Posts Tagged ‘Tax preparation’

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Filing Taxes is a Good Thing…..

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on February 17, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

When and Why You Should File
 
Tax season is in full bloom with preparer commercials flooding the air waves and “Tax Filing This Way” signs being waved on every corner. The good news is that some of you out there won’t need to go through the hassle of filing this year. The bad news is that if you don’t file a return, you’ll have no chance of receiving certain tax credits.
  
As a U.S. Citizen or Resident Alien, you only have to file if you made a certain amount of money in 2011, and that amount varies based on your age, your filing status, and the type of income you received. Let’s say you were under 65 years old at the end of 2011, single, and made over $9,500 last year.  You earned more than the minimum gross income, so you must file a return. However, if you are under 65, married, and want to file jointly with your spouse, you need to do so only if your gross income was at least $19,000. The IRS provides a handy-dandy chart with explanations for you to decide which categories apply to you. 
  
 Of course, there are all sorts of different situations that complicate these rules. Maybe you were self-employed and you made $800 last year. It might seem like a small amount, but if you earn over $400 working for yourself, you must submit a return. Or perhaps you owe certain special taxes, such as the Alternative Minimum Tax, or Recapture Taxes – once again, you’re going to be filling out a return in the next few months.
  
These are some reasons why you’re required to file, but even if none of them apply to you, you could still benefit from sending in a return. It’s the only way you can get a refund on that federal tax your employer withheld from your paycheck, or that overpayment you made on your 2010 taxes. There’s also the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable tax credit for people who worked, but barely made any money.
  
Sometimes kids are a good thing, especially when it comes to taxes. Maybe you decided to adopt last year and need help with all of the fees you paid during the process. You might be eligible for the Adoption Credit, a refundable tax credit for those adoption expenses. If your son or daughter (or both) attends college, you can offset the cost of their tuition with the American Opportunity Credit. Each student is eligible for a maximum $2,500 and 40% of the credit is refundable. It doesn’t take a math major to realize you should file a return even if you owe no taxes: you can still receive as much as $1,000 cash back for each student. So think twice before you set aside your financial records for next year – you might be missing out on the money you deserve.
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 
 

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A Perfect Match:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on January 16, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

What to Look for in a Tax Return Preparer

It’s already that special time of the year, folks: people are getting ready for tax returns. You might be tempted to forget about filing because you plan on having a professional do it for you. But how do you know that you’ll find the right person for the job? After all, as the taxpayer, you are legally responsible for everything written on your tax return – even if you don’t prepare it. Here are some tips to keep in mind so that you can ensure your paperwork ends up in good hands. 
 
First and foremost, the preparer MUST have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) – otherwise he won’t be able to sign your return and enter this number, which is now required for all paid preparers. Once you have his official digits, you’ll want to dig a little deeper. Steer clear of any individual who has had a particularly unpleasant relationship with the Better Business Bureau or a bad record with the State Boards of Accountancy for certified public accountants, State Bar Associations for attorneys, etc.  You get the drift?!
 
You’re obviously going to be charged for the preparer’s services, but how you pay is crucial. Avoid anyone who bases their fee on a percentage of your refund.  Or take your business elsewhere if the preparer tells you that your refund will go into his bank account first, and he will then write you a check, after deducting his fees. Your tax refund is your money and should be deposited directly into an account in your name.  You should pay your tax preparer separately for his services. 
 
How you file is also important. The IRS is pushing for e-file because it’s faster and safer, and your preparer should at least make this option available to you.  And if you choose not to e-file, then be sure to read my last week’s blog, Hello E-File!, as a reference to understand your responsibility in this process.
 
The tax preparer needs to be easily accessible to you, both by telephone and in-person. You don’t want to show up a few days before your returns are due and find a “Gone Fishing” sign on the door. You also don’t want your preparer to mysteriously leave town (with all of your personal information) after the return has been filed, so make sure you will be able to contact him for future questions.
 
Once you chose a preparer, you still need to keep your eyes open for any signs of bad business practices. A good preparer will ask you tons of questions to double-check your financial information, and should also request all of the necessary records and receipts. Think about it: how can someone accurately file your return if they don’t have the required documents, or a full understanding of your financial detail? 
 
Returns are like checks – never sign a blank one. That means you need to review the completed return in its entirety before signing it. Ask your preparer any questions you may have, because if something is incorrect, you’re the one who will have to deal with it later. So, ask questions, and do no stop until you get satisfactory answers from your preparer.  Finally, once the preparer has signed your return and included his PTIN, don’t walk out of the office until you have a hard copy in hand. Tax preparers are supposed to make things easier for taxpayers. Don’t let one get off easy if he tries to swindle you: report abusive tax preparers with Form 14157, available on www.irs.gov.
 
