Recent surveys have shown that more than half of the population use the services of a paid tax preparer when completing and submitting their tax returns, and for these people, it’s crucial to get started well before the tax return is due. Left too late, and you simply will not have a pleasant tax experience, and may even incur fines for untimely returns.
Making the tax return experience as painless as possible, involves gathering certain information and details ready for your paid tax preparer, and listed below, are ten steps to follow:
- Select a tax professional to help you:
Don’t waste any time in selecting a tax professional to help you get your returns in on time, and ensure that they have a PTIN, or Preparer Tax Identification Number. This proves that the person is legally authorized to prepare federal income tax returns. Don’t forget to make it clear how you will pay them, and how much.
- Make an appointment:
If you’re expecting a refund, it’s even more important that you meet your tax preparer in plenty of time, to ensure that you get your money promptly, but this is sensible anyway, no matter what your circumstances. Waiting too long can also mean that you’re not made aware of actions that can lower your tax bill for that year.
- Collect your information returns:
The IRS has details on the many types of information returns that you may need to provide, but some of the more common forms are listed below:
- Form W-2 (if you are employed)
- Form SSA-1099 (if you received Social Security benefits)
- 1099’s (to report income such as ‘cancellation of debt’, nonemployee compensation paid to independent contractors, to name but a few)
- Form 1095 (related to reporting health coverage information)
- 1098’s (reporting mortgage and student loan interest and tuition payments)
- Form W-2G’s (gambling winnings)
- Schedule K-1’s (from entities in which you have an ownership interest, such as corporations, partnerships, trusts etc)
- Gather up your receipts:
It will depend on which receipts you will need, as to whether you’re itemizing your personal deductions rather than claiming the standard deduction. But gather these up and make them all available for your tax preparer.
- Collect all charitable contribution records;
Donations to charity require specific records if you intend to claim any write-offs, and if you don’t have an acknowledgement from them, then you should contact them as soon as possible and ask for it.
- Be prepared for changes to tax laws:
Your tax preparer should have up to date knowledge of any recent changes to tax laws, but the more knowledgeable you also are, then the better prepared you can be.
- Note down personal information:
Your own social security number is a good start, but you could also help yourself to be better prepared, by making a note of the social security numbers for every dependant you claim. This and other personal information, such as properties bought and sold and what you received on the sale and expenses, is good to have at hand when your tax preparer asks for it.
- Do you need a filing extension?
You can request a filing extension should you need it, but there is no extension beyond the 18th April for paying any tax that is due.
- Are you expecting a refund?
If you are expecting a refund, there are several options available to you, and these are best discussed with your tax preparer, well in advance.
- Locate and keep a copy of last years’ tax return:
You may have last years’ tax return handy, but if not, it’s a good idea to hunt it out and have it at hand, especially if you’re using a new tax preparer.
Follow these steps to help give your tax preparer access to all the information that they will need, and remember, the more prepared you are, the less time they will have to spend on preparing your taxes, which means less pay outs for you!