Tax Tips | Angies List Tips
Angie's List asked its highly-rated accountants and tax preparers for tax season tips:
- Check credentials: Ask the preparer about his/her training. Will they represent you in case of an audit? Only enrolled agents, CPA’s and tax attorneys can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection auctions and appeals. Will you be able to contact them after the return is filed?
- Tax preparer from chain or local outlets: They usually show up in rented storefronts along tax time. If your return is a relatively simple one, this could be a good inexpensive option.
- Enrolled Agent: They are licensed by the federal government which means they have passed an IRS exam, background check and they complete continuing education requirements every year.
- CPA: They must undergo rigorous training. Not all handle tax matters so be sure to check first.
- Tax Attorney: May be a good choice if you have a highly complex situation, own a small business or need guidance completing your return.
- Get organized: Compile all your documents and make an appointment early with your preparer. Take a copy of last years return. Make a list of questions you want to ask the preparer. You have a better chance getting in mid to late February. March may be a tough time.
- Ask for an estimate: There’s a wide range of tax preparers with varying fees so know up front what you’re paying for. Beware of preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers. Fees generally range from $50-$1,000 and are usually determined by an hourly rate. Money-saving tip: Get all of your receipts organized and cut down on the amount of time your accountant has to pour over your financials.
- Get references: Ask questions from clients who have used the tax preparer before. Were they satisfied with their service?
- Do your research: Check with Angie’s List about any questionable history. Check with the IRS about tax schemes and scams.
- Check your return: Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item. Read it carefully and ask the preparer for a copy of the return.
If you're going to prepare your own tax returns, follow these Angie's List tips:
- Don’t procrastinate: Your last-minute haste may cause you to overlook potential tax savings sources and increase the likelihood of an error.
- Organize your records: It can be as simple as designating a folder or drawer where you put all receipts and records you’ll need for your taxes throughout the year.
- Visit the IRS online: It’s a great resource for all the forms you’ll need, as well as finding out what free assistance – including volunteer tax counseling programs – might be available to help you navigate the process.
- File electronically: Not only is it easier, it’s proven to be the most accurate way of filing. You’ll also have a shorter wait time for your refund.
- Have your refund direct deposited to your bank account: Be sure to double-check your bank’s routing number and your account number.
- Double-check your math and data entries, and review your entire form: Math errors are some of the most common mistakes on tax filings. Make sure your Social Security and other identification numbers are correct. If you’re filing a joint return, make sure you both sign and date the form.
- File even if you owe the IRS, but can't pay: Submit the tax return by the due date and contact the IRS and ask if you can set up a payment plan. The IRS will charge a fee to set up a payment plan, but if you can't pay all at once - this is the best approach. Same applies to your state return.