On the Money
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions

Articles

Hello E-File!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on January 9, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

Good-Bye Paper Returns, The IRS Makes Its Digital Move

 

The IRS is doing everything it can to ensure e-filing remains alive and well.  In 2011, paid preparers who expected to file 100 or more individual income tax returns during the calendar year were required to file electronically. However, the new year means new requirements. As of January 1, 2012, paid preparers who expect to file just 11 or more individual, estate, or trust returns must file electronically.
 
Members of a firm will also have to play by these revamped rules. The e-file requirement applies if the firm’s members in the aggregate expect to file 11 or more covered returns in 2012. Basically, if your firm is doing any business at all, you’re probably going to be e-filing.
 
Indeed, almost every tax return counts when you’re checking for that magic number 11. The regulation covers income tax returns in the Form 1040 and Form 1041 series, and Form 990-T, the Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. However, forms such as 1040-NR and 1040X are considered automatic administrative exemptions because they still have to be mailed to the IRS the old-fashioned way, and so you shouldn’t include them in your estimate.
 
Remember that it’s ultimately up to the taxpayer to decide how he wants to submit his tax return.  Psssst, heads-up, keep in mind that most of your client(s) usually do not know what they want; specifically how they want their tax returns to be filed…  So, make sure you give sound advice to your clients in this regards.  However, for those clients who really do not want to go digital, because of the new regulations, you’ll need to acquire a written statement from the taxpayers on or before the date the return is filed. It must be signed and dated (a joint return need only be signed by one spouse) and should state that the taxpayer chooses to file the return in paper format and will be submitting it to the IRS –rather than the preparer. This way, the individual income tax return will not be treated as filed by you, the tax return preparer, and thus will not be included in your return tally.
 
It’s important that you don’t send this statement to the IRS or attach it to your client’s tax return – that’s the taxpayer’s responsibility; well, good luck with that… hoping that your client will do what he is supposed to do…  So, instead, make sure you do your part by attaching Form 8948, Preparer Explanation for Not Filing Electronically, to your client’s paper return and check box 1. You also need to include your PTIN on each tax return where requested. If your client does choose not to e-file, it’s important that he personally mails his return. The IRS is making it clear this year that once a taxpayer chooses not to e-file, it’s hands-off the paperwork for the tax preparer.
 
Hopefully you’re already an authorized e-file provider because that’s the only way you’re allowed to e-file with the IRS. If not, you might want to click on the following link and start applying for your
Electronic Filing Identification Number – it takes at least 45 days for the authorization process. Otherwise you’re going to have a lot of clients filing complaints against their unprepared tax preparer.

 

On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions

 

 

 

Articles

Are You Ready For Year-End?

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on December 14, 2011 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

 
The end of the year is almost here and it’s the perfect time for business owners and individual tax payers to dust off their financial documents and confirm that everything is in order. You’ve got a lot to do, so let’s get started before those April tax showers come storming in! 
 
 
Business Owners:
 
You’ll need to review all of your vendor payouts for the year: any vendor who has provided you labor services for more than $600 must be reported to the IRS via Form 1099. As a rule of thumb, always ask your vendors, regardless of the amount of their services, to complete a new W9 at the beginning of each calendar year; so that you do not have to chase them at year end for information. The W9 provides their legal name, address, and tax payer ID – whether it’s an EIN number or a regular social security number – and also requires the vendor to claim responsibility for any taxes due from payments issued to him.
 
Check your payroll to ensure payments to your employees have been recorded correctly throughout the year, any corrections may be still processed onto their year-end W2’s.  Also, make sure that your payroll taxes have been submitted to the proper governmental agencies on a timely basis, and better take care any late payment before you close your books for the year.  Any year-end bonuses and/or profit sharing to officers and employees must also be processed and to be included in their individual W2’s, and recorded as business expense accordingly.
 

Review your retirement plan, i.e, 401k Plan, if you have one.  Make sure that all of the employees’ deferral have been deposited into their accounts; and any and all profit sharing or employer matching funds have been accurately distributed accordingly.The good news is that those profit sharing and/or employer matching distributions within a retirement plan are actually business write-offs and can help ease your year-end tax liability!
 
 Take the time to reconcile your business checking and money market accounts with their corresponding bank statements – that means making sure the interest income has been recorded. Then move on to your credit card accounts and verify any and all business related charges and finance fees are in the record books. You should do the same with your cash expenses (i.e. count the petty cash drawer one last time) and dig out those receipts you knew would come in handy to support any expenditures.
 

Moreover, any capital expenditures?  Section 179 will allow you to deduct a large amount of assets (expenditures) that you purchased throughout the year for business use.  Again, make sure you have the proper receipts and purpose of the equipment clearly stated for your tax preparer. 

