. Not only are the current accuracy standards for taxpayers and tax return preparers at an all-time high, but they are expected to continue to increase throughout the foreseeable future.

Presently, you have two options: 1) prepare all of your tax returns yourself, or 2) engage the professional services of someone else to prepare your tax returns for you.  This is an extremely important decision.  Regardless of your decision, you remain legally and financially responsible for all of your tax return information and data.  In January 2011 I published two closely related articles on this subject at this website:

Clicking on the above hyperlinks will permit you to access either or both articles.  There is additional, relevant information for you in this article today.  However naive it may have been at the time, as a very young CPA I assumed (??) that all, or even most,  CPAs within my profession continuously strive to achieve, maintain, and uphold the highest standards for their integrity, technical knowledge, client communications, and client satisfaction.  My own actual experiences have demonstrated to me that this assumption is not always correct.  If you choose to engage the services of either a tax preparer, CPA, or tax attorney, I am recommending that you consider all of the information in all of these articles in your decision-making process, and that you continuously evaluate your tax professional throughout every aspect of your tax engagement.  If there is ever an instance of dissatisfaction, immediately inform the tax professional, or obtain the services of another tax practitioner.

Additional “qualitative factors” which you should use in making your decision, include, but are not limited to:

  1. Open Cummunications -  are you always accorded dignity and respect by your tax professional? Is there continuous dialogue between both of you?  Are you always kept abreast of the important aspects of your tax returns and tax situation, including the key provisions of pending and new tax laws?  Does your tax professional communicate with you in terms and concepts which you easily understand and for which you can subsequently conclude yourself is the best or most appropriate response?  Does your tax professional continuously discuss with you opportunities to reduce your tax liability?  Does she or he explain opportunities for you to benefit from existing or anticipated changes in the tax laws?
  2. Responsiveness –   does your tax professional always promptly respond to your inquiries, questions, and concerns especially correspondence which you receive from any taxing authority?
  3. Accessibility – is your tax professional always reasonably accessible to you following a telephone call, e-mail, written correspondence, etc?
  4. Engagement Letter – does your tax professional provide you with a document, which is easily understandable by both of you, which sets forth all of yours and his or her responsibilities, including important provisions, tasks, dates, deadlines, fees and costs, etc?  Is it signed and dated by all parties?
  5. Documentation –  does your tax professional respond to all of your questions regarding the data and information in your tax returns with an explanation of all supporting statements and schedules, if needed by you?  Are you provided with a complete hard or soft “as filed” copy of your tax returns for your records?  Are ALL of your original tax records returned to you?  If you are a business owner, does your tax professional provide you with an explanation between the amount in your financial statements (Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss, General Ledger etc) and the data submitted in your tax return?  Does the tax professional provide you with all of the required accounting adjusting entries that are required for your business?  Is the fee for his or her services appropriate under the circumstances and acceptable to you, including the fee payment schedule?
  6. Warranty – your tax preparer or tax professional should always stand behind (warrant) the accuracy and completeness of the tax returns which he or she prepares for you.  If the taxing authorities subsequently determine that there are errors or defects, unless it is due to misttatements of fact on your part, there should not be any additional costs to you for the preparation and filing of amended tax returns.  If there is a stipulation to the contrary, it should be clearly set forth and stated in the “Engagement Letter” which is described above.

There is addtional information on this subject from the Internal Revenue Service:  (more…)

Always Avoid Errors and Mistakes When Filing Any Tax Return!

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Perhaps Pogo was years ahead of his time in 1970 when he said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”   Technology has provided us with a vast array of  improvements in our lives, but it’s also a faster reminder that we are all human when it comes to identifying our mistakes.  The challenge for all of us who are living in the 21st century is to minimize those mistakes, especially when we are preparing and filing any report, especially a tax return.

When you file a tax return the data in the return is matched and compared with the information in a myriad of data bases at the Federal and State levels.  Many other Government agencies have information on your student loan delinquency or default, the Social Security Administration has different information from your account there, etc.   This article provides several tips and recommendations to avoid several common errors or mistakes, and perhaps some very unpleasant consequences.

  1. Your name is Mary Jones on your social security card and your account with the Social Security Administration.  You have been married for 15 years to Ed Smith but have never updated your records with the Social Security Administration.  Don’t use the name Mary Smith on your tax returns.  You’re still Mary Jones to the U.S. Government.
  2. The electronic filing system (e-file) is very accurate and responsive.  If there is an error you’ll be notified immediately.
  3. If you have either a complicated tax issue or one that you are not absolutely sure of the information that is required (or the reports that must be filed), contact the Federal or State agency that requires the report and request assistance. 
  4.  If you’re still not confident of yourself or have additional complexities in the situation, contact a reputable tax preparer or CPA who has knowledge and experience in the specific area of your problems.  Before you engage this person’s services, check their qualifications, reputation, and determine if there are any licensing issues with the state regulatory agencies.  Always ask for references.   (more…)