Tips for a Trouble-Free Tax Time

tax timeTax time ain’t what it used to be — and that’s a good thing! It used to be that you had to lug a box of documents (arduously collected over many months) into your accountant’s office and plan to spend a few excruciating hours poring over your receipts. Not so anymore! In these days of electronic filing, you really don’t even need to be present. At our offices, we can prepare your return quickly without needing to sit through meeting after meeting. We’re able to be far more efficient with our time (and your money) than ever before, and you’re able to get out and enjoy this unseasonably beautiful weather without giving it another thought.

The key is providing your information digitally (and securely) to your CPA or come by our office and drop it off with us. The information you’ll need to provide includes the following (not all may apply to you):

  • Your prior year’s tax return, if you are a new customer
  • Form W-2, if you worked for a company and even if the company is yours
  • Bank-provided Forms 1099-DIVS and INT — your dividend and interest income
  • Your investment portfolio Consolidated Form 1099, which would include all the sales of marketable securities
  • Form(s) 1099-R, if you are retired
  • Social security statement (also for retirees)
  • All Forms K-1, if you have invested in any companies (some may not arrive until sometime in September)
  • Form 1041, if you have been the beneficiary of a trust (if the trust did not make any distributions during the prior year, the form usually shows only zeros and is often not provided)
  • Forms 1099-MISC, if you are self-employed (Note: The IRS is really watching for under-reported income. Sometimes, these forms are issued with errors. We usually make corrections when filing your tax return. Also, bring the summary of your income and expenses.)
  • Forms 1099-MISC, if you are a real estate investor and have collected rent (as well as the schedule of expenses to offset that income, at least partially)
  • Form 1098-T for parents with students, allowing you to take a deduction for some of the tuition paid during the prior year (some parents with higher income will not be able to take advantage of this otherwise-generous tax credit)
  • Form 1098, the mortgage expense statement for homeowners
  • Detailed list of child care expenses, including tax ID of the institutions your child attended
  • Health Savings accounts contribution and distribution statements (Forms 5498-SA and 1099-SA)
  • A list of questions (The general rule is that it’s better to bring more than omit some very important information)
  • Any other documents which arrived in the envelope marked “Important Tax Information Enclosed”

Additionally, to help us make the decision about whether you should itemize or take the standard deduction, bring your real estate property tax paid, DMV registration fees, summary of charitable contributions (cash and non-cash separately) and summary of medical expenses (if they were significant: think “at least over $7,500 for taxpayers with AGI of $100,000).

Once you’ve assembled all this information, my advice is this: Schedule your appointment with us for AFTER tax season. Although we’re always happy to meet with any clients who would like to sit with us during tax preparation, it’s not an effective use of your time or ours. Instead, send the information in or drop it off personally, then give us a chance to prepare your return and get a clear understanding of your financial picture. Then we can speak about the return in person or by phone to go through it and, most importantly, schedule a meeting to plan the next year. This is the most important part of tax work — planning the next 12 months. This helps ensure that you’re achieving the financial goals you’ve set for yourself and can minimize tax risks for the coming year.

Are you convinced? The April 15 tax deadline is fast approaching, so contact us today to schedule an appointment or to discuss any concerns you may have. We’re ready to help you make tax time a lot less taxing.