 
Last but not least, the company cars are going to require a little inspection. Always reexamine the mileage log and odometer of what are supposed to be strictly business-used vehicles; your tax preparer will need this information to complete your business tax returns.
 
Individual Tax Payers:
 
Now where did you put those year-end W2’s? Your tax preparer will ask you for them, along with childcare-related expenses, and interest income received and mortgage payment 1098’s from your financial institutions. Keep an eye out because these documents must arrive on your doorstep by January 31.  Next is the numbered forms category, check for 1099’s received from your investment accounts, such as mutual funds dividends and/or interest received for the year, and any stocks sold with their proper gain or loss data. 
 
You can deduct any charitable donations you made during the year. Unfortunately, this does not include the time you spent doing laundry and taking the kids to school. Most charity organizations will issue a year-end summary of funds received from you by January 31. Any other small donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. must have a receipt with a description of the donated items and their estimated value.
 
To all the homeowners out there, do yourself a favor and confirm that you recorded your property tax payments. If you own rental properties, be sure that the collected rent has been properly documented as income, and related expenditures noted as rental expenses – this should include the property taxes you paid in the calendar year. While you’re searching through your “Property” file, if you refinanced, purchased, or sold any real estate this year, set aside your final closing document issued from the escrow company for your tax preparer. Please note that this must be the final closing statement and NOT the estimated statements.
 

Finally, gather up all of your medical expenses, doctors and medicine expenses alike.  They are tax deductible if you are filing itemized personal income tax returns.  Make sure you have the proper receipts to support your claims.  Dont’ forget those glasses and dental appointments you had throughout the year!

Now you’re ready to welcome in the new year with a (temporarily) clean filing cabinet!

 

On the Year End,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 

Articles

Using the Title “Registered Tax Return Preparer”?!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on October 23, 2011 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

 The IRS says Nobody Can Claim the Name – Just Yet

 

 

Think you have what it takes to be called a Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP)? At the moment, nobody does! In case you missed it, the IRS issued a reminder that NO ONE can currently claim to be a “Registered Tax Return Preparer,” even if they have a provisional preparer tax identification number (PTIN).
 
Cutting corners (and words) by calling yourself a “Registered Return Preparer” or “Registered Tax Preparer” isn’t going to cut it either. In order to become an official RTRP, an individual must have a valid PTIN, complete 15 units of continuing education, pass the
IRS competency examination, and also pass the tax compliance and suitability checks. Sounds simple enough – except for the fact that the examination is not yet available and the IRS is still developing the suitability check!


Although the IRS released the specifications for the exam, the agency hasn’t stated when the test and the check will be up and running. Since NOBODY can satisfy all four of the RTRP requirements, at this point, NOBODY may designate her/himself as a registered tax return preparer. That means EAs, CPAs, and other individuals exempt from taking the IRS competency examination and the 15 education units shouldn’t print “Registered Tax Return Preparer” on their business cards either.

Don’t turn a blind eye to these IRS requirements– especially since all 730,000 PTIN holders are subject to the advertising and solicitation rules under section 10.30 of Circular 230. Advertising yourself as an RTRP when you really aren’t registered could result in a trip to the Office of Professional Responsibility, a monetary penalty, and even a disqualification from the practice. Now stop reading and go study and get ready for the IRS upcoming competency exam!

 
So, folks, don’t get fool by titles or advertised names, check out your tax preparer’s credential before you acquire the services.
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions

Articles

Counting on Your Tax Refund to Pay for Tax Preparation?

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on July 9, 2011 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , ,

Prepare to Be Disappointed…

Out of sight, out of mind is not always a good idea – at least when it comes to paying for your tax preparation. The IRS seems to agree. David Williams, the director of the IRS return preparer office, announced on June 28 that the Service would not pursue the option of allowing taxpayers to use a portion of their tax refund to pay for tax preparation services.

The concept was originally proposed last year and would have offered taxpayers an alternative to extra number-crunching and out-of-pocket expenses during the already-stressful tax season. However, “Since then, the IRS has conducted outreach to numerous parties, including consumer advocates and industry groups,” Williams said. “During that outreach, the IRS heard a variety of views, some supporting this additional option for consumers, with others raising operational and/or policy concerns.”

Consumer groups especially opposed the idea because “predatory tax preparers” might take advantage of the fact that a taxpayer’s refund is not as visible or accessible once it has been turned over to the preparer. They could then charge more for tax preparation without their client’s knowledge.

The Service’s decision to reject the option won’t do anything to help the headaches that arrive during tax-preparation time. On the other hand, at least taxpayers won’t have to worry about their preparers taking more than their fair share.

Just remember that tax preparation costs money, any way you look at it, and sometimes it’s best not to delay the inevitable.

On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions