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Tax Essentials

The IRS started accepting tax returns January 31st so we thought it was best that we give you some tips when filing your return. We cover some topics that will hopefully make filing your 2013 taxes a little less stressful.

We cover Kelly Phillips Erb’s article from Forbes that provides you with a check list of questions to ask your tax preparer when filing your taxes. Here is her list of 11 questions everyone should ask the tax professional before handing over your w-2’s or 1099’s:

  1. Do you have a PTIN?   (This is a Tax Preparer Identification Number)
  2. What is your tax background? (CFP®, CPA, EA, JD) Tax preparers that are being compensated for their time should carry one of the these professional designations or certifications: CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Certified Public Accountant, Enrolled Agent, Juris Doctor.
  3. Have you prepared a tax return before?
  4. Do you know the requirements for filing returns in my area? (Filing taxes for income earned in multiple state or states other than the one you are currently residing in)
  5. What records or documentation will you need from me?  It is a good idea to bring the previous year’s tax returns as well as all income documentation, and proof of any expenses that you think could be deductible.
  6. How do you determine your fee? (By the hour or per line item on the return, etc.)
  7. Can I file electronically? (Pretty much a given – just about all returns are e-filed now)
  8. Who will sign my return? Remember the first question. Do not trust a preparer that will not sign your return or cannot tell you who will be signing your return.
  9. Will I receive a copy of my return? (This sounds like a given but sometimes preparers do not provide a copy of the return without a request)
  10. How do I find you if there is a problem with my return after the tax season is over? (Especially important if the preparer is only in business during tax season)
  11. What happens if I get audited?

Brian and Bo also add that it is important to make sure your tax preparer is well-versed in the tax subjects that are unique to your situation. If you have a special return (International, Rental, or Investment Income, etc.) make sure that your tax preparer has experience in those areas before handing your return over to them.  Brian specifically points out the importance of making sure that you double check the basic information on your return to ensure that the return will be filed correctly from year to year.  It is also important to include any overpayments from previous years that can be applied to this years return.

Brian also mentions a great article from the IRS that covers tax benefits for parents. Go check it out here.

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